Clipped From Del Rio News Herald
Border Patrol crying wolf Del Rio, (Texas) NEWS HERALD, Wednesday, September 14, 1M3-J D By RANDALL HACK LEY Associated Press Writer EL PASO — Alan Eliason feels like he's crying wolf. Most days his job of chasing illegal aliens is more like chasing his own tail. The El Paso border patrol sector chief has been crying out since the first of the year that efforts to seal the U.S. frontier from job-hungry Mexicans have been hamstrung by manpower shortages and lack of legislation to hinder employers who give jobs to illegal aliens. After ninth months of record-breaking apprehensions of illegal aliens on the four-state border with Mexico, no one seems to be listening to Eliason. "We're stretched as far as we can go," said the beleaguered 25-year border patrol veteran. "We now await the will of Congress." Along the 1,952-mile U.S.-Mexico border, about 950,000 illegal aliens have been caught since October trying to wade, walk and sneak into the United States, immigration officials report. House debate is pending on the Simpson-Mazzoli bill, which would impose civil and criminal sanctions on employers giving jobs to paperless workers. Currently, there is no penalty to U.S. companies that employ illegal aliens. The Senate already has passed its version of the bill, but to many career patrolmen such as Eliason, their hopes for help on the border may go unheeded because so many Mexicans continue to flee their impoverished country in hopes of employment. "At certain times, certain days, we cannot handle another illegal alien because our hands literally are full," Eliason said. Patrolmen often are so busy returning captured aliens to Mexico that they can't chase after others who have entered illegally, he said. Eliason is one of 400 border patrolmen who prowl the Rio Grande near El Paso and pilot planes through the high deserts of southern New Mexico and West Texas over 341 miles of scrubland that is favored by aliens. Some agents say to adequately cover the border against intruders, one patrolman per mile of terrain is unrealistic. Hiring more patrolmen - the starting pay is about $13,500 a year in a post such as Presidio, would help, agents say. "Congressional legislation also would reduce the lure, the lure is jobs, and employers can hire aliens without fear of penalty," Eliason said. Eliason claimed that much of America's unemployment problem could be solved by tighter border policing. "How big a pool of cheap labor are we willing to maintain (by allowing illegal aliens to work at low- paying jobs such as migrant work)?" Eliason asked. "How much unemployment are we willing to tolerate for entry-level jobs (that could be filled by black teen-agers)?" Last month, the Border Patrol initiated a 60-day repatriation program to voluntarily send up to 20,000 Mexicans back to the interior of their homeland, but the program has been a failure, Eliason said. The repatriation program is patterned after Operation Wetback of 1954 when thousands of paperless Mexicans were sent deep inside Mexico on U.S.-chartered buses and trains. It "just hasn't worked because. . . nobody wants to go home," Eliason said. So far, only seven aliens have been sent to Torreon, 450 miles south of El Paso, but nobody else has volunteered to be bused home at U.S. cost, he said. Eliason and other border chiefs in busy crossing points such as Chula Vista, Calif., Nogales, Ariz., and Del Rio, all report record numbers of illegal aliens apprehensions — some up two-thirds over last year. Other areas are finding sizable numbers of aliens not normally frequented by so many undocumented Mexicans. The border patrol has captured hundreds of aliens this summer in places such as San Clemente, Calif., Ruidoso, N.M., and Houston. "Every month, it gets worse. There's no let-up in sight, and it's almost as if we're under siege," Eliason said. September apprehension figures also continue to rise - the first five days of this month, an average of 750 aliens were nabbed daily in the El Paso sector. Only Chula Vista was busier on the border. "Now, we await word from Congress — that's where we can get help."