People Caught in Nogales Go Back to Mexico! 

People Caught in Nogales Go Back to Mexico! 
Posted by FoM on February 22, 1999 at 07:24:05 PT

The fence between Agua Prieta, Mexico, and Douglas does nothing to stop these young men, who will enter the United States as soon as a Border Patrol vehicle leaves the area. Agua Prieta officials say illegals caught in Nogales and shipped out via Douglas are creating a crisis in their community.
Magaly Moreno knew something was fishy. The large buses -- packed to the gills with illegal immigrants -- began pulling up late last month in front of her Douglas liquor store a block north of the crossing to Agua Prieta, Mexico. "It looks like every illegal in Arizona and New Mexico is being deported to Agua Prieta," Moreno said. Actually, the 250 or so illegals caught daily by the U.S. Border Patrol in Nogales -- more than 100 miles away -- are being sent back to Mexico via Douglas. It's part of a new Border Patrol initiative to try to break up traditional smuggling patterns. But it has created an uproar in these remote twin cities, which straddle the desert scrub borderlands of southeastern Arizona. The Douglas-Agua Prieta area is the most popular crossing site on the U.S.-Mexico border for illegals from Mexico and Central America. Already serious problems with crime and homelessness have shot through the roof as a result of the new Border Patrol policy, city officials in Douglas and Agua Prieta said. In a letter to the Border Patrol, Douglas Mayor Ray Borane wrote that he was "disappointed and astonished" that the agency was compounding problems in his area by stacking on Nogales' problems. Borane also said he was never notified of the change in policy. "The Border Patrol is creating an intolerable situation in this community," Borane wrote. "The Douglas Police Department has received an increase in calls from angry, scared residents concerning prowlers and property damage. The City of Agua Prieta has experienced worse from the increasing number of displaced and destitute people who are left with no other option that to steal and commit other crimes to attempt to cross again or return home." Daniel Fierros, Agua Prieta city manager, calls it a "crisis which government leaders in neither country away from here seem to care about." Eduardo Velazquez/Agencia Velazquez Away from populated areas, there often is nothing at all, or at best a wire fence, to deter those who wish to enter illegally. For their part, the Border Patrol says the policy, which started Jan. 21, is aimed at putting the heat on immigrant smugglers, known as coyotes, and to separate the smuggled groups from their coyotes. Border Patrol officials said they would be busing immigrants captured near Douglas away from that area later in the operation. The Border Patrol beefed up enforcement in Nogales in January through Operation Safeguard '99. Roughly 100 agents have been temporarily detailed there to help 300 agents permanently assigned to the area. Along with border floodlights and increased helicopter support, the extra agents are supposed to shut down illegal immigrant traffic in and around the city. Authorities hope to deter crossings in the area and push immigrant smuggling into less-populated areas along the border where people cannot as easily evade capture, said Bill Strassberger, public affairs officer for the Immigration and Naturalization Service's Western region. "We want to get in and cut off the traditional crossing routes," he said. "This is a change in strategy," Strassberger said. "It's a strategy of deterrence," as opposed to simply intercepting those who already have crossed. Strassberger said busing the immigrants away from the areas where they are apprehended is a part of that strategy. "It makes it harder to reconnect with the smugglers they had been dealing with . . . and throws them off balance," Strassberger said. Nogales Mayor Cesar Rios supports the Border Patrol operation despite occasional complaints from Hispanic residents about race-based harassment. "It is welcomed by a large majority of residents," Rios said. "It definitely improves our crime rate here," Rios said, citing his belief that associated crimes like theft and narcotics trafficking appear to be declining within the city. "Having expanded their deployment to the east and to the west, they are denying illegal aliens heretofore viable routes," Rios said. But Borane, the Douglas mayor, is anything but a fan of the operation. Borane said he had been told by sources within the Border Patrol that the Douglas area also would be used in the future to dump illegals captured near El Paso. Border Patrol officials in El Paso said they could not comment on their future operations. "These buses they are using are coming in all times of the day and night with sick, injured, broke people who sleep in the streets and are causing major social turmoil," Borane said. Jesus Orozco, director of the Mexican immigration office in Agua Prieta, said the transfer program is making his life miserable. "They (Border Patrol) are dropping off these hundreds of extra people. They don't notify us or give us their names 30 minutes before as required by an agreement by our two countries," Orozco said. "This has turned the downtown area of Agua Prieta into a dangerous place." The Tucson sector of the Border Patrol, which includes most of the Arizona border with Mexico except the Yuma area, is far ahead of the other sectors in the number of illegal immigrant apprehensions. The numbers arrested in Douglas also have at times doubled those captured in the Nogales area. The Border Patrol recently was told it can hire 1,000 new agents this year, 395 of those for Arizona. Roughly 350 will be sent to the Tucson sector, allowing the extra agents now detailed to Nogales to be made permanent. 
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