The high alert on the U.S. borders with Canada and Mexico continues, in an effort to prevent the entry of terrorists. But the delays at border crossings are diminishing. The main impact on the U.S.-Mexico border seems to be a reduction in illegal alien crossings.
All along the border, the flow of illegal immigrants has slowed. Arrests by the U.S. Border Patrol fell to 37,811 in October, down from 82,632 during the same month last year. Immigrant advocate groups on both sides of the border confirm that the number of people coming north has dropped.
The increased security at the border has discouraged many would-be illegal entrants, but the state of the U.S. economy is also a factor. There are reports of immigrants returning to Mexico after losing jobs in U.S. cities because of the slowdown that followed the September 11 terrorist attacks. The subsequent reduction in air travel has caused job losses in the tourism and hospitality industries, where many immigrants work.
The increased security at the border has also had an adverse impact on normal commerce in border communities. But Ramon Juarez, the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service Port Director in Laredo, Texas, says delays crossing the border have been reduced in recent days. "We were under the mandate to do 100 percent checks on all pedestrians and so that was causing some unusual delays," he says. "But since November 6 we have received different directives and we have been able to do our own threat assessments, which we are doing, and, based on those threat assessments, we are able to focus our efforts on those particular areas and that has reduced our wait time significantly."
Mr. Juarez says agents now look for people who fit the profile of a terrorist, a drug smuggler or other type of criminal. He says Immigration agents have detained some people for questioning, but that no suspected terrorists have been apprehended. "We have come across a lot of individuals who we thought might be of interest. They have been checked out and they all checked out okay," he says. "So, it is just making sure and keeping that posture to make sure that if they are trying to come in, that they are not successful through here."
U.S. Border Patrol, Immigration and Customs agents have been on the highest level of alert at border crossings since September 11 and there is no indication that the situation will change anytime soon.