Border Patrol facilities to grow in Las Cruces area
By Jose L. Medina Sun-News reporter
Article Launched: 08/24/2008 07:26:15 PM MDT

LAS CRUCES — The area's U.S. Border Patrol facilities are undergoing a growth spurt as the agency advances with the times and awaits a continuing influx of new agents.

The expansion comes as apprehensions along the El Paso sector of the border — which includes West Texas and all of New Mexico — continue on a downward trend.

"There are several expansion projects in the Las Cruces area," Border Patrol spokesman Doug Mosier said. "And that includes a couple of checkpoint expansion projects and there's another project that is in the process of identifying a land site for a temporary facility until such time that a new station can be built."

The Border Patrol is seeking to install a pair of temporary buildings at its main facility on Main Street in Las Cruces. That is in anticipation of as many as 60 new agents expected to be stationed in Las Cruces by the end of the year.

Other improvements include a revamping of the Border Patrol's checkpoint on Interstate 25, north of Las Cruces.

"The I-25 project is scheduled to begin sometime in early September," Mosier said. "That expansion will include more lanes, booths, renovated canopies, on-ramps, modified inspection areas; it will be a full cosmetic

The expansion and renovation projects come on the heels of the end of Operation Jumpstart, which placed as many as 1,000 National Guardsmen along the border to assist the Border Patrol with security.

The Guard did not conduct apprehensions, but reported illegal crossings and other activities to the Border Patrol. The operation officially ended July 15. Mosier said apprehensions, including drug seizures, in the El Paso sector have continued on a downward trend even after the Guard's pullout.

The latest figures from the Border Patrol as of Aug. 1 show apprehensions at 27,100 for the fiscal year that ends Sept. 30. That's a 16 percent decrease from 2007 and puts the agency on track to record its lowest number of apprehensions since fiscal year 2000.

"I don't think you can tie a further decrease to the relinquishment of the National Guard," Mosier said. "We have been seeing a trend, or a general decline of apprehensions or activity, in strategic areas along the border, and that includes Las Cruces, over the past several months."

Sylvia Brenner, heritage educator for the Pancho Villa State Park in Columbus, across the border from Palomas, Mexico, said the town typically saw a steady stream of illegal border-crossers, but that is no longer the case.

"They're not anywhere at all," she said. "Nobody has seen any. It's kind of unusual. You would think you'd see a couple, somewhere... The smugglers are not bringing them through here because we still have a tremendous amount of Border Patrol."

Brenner added that the town of Palomas has remained active with tourists and patrons visiting shops despite the decrease in border-crossers and the rash of drug-related violence on the Mexican side of the border.