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The latest figures show that Arizona, which is about to put into effect the nation's toughest immigration law, also is the only border state where illegal crossings are on the rise.
While tightened security and daunting fences in Texas and California have made Arizona a busy crossing corridor for years, migrant smugglers now are finding new ways through the state's treacherous deserts.
New U.S. Border Patrol statistics show arrests on the Arizona border were up 6 percent — by about 10,000 — from October to April, even as apprehension of illegals dropped 9 percent overall. The agency uses arrests to gauge the flow of migrants; there are no precise figures on the number of illegal crossings.
Statistics from the Mexican side also show a rise in illegal crossings through Arizona.
Grupo Beta, a Mexican government-sponsored group that aids migrants, helped 5,279 people from January to April in the area across the border from Douglas, Ariz., compared to 3,767 in the same period last year, said agent Carlos Oasaya.
Overall, illegal immigration through those two states, New Mexico and Arizona has declined from nearly 1.2 million in 2005 to 541,000 last year, according to the Border Patrol. In Arizona, illegal crossings fell from 578,000 in 2005 to nearly 250,000 last year — before the recent rise.