TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Tucson Sector Border Patrol agents have announced "significant arrests" of illegal immigrants documented as convicted sex offenders and MS-13 gang members in the last month.
Between Jan. 29 and Feb. 19, border patrol agents said they arrested several Mexican nationals with extensive criminal records including convictions for sexual abuse, battery with serious injury, domestic violence and child abuse.
Each individual received a sentence of between 30 days to five years of incarceration.
Agents from Casa Grande, Ajo, Tucson, and Nogales were involved in these arrests.
"These are the normal type of people we encounter out in the field, not everybody that comes in is a criminal or has a criminal history but we don't know that when we encounter them," said Border Patrol Agent George Trevino with the Public Affairs Office.
Trevino said every illegal immigrant they encountered was entered into a national database that checked their record in the United States and Mexico. Records indicated all of the suspects arrested in the last three weeks had previously entered the United States illegally, been deported, then come back again.
"It indicates that people are continually trying to come back into the United States, and it shows the vigilance of the U.S. Border Patrol in going out there and apprehending these individuals before they could come into the U.S. and cause harm," said Trevino.
Residents living along the U.S./Mexico border expressed concerns after learning many of the people crossing through their backyards were notorious gang members and felons.
A man who identified himself as "Tim Culpepper" said he constantly kept his gun close to him, and was vigilant around the clock. Culpepper lived about a mile away from the border fence.
Culpepper said due to the cooler temperatures in Arizona, he was seeing a lot of activity in the mountains surrounding his home in Sasabe.
"To put it in layman's terms all hell's breaking loose. There's not enough agents down here to keep up with it. The mountains to the east and to the west, it's non-stop. You can ask agents they'll tell you it's blowing up. It's perfect hiking weather," said Culpepper.
Many residents had put fences up around their property to prevent illegal immigrants from knocking on their doors to ask for water.
"They don't care who's property it is. They'll just cut the fence and come right through. These guys will kill you for no reason, if you're just out there and you stumble across something you shouldn't have, you could pay the price," said Culpepper.
Trevino said those who had been deported and re-entered the country illegally would face a felony charge and could be banned from re-entry again for five to 20 years.
Border Patrol officials said while criminals and gang members were about 1 percent of their total apprehensions, most of the illegal immigrants they encountered were those looking for a better life, agents were not able to tell that simply by looking at a suspect. Agent safety was a priority in every case.
Agents were also trained in recognizing gang tattoos, markings, and behavior. Agents asked residents who encountered illegal immigrants to contact their local border patrol office or to call 911, instead of trying to take matters into their own hands.
Many border town residents said while they were relieved to hear about these latest arrests, they realized it was all part of a never-ending cycle.
"It's a vicious cycle. I don't now how it's going to stop or if it's going to stop. We need a fence from one end to another, we need boots on the ground in front of that fence," said Culpepper.
He expressed concern that the felons and gang members arrested and deported in the last month, would probably be back in the United States illegally again, within a few weeks.