Illegal Crossings Down 62 Percent

According to the Christian Science Monitor apprehensions of illegal immigrants in the Yuma sector, one of the busiest, has dropped some 62 percent compared to last year at this time.

That's the biggest drop of all nine border patrol sectors on the frontier with Mexico and double the average decline. The amount of marijuana seized in the Yuma sector fell 36 percent for the same period.

The figures for the entire southern border, a 27 percent decline in apprehensions and a 51 percent increase in marijuana seized, are encouraging, experts say.

"If those numbers hold [for the entire fiscal year], that would indeed represent a significant drop," says Luis Cabrera, an expert on transnational justice issues at Arizona State University in Tempe. "We're pretty sure there's a deterrence effect."

"We have had 49 states participate in the border mission in Arizona, with 7,758 [troops] coming through Arizona," says Maj. Paul Aguirre, spokesman for Operation Jump Start in Arizona. "Roughly 40 percent of the effort is in Arizona."

It's the highly visible National Guard troops that most here say are having the biggest deterrent effect. With their limited support roles (they can't apprehend nor arrest individuals), they are freeing border patrol agents from routine duties, such as fence-building and repair, so they can spend more time nabbing illegal infiltrators.

Some 500 additional border patrol agents have bolstered the efforts in the Yuma sector this past year, as have added infrastructure, National Guard helicopters, miles of triple fences, lights, cameras, and sensors.

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