PHOENIX, Aug. 9 (UPI) -- Efforts to stop the flow of guns and money from the United States to Mexico have made it more difficult for illegal immigrants to return home, officials say.
U.S. immigration agents now scrutinize passengers on southbound buses, The New York Times reports. Pedestrians and those traveling by car are also questioned.
While the main goal is to find people smuggling contraband across the border, the agents also catch people who have been living illegally in the United States, the Times said. Some would-be returnees are fingerprinted and photographed, and others arrested and deported, and both groups could be in trouble if they return to the United States illegally and are caught.
"We're not trying to discourage anyone from leaving, but we do want to send the message that there are consequences for breaking immigration laws," an administration official, who did not want to be identified, told the Times.
Analleli Rios Ramirez, 24, who has lived in the United States illegally since she was 11, told the Times she was worried about her lack of papers. She was leaving her home in Chandler, Ariz., outside Phoenix, to join her husband, who had already returned to Mexico.
"I thought this is what Arizona wanted, for me to leave, and I have to worry about them catching me on the way out," she said.
In the end, Ramirez was waved across the border.