By Eileen Sullivan
WASHINGTON — The number of people attempting to cross U.S. borders illegally has gone down 27 percent, according to federal officials.
At a Wednesday hearing on border security, Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer cited reports from the Customs and Border Protection officials saying that most of the decrease has been in the number of people taken into custody as they tried to illegally enter the U.S. along the border with Mexico.
Schumer said that the number of people captured between Oct. 1, 2008 and May 15 this year were down 27 percent from the same period the previous year. Along the U.S-Canada border, the number was down 13 percent.
The New York senator said the lower demand for labor in the U.S. and stepped-up border enforcement measures are behind the decrease.
"The border is far more secure than it's ever been," Schumer said.
Hundreds of federal agents, along with high-tech surveillance gear and drug-sniffing dogs, are being deployed to the Southwest as part of an Obama administration plan to crack down on border violence and work with Mexican authorities against drug cartels.
A mayor from the U.S.-Mexico border told lawmakers even more money is needed for border officers and dogs to help curb cross-border trafficking of drugs, guns and humans.
Chad Foster, mayor of Eagle Pass, Texas, said President Barack Obama's budget request for 2010 doesn't have enough money for those key border needs.
Foster said the legal entry ports are the biggest vulnerability, now that the U.S. has gotten better control of remote stretches of border. He said an extra 1,600 Customs and Border Protection officers and 400 canine units are needed along the nation's southwestern border.
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The mayor and other border officials, along with federal immigrations and border officials, testified before the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on immigration, refugees and border security.