...But in this border town [McAllen, Texas] on the front lines of the efforts to combat illegal immigration, some Border Patrol agents said they continued to face an uphill battle, with too many illegal immigrants and too few detention beds.
In the first three months of the 2006 fiscal year [Oct./Nov./Dec. 2005?], the number of illegal immigrants caught crossing the border from countries other than Mexico surged nearly 30 percent compared with the same period last year, despite hopes that the policy would deter such would-be immigrants.
And, despite the promise of nearly 2,000 additional detention beds to ensure that illegal immigrants do not flee before being deported, thousands of illegal immigrants continue to be released with notices to appear in court.
...The number of illegal Brazilian immigrants apprehended soared last summer but plunged more than 90 percent in the month after the strict detention and deportation policy started. The number of illegal immigrants from Honduras who were caught dropped 33 percent.
Officials remain confident that the policy will be applied across the board by October, as planned.
...A study released last fall by the Congressional Research Service, a nonpartisan arm of Congress, said domestic security officials would still "not have enough beds to accommodate every OTM" this year, even with the added slots. OTM refers to illegal immigrants that are other than of Mexican origin.
Some immigration agents said they fear that the bed shortage will worsen in the spring and summer, when illegal immigrants crossings typically rise. Officials acknowledge that the shortage of detention space has forced them to detain some groups of illegal immigrants, primarily Central Americans, who arrive in the largest numbers, while releasing others.
...The number of people processed through expedited removal increased to 10,607 in the first quarter of this fiscal year, up from 4,227 in the first quarter of last year, official figures show.
Although the number of illegal immigrants released on their own recognizance remains high, it is not as high as last year. In the 2005 fiscal year, 70 percent of illegal immigrants classified as "other than Mexican" were released.
..."When illegal immigrants know they will be caught and sent home promptly," [White House spokesmanErin Healy] said, "theyre going to be less likely to cross the border illegally in the first place."
The president of the union of Border Patrol agents, T.J. Bonner, said many agents remained frustrated.
"Theyre claiming that theyre placing everyone into expedited removal, and that that will solve the problem," said Bonner, who heads the National Border Patrol Council. "The truth is that we simply dont have the detention space to hang on to people in any substantive manner to deter anyone from coming into this country."
...In recent months, some illegal immigrants have begun claiming to be from El Salvador because a court ruling from the 1980s, when civil war wracked El Salvador, requires officials to allow Salvadorans to see judges before deportation. Domestic security officials are trying to change that.
And the shortage of detention space for families has led to an increase in the number of unrelated illegal immigrants who say they are families.
"It filters back," Ed Payan, assistant chief of the Border Patrol station here, said. "They know who is being let go..."
Immigration · Sun, 01/22/2006 - 07:50 · Importance: 1