Arrests for illegal U.S. border crossings have fallen for the sixth straight year, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Border patrol made 327,577 arrests in the 2011 fiscal year, down 53.5 percent from the 705,022 arrests made in 2008.
With 396,906 illegal immigrants being deported this fiscal year, this marks the first year that deportations were more numerous than border arrests.
While some believe that the fall in border arrests marks a failure on the part of the Border Patrol, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has asserted the border is more secure than ever. The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency currently deploys a quarter of its personnel in the Southwest border region, and has increased its number of civilian “boots on the ground” across this border by nearly 85 percent since 2004.
The higher number of deportations coupled with the lower number of border arrests could also change the focus from border actions to more internally-based immigration enforcement efforts, The Associated Press surmised in reporting on the arrest numbers. If this is the case, longstanding U.S. residents who may be working towards U.S. citizenship could be affected, given recently released statistics.
According to the Pew Research Center, 35 percent of illegal adult immigrants have lived in the United States for 15 years or longer, which is more than double what the percentage was in 2000. Conversely, border arrests were at an all-time high in 2000, with more than 1.6 million in that year alone.
Pew also recently reported that only 15 percent of unauthorized immigrants having been in the country for less than five years.
“There clearly hasn’t been a large scale departure of people who have been here a while,” Jeffrey Passel, senior demographer from the Pew Hispanic Center, said in an interview with the AP. “A lot of people are staying. They’ve put down roots.”