Arrests of illegal immigrants have plummeted along most of the Southwest border, says the Houston Chronicle. Agents in one Arizona sector have detained 78 percent fewer border crossers than last year. So far this fiscal year, apprehensions are down in all but two of the nine U.S. Border Patrol sectors on the U.S.-Mexico border. During the first 11 months of the fiscal year starting October 2007, roughly 660,000 illegal immigrants were detained along the Southwest border, an 18.4 percent drop from the same period last year. The dropoff is dramatic considering that agents detained 1.6 million illegal immigrants on the Mexico border as recently as fiscal year 2000.
Government officials cite decreases in apprehensions as proof that fewer illegal immigrants are slipping across the border. There’s no way, however, to determine how many immigrants successfully sneak into the U.S. ”When the number of apprehensions are up, they claim it’s a sign of success because they’re apprehending more,” said Michael Olivas, professor of immigration law at the University of Houston. ”When it’s down, it’s because they’re deterring more. And either of those is efficacious, from their point of view – they’ve got it covered coming and going.” The overall apprehension trends, coupled with a recent Census Bureau report, give credence to the idea that growth of the illegal immigrant population is slowing.