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Feds reach out to Latin American media to warn of border dangers

April 09, 2012|By Sandra Hernandez
  • Immigration and Customs Enforcement officer searches for drug smugglers in Arizona.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement officer searches for drug smugglers… (Brian Bennett / Los Angeles…)

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has undertaken an unusual campaign of sorts: warning migrants of the dangers of crossing the U.S. border illegally.

As The Times reported Monday, agents have reached out to Mexican and Central American media to detail the dangers that face those who attempt to enter illegally, especially along the Arizona-Mexico border.

Just how much of an impact the outreach campaign is having, however, is unclear.

The number of people attempting to cross into the U.S. illegally has dropped dramatically in recent years. In fiscal 2011, border officials apprehended 340,252 migrants, down from 1.26 million in 2001, according to federal statistics. Apprehensions at the U.S.-Mexico border are considered a rough indicator of the number of immigrants illegally entering the United States.

The downturn in the U.S economy is one explanation for the drop. Ramped-up border enforcement is another. Federal spending on enforcement rose from $8.5 billion in 2005 to nearly $16.2 billion last year. The number of Border Patrol agents also has increased, from 12,348 in 2006 to more than 21,000 in 2011. 

Still, is seems that migrants may not need Homeland Security to tell them just how dangerous it is out there. The path to the U.S. border is fraught with violence. Last year, more than 100 corpses were uncovered in mass graves in the Mexican state of Tamaulipas. Many of the victims were believed to be Central American migrants headed north. A year earlier, 72 migrants were kidnapped and killed in the same area. Drug cartels are increasingly blamed for much of the bloodshed.

It seems that transnational gangs and drug cartels may be sending their own message about the perils of illegal migration.

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