TUCSON, Ariz.—The U.S. government is poised to launch a multi-million dollar security initiative along a 260-mile stretch of the Arizona-Mexico border this week in an effort to shut down the main artery for illegal immigration into the United States, MSNBC.com has learned.
The operation, run by the Customs and Border Protection unit of the Department of Homeland Security, will increase the number of agents in the region by 40 percent, and is designed to thwart both illegal immigration as well as the potential for terrorist infiltration along the border area referred to as the Tucson sector.
The goal is to “establish and maintain operational control” of the border, according to planning documents for “Operation Full Court Press,” the initiative’s code name. The operation will redeploy Black Hawk helicopters and significant numbers of air and ground resources from around the country, the documents say.
On the ground, the Border Patrol will see an increase in agents to “just shy of 2,300,” said Kristi Clemens, a Customs and Border Patrol spokeswoman.
Clemens said the operation is intended to “strengthen and improve” the border protection procedures put in place last year, when the government launched the Arizona Border Control Initiative (ABCI), a $23 million operation.
Despite the success of last year’s effort, the flow of illegal migration seems to have had little effect on the numbers of those attempting illegal migration.
“These guys really want to get in,” said Clemens. “They have an economic incentive to get in, you see some trying over and over and over again,” she said. “Why hasn’t it been a deterrent? I think it has,” Clemens said, “you also have to look at our numbers in San Diego and some in Texas, they are way down,” leaving Arizona has the main problem area, she said.
But those who study the issue maintain that such efforts have little or no real deterrent effect. “The ‘ABC Initiative’ is tantamount to tossing another boulder in the stream,” said Cornelius. In January he interviewed more than 600 Mexican immigrants who recently returned to their home communities. Overwhelmingly Cornelius said he found that tougher border enforcement “has had no deterrent effect on the likelihood that someone would cross the border illegally.”