In this photo taken Thursday, Aug. 9, 2012, A U.S. Border Patrol vehicle keeps watch along the border fence in Nogales, Ariz.

In this photo taken Thursday, Aug. 9, 2012, A U.S. Border Patrol vehicle keeps watch along the border fence in Nogales, Ariz. (AP Photos)

Despite safer border cities, undocumented immigrants flow through rural areas

TUCSON, ARIZ. – On a helicopter inspection tour above the rugged mountains and vast desert in southern Arizona, Commander Jeffrey Self of U.S. Customs and Border Protection reflected on how much security has improved along the U.S.-Mexican border during his long career.

“After the vehicle barriers were built, and with the checkpoints going up, we’re experiencing zero [undocumented immigrant] drive-throughs in an area where we were having 30, 40, 50 in a 24-hour period,” he said, pointing to miles of vehicle barriers placed in the desert along the frontier.

U.S. Border Patrol has greatly reduced the number of cars and trucks loaded with people and drugs driving across the desert from Mexico into the United States. That, Self explained, has freed agents to focus their attention on immigrant and drug smugglers who walk across the border.  In the meantime, he added, authorities have also greatly reduced the number of hiking trails used by smugglers.

“In Arizona we have been very successful in increasing border security,” Self said. “Over the course of many years now we’ve been resourced with tactical infrastructure, technology and personnel and they’ve been employed in a fashion that’s gotten us greater results.”

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