Texas has become the new Arizona when it comes to illegal border crossings. The Rio Grande Valley has displaced the Tucson enforcement zone as the main point of entry from Mexico over the past decade.
Apprehensions in the Rio Grande Valley are up by 55 percent compared to 2000, with 94,305 immigrants caught there since October, The New York Times noted.
The figures passed Tucson's count for the first time since 1993.
The Obama administration still boasts of achieving unprecedented control over the border as the Senate prepares to resume debate on a bipartisan immigration-reform measure. Just last week, President Barack Obama said illegal crossings are now "near their lowest level in decades."
Overall, apprehensions are well below their peak, with 356,873 reported last year, compared with 1.6 million in 2000.
But in the Rio Grande Valley, the picture is different.
"There is just so much happening at the same time , it is overwhelming,” Brooks County Chief Deputy Sheriff Benny Martinez told the Times. Brooks County is 70 miles north of the border. Smugglers, The Times reported, routinely drop off carloads of immigrants there after managing to get past Border Patrol checkpoints.
Critics of the immigration bill cite the shift in the flow of illegal border crossers to Texas as evidence that "full operational control" of the entire border with Mexico is needed before citizenship can be granted those who are here illegally.
“If we don’t guarantee to the American people that we actually are going to get serious about stopping the flow of people illegally crossing our southwestern border,” Sen. John Cornyn said last week on the Senate floor, “I think we guarantee the failure of bipartisan immigration reform.”
The Texas Republican plans to introduce an amendment this week requiring 100 percent operational control of the southern borders and that at least 90 percent of people crossing the border illegally be apprehended. If the amendment passes, Cornyn is expected to back the overall bill, which could help guarantee its passage because of his position as the Senate minority whip, according to the Dallas Morning News
However, The Times noted that supporters of the bill say it goes a long way toward guaranteeing border security and provides $4.5 billion over the next five years to help ensure that illegal crossing are kept to a minimum.
They also point out that the Border Patrol already has begun to shift more agents to the Rio Grande Valley area to help deal with what some refer to as small surge compared to the overall decline in illegal crossings.
But, The Times reported, sequestration has dampened those efforts. Because of Congress' inaction, federal budget cuts have grounded Border Patrol aircraft in some cases and have caused fuel shortages affecting vehicle patrols, which has left some areas along the Rio Grande River even more open to entry.
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