17 January 2012

US immigration authorities to restructure how illegal immigrants are punished

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The revolving door policy of simply returning migrants back to Mexico without punishment is to end, the US Border Patrol has confirmed.

American visa

US immigration authorities have seen a massive drop in illegal crossings thanks to advanced technology and more manpower.

Under the current system, the majority of Mexican citizens crossing the US-Mexico border without a valid American visa are simply returned to Mexico with no punishment and, for many, the chance to try and reach the US again.

The almost 2,000 mile long border between the US and Mexico has benefitted from advanced technology including cameras, sensors and fingerprint technologies which have seen the number of migrants plummet to 40 year lows.

The advancement of technology combined with more than 20,000 Border Patrol agents has seen an 80% drop since 2000 yet the agency plans to overhaul its approach in order to discourage migrants from repeatedly trying to cross the border.

The 'Consequence Delivery System' which is expected to be announced by the US immigration authorities in the coming weeks relies on categorising apprehended migrants into seven categories which will determine the severity of their punishment.

While punishments currently vary by region, the most common method is simply taking a migrant's fingerprints before turning them round; a measure the new policy hopes will become a last resort for the medically ill and children.

"What we want to be able to do is make that the exception and not necessarily the norm" said Mike Fisher, a veteran Border Patrol agent.

The consequences range in severity from being given one way tickets back to their home town for first time offenders to felony prosecutions for people smugglers and repeat offenders.

While the new measures are intended to make the US border more secure, it is almost guaranteed they will face harsh criticism. Many of the punishments are costly to the US taxpayer, including flying migrants to Mexico City or placing them in detention centres overnight.

The new policy was initially implemented as a trial in Tucson, Arizona, the busiest crossing point on the border, but will be rolled out to participating regions over time.

The American Visa Bureau is an independent migration consultancy specialising in helping people from Visa Waiver Program (VWP) countries make their ESTA application.

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