Border Patrol agents who arrested a man last month in Arizona after he allegedly jumped the fence from Mexico found that the tips of his fingers were blackened and burned, to avoid being fingerprinted. USA Today says the case illustrates “a disturbing phenomenon along the nation’s borders: criminals and illegal immigrants going to extremes to try to conceal their identities.”
“Whenever we do something, there’s always a counteraction to try to beat it,” says Manuel Padilla, chief Border Patrol agent in New Orleans. “We are getting more cases where they try to hide their identity.” Since 2004, the Homeland Security Department has been collecting and storing images of all 10 fingerprints from virtually everyone they catch coming across the border. The prints are checked against the FBI’s criminal database and terrorist watch list. Agents say those checks are prompting some people to turn to more sophisticated methods than burning their prints to avoid detection – including plastic surgery.