FALFURRIAS, Texas, June 17 (UPI) -- The flow of immigrants trying to enter the United States illegally has shifted from the Tucson area to the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, officials said.
Local officials say the Rio Grande Valley has replaced the Tucson enforcement zone as the hot border-crossing spot, with rafts crossing the river in greater numbers, car chases along rural roads and an increasing number of bodies being found on ranchers' land, The New York Times reported Sunday.
"There is just so much happening at the same time -- it is overwhelming," said Benny Martinez, chief deputy with the Brooks County Sheriff's Department.
The increase in Texas is occurring even as the Obama administration says it achieved unparalleled control over the border. Obama said last week the administration has "put border security in place," with illegal crossings "near their lowest level in decades."
There were 356,873 apprehensions at the border last year, compared with 1.6 million in 2000, the Times said.
However, the numbers have begun to rise again this past year, driven, in part, by the increase in the Rio Grande Valley, where numbers are up 55 percent in the fiscal year so far, the Times said. Since October, 94,305 individuals have been caught in the Rio Grande Valley, exceeding the count in Tucson for the first time since 1993.
The chief of the Border Patrol, Michael Fisher, told the Times he began last year to shift resources to the Rio Grande Valley region, anticipating a shift of illegal entry toward Texas. He said the patrol tried to boost its presence in Texas without diminishing its effort in Arizona.
"We did it smartly," Fisher said. "We wanted to maintain some discipline and not move our resources from our primary focus in Arizona."