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July 2004, Volume 10, Number 3

Border, Interior Enforcement

Border. Apprehensions of Mexicans just inside the US border totaled 1.1 million in FY03, and are on track to top 1.2 million in FY04; there were 660,000 apprehensions in the first six months of FY04. The jump is attributed to demand-pull factors in the US, including a recovering economy and President Bush's January 2004 proposal to legalize some unauthorized foreigners employed in the US, and to supply-push factors in Mexico, such as drought and the continued displacement of farmers due to high input prices and low commodity prices, and the dearth of jobs in urban areas.

There is no doubt that fences, lights and more Border Patrol agents have pushed migrants attempting to enter the US to the Arizona deserts, where 154 died last year. Most try to cross the Sonoran Desert, between Yuma in the west and Nogales in the east: 50,000 a month were apprehended there in the spring of 2004. About 40 percent of the approximately 900,000 border apprehensions in FY03 were in Arizona, which has a 350-mile border with Mexico. The danger comes from having to walk 50 miles through the desert to the nearest US road and needing perhaps 10 gallons of water, which weighs eight pounds a gallon.

Interviews with apprehended Mexicans suggest that some had jobs paying relatively high wages in Mexico, such as the public bus driver apprehended in Arizona in May 2004 who was earning $136 a week in Mexico.

In June 2004, the US and Mexico announced a plan to fly migrants caught just inside the Arizona border to the interior of Mexico. The first 130 were flown home in mid-July, and DHS expects to fly 300 migrants a day from Tucson to Mexico City and Guadalajara on two chartered flights- each flight can take up to 150 people and costs $28,000. In the Border Patrol's Tucson district, an average of 2,300 Mexicans were detained every day between March and July 2004.

The $12 million deep repatriation program is to be paid for by the US and be strictly voluntary; migrants can insist on being bussed to the Arizona-Mexican border, but the US estimated that 300 to 400 migrants a week might elect to be flown home. The goal is to separate migrants from smugglers who typically offer several attempts to enter the US illegally for one payment.

Interior Enforcement. The Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) testified in May 2004 that the smuggling and trafficking of 17,500 foreigners a year into the US generates $9.5 billion in revenues. Trafficking differs from smuggling in that it involves force, fraud or coercion for the purpose of forced labor or commercial sexual exploitation. In Los Angeles, it was reported that the smuggler's price for bringing a Mexican into the US was $1,500 to $2,500, and for Central Americans $3,000 to $6,000.

DHS has about 5,500 agents to enforce immigration laws inside the US. Their major activity is locating the 400,000 foreigners who have been ordered to depart from the US. One explanation for increasing expenditures on border enforcement and little enforcement of employer sanctions laws inside the US is that Americans oppose unauthorized foreigners in general, but once they arrive and find jobs, their employers and fellow employees do not want them removed.

Other than searching for aliens ordered deported, there is little enforcement of laws against being illegally in the US, or working illegally in the US. When in June 2004, 12 Border Patrol agents made over 400 arrests in Riverside and San Bernardino counties after engaging people in "consensual conversations," critics decried the resumption of "sweeps" for unauthorized foreigners, and criticized "racial profiling" and the "atmosphere of fear" created by the patrols.

The UFW and other Hispanic groups led demonstrations against the Border Patrol sweeps across California around July 4, 2004. Rep. Linda T. Sanchez (D-CA) called the raids "a blatant abuse of power," and Mexican President Vicente Fox said that he would protest "the recent operations against Mexicans." In its defense, Mobile Patrol Group agents based in Temecula said they do not "routinely go to commercial places and ask people to see their papers." Even critics noted that the patrols do find unauthorized foreigners, and the fact that several hundred were removed may deter others from trying to enter the US.

In the past, immigration agents stopped interior enforcement in the face of criticism. In 2003, agents withdrew from one city after Latinos staged demonstrations and held community meetings to protest arrests outside apartments, at bus stops and around the downtown train station. Most police departments in Southern California have a policy of not actively getting involved when agents are making arrests, saying they do not want to discourage illegal immigrants from reporting crimes. In response to the June 2004 criticism, DHS in Washington said that the Temecula Border Patrol agents should have sought prior approval for their roving patrols.

In July 2004, enforcement in eastern Washington prompted concern among farm workers. However, ICE agents emphasized that they were looking for some of the 400,000 foreigners ordered deported who may still be in the US, saying: "There have been no roadblocks, no mass roundups, no going onto farmers' properties."

Sanctions. The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in June 2004 ruled that former employees of a Tyson Foods Inc. poultry processing plant can seek triple damages under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act; the workers allege that Tyson hired illegal aliens to depress wages. A district judge dismissed the workers' suit in July 2002, noting the company's workers were covered by a collective bargaining agreement and that the union - not the workers - would have to pursue claims of damage.

In 2003, Tyson was acquitted in a trial of conspiring to hire illegal aliens from Mexico and Central America for $7-an-hour jobs at the company's poultry plants. Two former managers charged in December 2002 made plea deals and were sentenced to one year of probation after the government alleged that Tyson had a "corporate culture" that encouraged the hiring of illegal aliens to meet production goals and cut costs.

The Tyson corporate office conducts audits of the hiring process at least once a year, selecting plants at random and checking the documentation of some of its 120,000 employees.

Solomon Moore. "Border Patrol Arrests Violated Policy," Los Angeles Times, June 26, 2004. Jerry Seper, "Ex-Tyson workers can seek damages," Washington Times, June 11, 2004.