The Border Patrol said Thursday that it picked up nearly 600,000 illegal immigrants coming into Arizona in the last year, a drastic increase that is due in large part to an aggressive enforcement effort launched in March.
The increased enforcement involves helicopters, ground sensors, two unmanned surveillance aircraft and dozens more border agents in Arizona -- the busiest illegal entry point on the U.S.-Mexico border.
“We are just making it very difficult for the smuggling organizations to get across the border,” Border Patrol spokesman Andy Adame said. “Enforcement has never been better in southern Arizona than it is now.”
The Border Patrol apprehended about 586,000 illegal immigrants in the fiscal year that ended Thursday. That is an increase of nearly 184,000 from the previous year. It is second only behind the record 725,093 in 2000.
Since the $28-million enforcement initiative was launched six months ago in Arizona, more than 375,000 illegal immigrants have been apprehended, compared with nearly 250,000 during the same period last year. The program officially came to an end Thursday, but some agents, prosecutors and helicopters that were transferred to Arizona will remain there permanently.
Richard Boren, a volunteer with No More Deaths, a coalition of human rights groups and churches from both sides of the border, said the initiative has been a “massive failure” and has done nothing to address the broken immigration system.
“All the failed attempt to seal the border has done is divert people into the most dangerous regions,” Boren said.