This year marks the third anniversary of Customs and Border Patrol’s controversial Alien Transfer Exit Program, as noted by the Arizona Daily Star’s Brady McCombs in a particularly thorough article in the paper last week. Through ATEP, CBP buses undocumented immigrants caught in Arizona and California to other states along the border in an effort to make the return trip into this country more difficult. In the first year of the program, less than 11 percent of apprehended migrants were bused to and released in other states. This year, around 40 percent of migrants have been transferred through ATEP.
ATEP has been criticized on a variety of levels, most notably due to the complete absence of any evidence that the program achieves its goal of curbing the number of migrants entering this country. After the Government Accountability Office found in their 2010 investigation of the program that CBP needed to find some way of measuring the success of the program, the Border Patrol claimed that it was developing a method to test performance. However, according to McComb’s report, it is still unclear from the information released by CBP how successful ATEP is.
In addition to the questions regarding the overall success of ATEP, some officials also question the program’s cost. Texas Governor Rick Perry, in particular, asked the Department of Homeland Security to halt the questionably successful program over the excessive cost to taxpayers.
Most significantly, perhaps, many humanitarian and immigration activists have attacked ATEP’s busing of migrants as an inhumane practice. In short, by repatriating Mexican citizens in unfamiliar areas to them, U.S. officials could be increasing the risks these individuals face. Criminals in Mexican border cities prey on disadvantaged, disoriented migrants, robbing, exploiting and attacking them. Apprehended migrants often beg, in particular, to be released anywhere but along the Texas border, as this area is known to be especially dangerous.
Unfortunately, regardless of the success of ATEP, for many it represents one more example of the U.S.’ unilateral effort to curb undocumented immigration. McCombs notes that the Mexican consulate in Tucson has not been consulted or included in any way in the program, even though it is extremely expensive and logistically difficult for officials in Mexico to accommodate and protect migrants returning to Mexico in unfamiliar locales. If the Mexican government can not protect these individuals from falling victim to criminals, then ATEP could be viewed as one more example of how the U.S. fuels the environment of violence and criminality at the border.