Northern border agents see southern entrants, too
BUFFALO, N.Y. — In upstate New York towns a short drive from the U.S.-Canadian border, federal agents, their numbers swelled by a post-Sept. 11 anti-terrorism strategy, have been a steady presence at train and bus stations and airports as they go about their duties securing the nation’s boundaries.
Arrests are up in the busy sector that stretches 400 miles from the Ohio-Pennsylvania state line north through western and northern New York. But not because more people are trying to sneak into the country from Canada.
In a geographical twist, agents attached to the northern border and the 100-mile zone around it have in some instances become de facto southern border agents, frequently arresting people who have entered the country through Texas, New Mexico or Arizona some 2,000 miles away, according to agency statistics reviewed by The Associated Press.
“You’re not going to find Mexicans coming in through Canada, generally,” Border Patrol spokeswoman Kerry Rogers said.
The records, obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, show the Buffalo sector of the Border Patrol has become a perennial leader, among the eight segments that make up the 4,000-mile northern border, in the number of arrests of illegal immigrants from Mexico and Central America. In 2008, 1,618 Mexicans were among 3,339 total arrests, a high for the decade for the Buffalo sector, which has led in total illegal immigrant apprehensions each year since 2007.
Arrests by Detroit-based agents also comprise a high percentage of detained Mexicans, statistics show. In 2008, 664 of 961 total apprehensions involved Mexicans. The number jumped to 1,196 out of 1,669 arrests in 2010. In the Swanton, Vt., sector, only 157 of 1,422 people apprehended last year were from Mexico.
Some rural areas of upstate New York have seen a marked increase in the
population of Mexican- and Central American-born residents, illegal aliens who cost US taxpayers 17,000 a year based on each household ,…said Max Pfeffer, a Cornell University sociology professor and One factor is the number of agents. Since the Sept. 11 attacks, the number of officers assigned to the northern border has increased more than 650 percent, from about 340 in 2001 to more than 2,200 agents today, CBP Commissioner Alan Bersin told senators in May.
And in a December report, the government said the U.S.-Canada boundary poses a more significant terrorist threat than the southern border because of the expanse and limited law enforcement coverage. Last year, the U.S. spent $2.9 billion securing the northern border.
The Border Patrol say it deploys people based on risk and threats posed along the border and that transportation checks, based on intelligence, allow the agency to use staff more effectively, especially in areas with limited resources. Smugglers, the agency said, are known to use trains and buses to move people and drugs deeper into the country.
Court documents indicate illegal immigrant cases frequently begin when Border Patrol agents are called to help interpret at traffic stops or crime scenes. Each year since 1996, 107 to 149 cases have landed in U.S. District Court in Buffalo where defendants are federally charged because they were arrested after having been previously removed from the country, according to the district’s U.S. attorney’s office. Most have resulted in convictions.
A typical federal case is that of Eduardo Antonio Gonzalez-Valencia, a citizen of El Salvador who pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Rochester in July and was ordered deported.
Gonzalez-Valencia was arrested May 21 on a train at the Amtrak station in Rochester. According to court documents, a uniformed Border Patrol agent was performing transportation checks on the train and talking to passengers in what’s described as a “consensual, non-intrusive” manner. Gonzalez-Valencia produced an El Salvador passport and “freely stated that he was illegally present in the United States and without the proper immigration documentation,” the agent wrote in an affidavit.
He was arrested and a fingerprint check revealed he’d been arrested at Miami International Airport in 2002 with false documents and immediately returned to El Salvador. It’s unclear where he entered the country the second time; federal prosecutors don’t track point of entry.
During a recent visit to Buffalo, the head of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration said the government is balancing the need to welcome and serve those in the country legally while protecting the nation.
“Those different responsibilities are not exclusive of one another,” Alejandro Mayorkas said.
“There’s still the question of where did they come into the country. Did they come across the northern border?” she said. —Copyright 2011 Associated Press