Colonel says higher number of illegals is taxing resources

Sierra Vista Herald/Review

FORT HUACHUCA, AZ - 3/26/03 -- The increasing number of illegal immigrants found on the post is interfering with the fort's regular law enforcement operations, Garrison Commander Col. Lawrence Portouw said Monday.

Frank Amarillas, a spokesman for the U.S. Border Patrol's Tucson Sector, said there has been an increase in the number of illegal immigrants apprehended and drugs confiscated in Cochise County when compared to a year ago.

This past weekend, 94 illegal immigrants were apprehended on the fort and turned over to the U.S. Border Patrol, Portouw said. The number of illegal immigrants apprehended on post for the period of nearly the first six months of this fiscal year is more than twice the number taken into custody for the entire 12 months of the previous fiscal year, according to post figures.

To help provide more security because of the increasing illegal immigrant problem, the colonel said the post's military police, which does patrol duty and is the special environmental protection force, is being augmented by members of the Arkansas Army National Guard. The guardsmen are members of 2nd Battery, 2nd Battalion of the 142nd Field Artillery and were sent to the post last year to help with force protection.

Some of the Arkansas National Guard soldiers are policemen who were activated and understand law enforcement, Portouw said.

Except in a few incidents, most of the illegal immigrants avoid the post housing areas and are apprehended in the canyons at Slaughterhouse Wash on the far northern part of the post, he said.

"Some of the coyotes (people smugglers) tell them Sierra Vista is Phoenix," the colonel said. Many of the illegal immigrants are trying to make it to Phoenix, which is about 180 miles northwest of Sierra Vista.

When the illegal immigrants are challenged by soldiers, many do not give any trouble, though a few try to run, Portouw said. They seem to be afraid of soldiers, he added.

The post's fragile environmental sites have been damaged by the trash that illegal immigrants are dumping, the colonel said.

All illegal immigrants apprehended on the fort are turned over to the U.S. Border Patrol, Portouw said, adding the agency responds quickly.

Amarillas said the U.S. Border Patrol also has responded to the post to help look for illegal immigrants or to take into custody those apprehended by fort personnel.

"There is no secret they (illegal immigrants) are coming over the Huachuca Mountains," he said.

>From Oct. 1 through Sunday night, 139,265 illegal immigrants have been apprehended in the Tucson Sector, which includes Cochise County. Of that number, 67,432 were apprehended by agents at the Douglas, Naco and Willcox stations, Amarillas said.

In comparison, the numbers for Oct. 1, 2001 to March 23, 2002, were 123,875 for the entire sector and 61,371 by agents at the three county stations, Amarillas added.

Border Patrol agents also confiscated more drugs, Amarillas said. From Oct. 1 through Sunday, 200,000 pounds of marijuana have been confiscated in the sector. For the same period a year ago, the amount was about 180,000 pounds, he added.

For the two stations along the immediate border, Douglas and Naco, the amount of marijuana confiscated went up the most in Douglas, Amarillas said. So far this fiscal year 20,754 pounds of marijuana have been confiscated compared to 10,655 pounds the previous year by Douglas Station agents. For the Naco station, the amounts are 21,543 pounds and 21,010 pounds respectively.


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