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The Los Angeles Times reports today that immigration officials have seen a 20 percent drop in the number of arrests of illegal border-crossers. Except in San Diego.

The federal government credits its expansion of the Border Patrol and the border fence as well as beefed up prosecution of migrants. But in San Diego, arrests increased 7 percent.

The Times’ Richard Marosi writes:

It was the only border area with a jump, leading some experts to believe that immigrants are returning to traditional corridors with easier access to Southern California.

San Diego was once the busiest area for illegal crossings, but the Operation Gatekeeper crackdown in the mid-1990s shifted the immigration flows east to Arizona. Increased enforcement efforts there have created perilous journeys across the desert, possibly forcing migrants to return to safer areas.

Crossing into California from the Tijuana area, where there is an established network of human smugglers and easy access to freeways, could be more enticing for immigrants, say some experts.

“It’s a risk-reduction strategy. Even if they cross in the mountains, it’s still less risky than the central Arizona desert,” said Wayne Cornelius, director of the Center for Comparative Immigration Studies at UC San Diego. “It’s easy to hook up with a [smuggler], and it’s relatively less dangerous.”

ROB DAVIS

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