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Tuesday, August 23, 2005

A Dangerous Border

From the New York Times:

Often thought of as a federal or international concern, illegal immigration has reached such a pace along parts of the border that officials are now expressing fear for the people who live and work there. On Aug. 12, Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico, citing the kidnapping of three immigrants by bandits on the Johnsons' land, declared a disaster in four counties he described as "devastated by the ravages and terror of human smuggling, drug smuggling, kidnapping, murder, destruction of property and death of livestock." Several days later, Gov. Janet Napolitano of Arizona followed suit.

The concerns come as the volume of illegal immigration has increased dramatically in both states, funneled there by stepped-up enforcement in California and Texas. Border Patrol figures for the 53-mile-long Deming Station area that includes the Johnsons' land show that 31,134 people were apprehended through July of this year, compared with 29,168 for all of last year. The patrol says there have also been more than 16,580 times this year when people turned back under the gaze of border agents.

In 2002, the patrol noted 13 cases of people driving through, over or past vehicle barriers. This year, there have been 330. Robert Velez, a Border Patrol agent, said the bodies of 11 illegal immigrants, apparently dead from exposure, have been found in the brush so far this year, compared with five in the Deming Station area in all of 2004.

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