July 13, 2008, 2:48PM
© 2008 The Associated Press
LAS CRUCES, N.M. — Illegal immigrant apprehensions in the U.S. Border Patrol's El Paso sector have fallen sharply this fiscal year, down 58 percent from the same point last fiscal year.
The sector, which includes all of New Mexico and two West Texas counties, has apprehended 25,466 illegal border crossers nine months into the current fiscal year.
The drop in apprehensions is due in part to more barriers, increased agents, and zero-tolerance policies, El Paso sector spokesman Doug Mosier told the Albuquerque Journal in a copyright story published Sunday.
If the rate of apprehensions continues at the current pace, the end-of-year total will be about 34,000 — the lowest since at least 2000 and far below the totals of the early 1990s.
In 1992, the sector's agents apprehended nearly 286,000 illegal border crossers.
"The master plan has always been to gain incremental manageability of the southern border, piece by piece, and I think we are starting to see that," Mosier said.
At the Deming station, agent-in-charge Rick Moody said apprehensions have fallen so drastically that on a recent day, his agents did not pick up a single border crosser.
"We've never had the reductions in apprehensions that we are seeing today," Moody said.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is pushing to build hundreds of miles of vehicle barriers and fences by the end of 2008 along the U.S.-Mexico border.
In the El Paso sector, plans call for the construction of 93 miles of pedestrian fence, including 33 miles in southern New Mexico and 60 miles in West Texas, said Border Patrol supervisory Agent Abel Melendez.
Miles of heavy-duty fence bracketing the Santa Teresa and Columbus ports of entry have been built since the start of the year.