Arrests of illegal aliens along the US/Mexico border have increased
over the past year according to records of the US Department of
Homeland Security. The records show a 73 percent increase in arrests
and prosecutions over the past year. Officials attribute the increase
to Operation Streamline, through which illegal entrants are charged
with a misdemeanor crime, prosecuted and sent to jail. The program
began in the US Border Patrol's Del Rio sector more than two years ago
and, as VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Del Rio, it appears to have
The rugged terrain on this section of the border was
once a favored area for both human and drug smugglers. Before December
2005, Mexicans caught here by the Border Patrol were sent back across
the border right away and citizens of other nations (OTMs) were
released after being assigned a court date, for which very few of them
ever showed up.
But under Operation Streamline any foreigner
caught without documents here is arrested and faces, on average, a
month-long jail sentence before being sent home. Border Patrol agent
Mark Qualia says the increase in arrests and incarcerations has led to
a significant drop in illegal border crossings.
apprehensions we are down 32 percent from when we initially started
Operation Streamline and then 63 percent on the other than Mexicans,
the OTMs," he noted.
Qualia says the same zero-tolerance approach is now being implemented elsewhere along the 3,000 kilometer border.
says US citizens living along the border near Del Rio have expressed
relief as the flow of immigrants and drug smugglers slows.
in the community have made several comments. Their fences are not as
torn up. They don't see the traffic they used to see," he added. "So
as a whole people are extremely pleased with what Operation Streamline
has brought to this community."
But both illegal aliens and drug smugglers have another option here, water.
upstream from the town of Del Rio is a bi-national dam that holds back
water from the Rio Grande and two other rivers to form the 263
square-kilometer reservoir called Lake Amistad.
Patrol has its own little navy here, consisting of six patrol boats and
a number of smaller craft. Agent Mark Nunez overseas some of the boat
"We watch traffic that is coming in and out through
here and, hopefully, if we see any kind of traffic that is coming in
then we go ahead and intercept and inspect," he said.
the line between US and Mexican waters. Smugglers often position
themselves in a cove in Mexican waters to begin their run across the
lake to designated areas where they quickly offload the drugs for
counterparts on the other side to retrieve. Nunez says constant patrols
have made it harder for the traffickers.
"We have put a dent in
some of their drug operations based on some of the operations we have
been able to do out here with the boat," he added. "We have
intensified the patrol and try to get as much patrol time out here as
But Nunez says drug smugglers are not always easy to catch.
"Some of these boats are pretty quick and they are quicker than the patrol boats that we have," he noted.
Border Patrol has asked for increased funds to buy faster boats in a
never-ending effort to keep up with the smugglers whose operations are
well funded by their illicit enterprises.