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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary, Dept of Homeland Security
September 21, 2004
New Approach to Border Security Shows Results in Just Six Months
Six months after launching an innovative multi-agency enforcement initiative at the Arizona Border, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) can point to sure and steady progress toward stemming illegal immigration into the Southwest United States, Asa Hutchinson, Under Secretary for Border and Transportation Security (BTS), announced today.
Since DHS kicked off the Arizona Border Control (ABC) initiative March 16, 2004, agents have made more than 351,700 illegal immigrant apprehensions at the Arizona border -- evidence of substantial progress at securing the border against illegal incursions. Prosecutions of human smuggling organizations, another key indicator, have increased by 68 percent. Migrant desert rescues have more than doubled, potentially saving 697 lives. In addition, narcotics seizures have risen from 165,057 lbs. in 2003 to 359,604 lbs. during the same period in 2004.
"While we recognize and applaud the efforts of the Government of Mexico to stem the flow of illegal migration and protect lives in border areas, we must strengthen the rule of law in the Sonoran Desert," Under Secretary Hutchinson said. "BTS initiatives are impairing the ability of the smuggling organizations to operate, saving many lives and restoring control to the Arizona border."
As part of the ABC initiative, DHS has dedicated additional technology and tools to border security. Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) were incorporated to increase border surveillance of illegal activities. Two additional helicopters have been permanently reassigned to boost air capability along the 375-mile border. Moreover, the Air and Marine Operations division of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) provides additional air surveillance, interdiction and law enforcement support.
Additional personnel and training are also a critical part of the initiative. Two hundred permanent personnel have been added to the Tucson Sector of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection's (CBP) Border Patrol, bringing the sector's manpower to nearly 1,900 agents. Thirty of these Border Patrol agents are undergoing special operations training in the use of high-tech resources.
The ABC initiative consists of targeted, intelligence-based operations. DHS has already developed two companion initiatives to supplement the ABC approach. Through Operation ICE Storm, ICE is dismantling the organized criminal outfits that have made human smuggling a profitable but extremely violent business venture. Operation ICE Storm has led to the seizure of $5.3 million in criminal currency and 130 weapons. In June 2004, DHS launched the Los Angeles Area Initiative, another intelligence-driven effort, working with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), to deter human smuggling at the Los Angeles International Airport, a key transportation hub used by criminal organizations to move smuggled migrants to destinations across the United States.
International cooperation is particularly important to the success of the ABC. A new joint program with the Government of Mexico is streamlining the deportation process. The Interior Repatriation Program disrupts the cycle of human smuggling by returning illegal migrants to their hometowns in the interior of Mexico City on a voluntary basis. As of September 19, 2004 this pilot program had repatriated more than 12,000 Mexican nationals who entered the U.S. illegally.
In addition, DHS launched the Expedited Removal Program to hasten the removal of illegal immigrants who are caught while attempting to enter the United States by fraudulent means or while attempting to elude CBP Border Patrol agents. This new procedure applies to those caught within 100 miles of the Mexican or Canadian borders, and only if they are apprehended within their first 14 days in the U.S.
The ABC initiative is a key component of DHS's priority mission of detecting, disrupting and deterring all cross-border illicit smuggling and trafficking -- including people, money, drugs, weapons and other contraband. The ABC brings together the expertise and resources of various DHS agencies, in coordination with other federal, local, state and tribal law enforcement agencies, to more effectively secure the Southwest border.