An expedited immigrant removal program that has been on the books for nine years but never used in the Rio Grande Valley until June has already produced a 40-percent reduction of illegal immigration from Brazil.
U.S. Border Patrol spokesman Roy Cervantes said the program has been authorized under federal law since 1996, but was first tested in Laredo and San Diego, Calif. before being implemented here this summer.
Under the program, undocumented immigrants from nations other than Mexico or Canada are detained and deported in as little as two weeks.
Arrest figures show that Brazilians and Central Americans now outnumber Mexicans in the numbers of undocumented immigrants.
Since October, Border Patrol agents have arrested 21,456 Brazilians, 18,482 Hondurans, and 15,412 El Salvadorans compared to 45,418 Mexicans.
Part of the problem is blamed on the lack of immigration detention space that prompted Border Patrol agents to give thousands of Brazilians and Central Americans notices to appear (NTAs) before an immigration judge.
The immigrants were released with their NTAs, but more than 90 percent of them failed to appear in court. Cervantes said the expedited removal program would change the process.
“There are no more NTAs,” he said. “We’ve moved away from ‘catch and release.’ ”