Tags: U.S. | Deportations | Fail | Deter | Immigrants

U.S. Deportations Fail to Deter Immigrants

Tuesday, 26 June 2007 12:00 AM

REYNOSA, Mexico -- Ecuadorean computer technician Agustina Herrera paid people smugglers $14,000 to slip into the United States illegally two years ago, swimming the Rio Grande, tramping through swamps and nearly dying from snake bites.

Now, after being deported last week from Kentucky, she is preparing to tackle the tough crossing all over again.

"I can't go back to Ecuador. My family and my life are in the United States and I'll do whatever I need to get back," said Herrera, 23, who was waiting for her father in the United States to wire the money to pay a smuggler.

As some conservative U.S. politicians call for mass deportations and passionately denounce an immigration reform bill being debated in the Senate, Mexican officials say Latin American who want to immigrate are not deterred.

The U.S. Senate voted on Monday to resume debate on the legislation, which still faces a tough fight for passage.

"Almost everyone who gets repatriated tries to cross again and a lot of them make it," said Justo Ayala, head of Mexico's immigration institute in Reynosa on the northeastern border. "People want better paid jobs and they are pretty determined."

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security says it has been successful in stopping illegal immigration, cutting the number of arrests along the border by 8 percent in fiscal year 2006 and non-Mexican arrests in particular by 35 percent.

But some like Herrera, with a life in the United States, see no option but to go back. "I have an American boyfriend, a house, a dog and my job teaching computer skills to other immigrants," said Herrera. "My dad is there too."

Mexico's immigration institute says the majority of the 6,000 Mexicans deported to the Reynosa area last year did not return home, and instead crossed back into Texas.

Workers at a shelter for migrants in Reynosa support that view, saying very few deported Latin Americans go back to their towns and villages because jobs there are so poorly paid.

"A lot of those who try the journey after being deported ring us to let us know they have arrived," said Maria de Lourdes Rivas, a nun working at the Reynosa migrant shelter.

After raiding companies using illegal immigrant workers, the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, deported a record 185,431 people in fiscal year 2006, a 10 percent increase versus the same 2005 period.

'I'VE GOT TO GET BACK'

While many are targeted as "criminal aliens" -- defined as people in the country illegally who have also committed other crimes -- ICE also repatriates illegals they find during their raids, including those who defy deportation orders.

Many illegal immigrants not wanted for crimes are also caught when driving without a license.

"I took a wrong turn down a road in Ohio and the police stopped me and immigration deported me," said Jose, who declined to give a surname. "I've got to get back, I was making very good money on building sites," he added.

Some 12 million illegal immigrants, mostly Mexicans, live in the United States, driven north by jobs that pay 10 times what they can earn back home, often in industries that struggle to attract U.S. workers, such as farm and construction work.

President George W. Bush says the current immigration status quo is "unacceptable" and has urged lawmakers to pass the reform bill, which would allow for a guest worker program and legalize millions of immigrants.

Opponents of the bill say it amounts to amnesty for millions who broke the law, with no guarantee that promises of stricter border security would be implemented.

ICE says it is aware that deported Latin Americans re-enter the United States but asserts it is ready to repatriate those illegals as many times as necessary to dissuade them.

"You cannot underestimate the tenacity of someone who is trying to break the law, but that person will be removed again and again and could be prosecuted as a repeat offender," said an ICE official in Washington who requested anonymity.

© reuters 2007. All Rights Reserved.

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REYNOSA, Mexico -- Ecuadorean computer technician Agustina Herrera paid people smugglers $14,000 to slip into the United States illegally two years ago, swimming the Rio Grande, tramping through swamps and nearly dying from snake bites. Now, after being deported last...
U.S.,Deportations,Fail,Deter,Immigrants
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2007-00-26
Tuesday, 26 June 2007 12:00 AM
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