The US Border Patrol is adding 500 new agents to the Mexican border with the southwestern state of Arizona to stem the flow of illegal immigrants and prevent the possible entry of foreign terrorists to the United States. The announcement of this new deployment comes as hundreds of private citizens prepare for their own border monitoring in Arizona. But immigrants may already be seeking other places to cross.
Homeland Security and Border Patrol officials in Tucson, Arizona Wednesday, announced that 500 new agents will be sent to the Arizona border region in the next several months. Only 150 agents are expected to arrive within the coming days, however.
The Border Patrol announcement comes just days before a citizens group called The Minutemen plan to deploy hundreds of volunteers along the Arizona border to monitor illegal entry.
The Minutemen draw their name from militiamen who fought for America's independence from Britain.
Grey Deacon, a member of the group in Tombstone, Arizona, says he is unimpressed by the Border Patrol's plan.
"The announcement, basically, is that they are going to be bringing in 500 new people, but they did this last year also and nothing has really changed from their operations last year," he said.
Mr. Deacon says word of the Minutemen's month-long border watch has already deterred some immigrants from crossing illegally into Arizona and that the Border Patrol has noticed this.
"I think what they are trying to do is show that they have actually paid attention to what we are doing,” he added. “I am glad that they are paying attention to it and, of course, they know that we have already had an effect on the number of people crossing the border in this sector of the border."
The Minutemen reject charges that they are vigilantes who have come to hunt immigrants. Some say they will be armed because the area is also used by dangerous drug smugglers, but they say they will not confront any immigrants and will only pass on information to the Border Patrol. The Minutemen will begin their deployment this weekend and they, too, will be watched, by human rights groups, news media representatives and local law enforcement officials.
Arizona's border with Mexico became the most heavily transited area for illegal immigrants several years ago after the Border Patrol increased surveillance and enforcement in sectors near El Paso, Texas and San Diego, California, where most immigrants had crossed in the past.
President Bush has proposed a guest-worker program with Mexico to reduce the number of workers entering the country illegally. The Bush administration argues that such a program would allow a legal avenues for immigrant laborers and free up Border Patrol agents to pursue drug smugglers and terrorists who might try to enter the United States over the border from Mexico.