The U.S. Border Patrol apprehended 8 percent fewer illegal immigrants last fiscal year than the year before, says Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, according to the Washington Post. Chertoff credited the drop of nearly 100,000 apprehensions largely to the Bush administration’s strategy of deporting virtually all non-Mexican border crossers as fast as they are caught. After quadrupling the previous four years, apprehensions of “other than Mexican” border crossers fell 57,144, or 35 percent, to 108,026.
Analysts disputed Chertoff’s interpretation. Border Patrol apprehensions have risen and fallen over the years, peaking at almost 1.7 million in 2000 before bottoming out at 932,000 in 2003. Causes include earlier threats of congressional crackdowns; the security climate after Sept. 11, 2001, and changes in Border Patrol funding and strategies. Experts said the White House is trying to placate critics by citing progress in enforcement at the border. Chertoff backed away from the administration’s pledge to control the borders by 2008, saying it would be “very, very difficult” without a guest-worker program, which the House has resisted.