By Elliot Spagat
Associated Press Writer
SAN DIEGO — Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said Monday that a 17 percent drop in Border Patrol arrests this year shows that heightened enforcement is slowing illegal immigration.
The Border Patrol made about 463,000 arrests during the federal government's fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, down from 556,032 the previous 12 months. It marks the fifth straight year of declines.
Border Patrol arrests are down 72 percent from nearly 1.7 million in 2000. The agency typically makes about 97 percent of its arrests along the 1,952-mile border with Mexico, with nearly all the rest coming along the Canadian border.
Napolitano said the weak economy helps explain why fewer people are getting caught crossing the border illegally, and she also credited enforcement against employers. But she said a big reason is enforcement under President Barack Obama _ including bringing the Border Patrol to an all-time high of 20,500 agents and dispatching 1,200 National Guard troops.
"The manpower, the technology, the infrastructure all has enabled us to be able to really slow that flow of illegal immigrant traffic," she said at a news conference at the San Ysidro border crossing with Tijuana, Mexico.
Napolitano also said more drugs, weapons and illicit cash were being seized.
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"We now have a border more secure than ever before, and these efforts are only going to continue in the weeks, months and years ahead," she said.