By ELLIOT SPAGAT
Associated Press Writer
SAN DIEGO- Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff on Thursday declared a crackdown on immigrant smugglers at two California border crossings from Tijuana, Mexico.Chertoff promised more prosecutions of smugglers who tried to enter the United States at the San Ysidro and Otay Mesa crossings in San Diego, as well as more jail space to hold them, though he did not say on how much the effort would cost.
In a potentially controversial twist, Chertoff said state and local officials would participate in the crackdown. Proponents of tougher enforcement have long advocated a larger role for local law enforcement, but critics say local agencies should stick to fighting crime, not enforcing immigration laws.
Border Patrol agents thwarted 60,000 attempted illegal crossings at San Ysidro and Otay Mesa last year. Smugglers once stuffed a baby inside a gasoline tank, Chertoff said.
"It is remarkable the lengths to which smugglers will go to try to get people into this country," he said at a news conference. "They simply want to make money at the expense of human misery."
The federal government has also increased border enforcement in Arizona, which has surpassed California as the nation's busiest corridor for illegal immigrants. Arizona accounted for more than half the Border Patrol's 1.1 million arrests last year.
Border Patrol arrests in the San Diego sector plummeted to about 110,000 last year from 528,000 in 1995, when the state had stepped up security.