Border Patrol to Enforce Stiffer Penalties

U.S. Border Patrol agents will soon begin enforcing a “consequence delivery system” that specifies increasingly harsh penalties for those caught repeatedly crossing the U.S.-Mexico border illegally.

After being implemented in the Tucson, Arizona, sector last year, the system is set to take effect along the entirety of the nearly 2,000-mile-long southern U.S. border. U.S. immigration officials are expected to make an announcement of the expanded program within weeks.

Speaking with The Associated Press, Border Patrol Chief Mike Fischer said the goal of the program is to deter repeat offenders by cutting down on the practice of “catch and release,” in which an individual caught crossing the border illegally is fingerprinted and then returned to Mexico at the nearest official crossing. Fischer explained that this makes it relatively easy for an offender to turn around re-cross into the United States.

Although exceptions will be made in the case of children or those in ill health, under the new system, most first-time offenders will face stiffer consequences than in the past. They might be returned to Mexico via a border crossing hundreds of miles away from where they were initially picked up by U.S. authorities, or flown to Mexico City and given a one-way bus ticket to their hometown. Smugglers might be handed over to Mexican authorities for prosecution or face legal action in the United States. The penalties are designed to increase in severity each time an offender is caught.

Critics say the expansion will further drain resources in border states, glutting the judicial system with immigration cases and reducing its ability to handle other matters, such as white-collar crime and public corruption.

Despite a significant drop in the number of illegal immigrants detained along the New Mexico-Mexico border, the Border Patrol is considering construction of a new substation in the state’s Animas Valley. However, local ranchers oppose the proposed building site,  the AP states.