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Tighter borders working, but not everyone's happy

Published August 12, 2007


TECATE, Mexico - As fewer Mexican migrants cross the increasingly fortified border, more fields are empty at harvest time.

Mexicans are increasingly giving up on the American dream, and the federal crackdown on undocumented workers announced Friday should discourage even potential migrants.

U.S. border agents detained 55,545 illegal migrants entering the country between October and June. That's down 38 percent compared with the same period a year before.

U.S. and Mexican officials say increased border security, including 6,000 National Guard troops, remote surveillance technology and drone planes, have thwarted smugglers who had succeeded at beating the system.

Migrants also say they feel Americans are increasingly hostile toward immigrants.

"It's the discrimination," said 28-year-old George Guevara, who was deported to Tijuana last month after living in the United States for 18 years. "It's making people step back. It's just too much of a risk. It's better to be out here."

Deportations also are up for illegal immigrants who have lived in the United States for years. Some are caught for minor infractions like a burned-out headlight. Others are rounded up in workplace raids that the Bush administration has vowed to intensify.

The new measures announced Friday will force employers to fire anyone who cannot prove their Social Security numbers are legitimate.

U.S. employers are already complaining, especially those in agriculture, where most workers are believed to be working with false documents.

Many employers join President Bush in blaming Congress for stalling an accord that would allow more people to work legally.

"Pretty shortly people are going to be knocking on people's doors saying, 'Man, we're running out of workers,' " Bush said.

On the other side, fewer Mexicans are sending home cash remittances - Mexico's biggest source of foreign income after oil - leaving many Mexican relatives with no other resources, the Inter-American Development Bank reported Wednesday.

[Last modified August 12, 2007, 01:57:21]

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