No drop in migrant flow or deaths - Multimillion-dollar border effort had little impact, analysis shows
A year ago today, federal officials kicked off a multimillion-dollar campaign to gain "operational control" of Arizona's border and dramatically decrease the number of migrants crossing, and dying, in the desert.
Border Patrol Chief Gus de la Vina said the extra money and manpower gave the government "an excellent shot" at closing down the border completely.
Patrolling the Border - Part One: US Border Patrol agents chopper to Southern Arizona insearch of illegal aliens.
Patrolling the Border - Part Two: U.S. Border Patrol agents locate and apprehend 78 illegal aliens as they try to sneak across the U.S./Mexico border in Southern Arizona.
Patrolling the Border - Part Three: U.S. Border Patrol agents lead 78 apprehended illegal aliens on a long march to waiting transport out of the desert.
Patrolling the Border - Part Four: A slideshow of still images by Tucson Citizen photographer/videographer Gary Gaynor
Here's how illegal aliens look once they evade apprehension.
Hundreds of sensors were buried underground. Thousands of Mexicans were flown deep into Mexico at U.S. expense. Two unmanned aerial vehicles scanned the desert.
And migrants are still crossing and dying in record numbers.
Supporters of the Arizona Border Control Initiative, including U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., and former Undersecretary for the Department of Homeland Security Asa Hutchinson, who helped design the effort, point to an increase in the number of illegal immigrants apprehended in Tucson sector in fiscal year 2004 as a measure of the program's success.
An analysis by the Tucson Citizen shows that nearly half a million people were apprehended in the year that ended Sept. 30, 2004 - 41 percent more than the previous year.
But the Border Control Initiative appears to have had little to do with the increase. Nearly as many more illegal immigrants were caught in the six months before the initiative as in the six months after.
From October through the first half of March in fiscal year 2004, Border Patrol apprehended 40 percent more than they did during the same period a year earlier.
During the six months after the initiative began, 42 percent more were apprehended than the same period a year earlier....
Arizona Border Control Initiative is the largest effort to control illegal immigrants through Arizona since the state became the most popular crossing point in the late 1990s. For the first time last year, Arizona accounted for more than 50 percent of all apprehensions along the southern border, more than California and New Mexico combined.
The initiative included 260 more agents, 28 Humvees and two new helicopters, as well as a pilot drone program and $1 million in underground sensors. The initial six months was budgeted to cost $10 million, but eventually cost $28 million, $13 million of which went to voluntary repatriation flights to Mexico during the summer.
"The cornerstone of our strategy is deterrence," said Michael Nicley, newly appointed chief of the Tucson sector, which covers the eastern two-thirds of the Arizona-Mexico border. "People won't continue to come if they know that there's a great chance they're going to get arrested."