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Human Smuggling Drops In Arizona, New Statistics Indicate

FILE - In this Saturday night, May 3, 2008 file photo provided by the U.S. Border Patrol, some of the 61 suspected illegal im
FILE - In this Saturday night, May 3, 2008 file photo provided by the U.S. Border Patrol, some of the 61 suspected illegal immigrants from Mexico are seen after U.S. Border Patrol agents found them in a tractor-trailer, on Interstate 8 east of San Diego. Before leading the way for other states to pursue immigration laws, Arizona passed a ban on human smuggling in 2005 that has led to more than 2,100 arrests and drawn criticism for a tactic in which people who pay to be sneaked into the country are charged as conspirators to the crime. Seventy-five percent of the people charged under the smuggling law in the state's largest county since 2008 have been charged with conspiring to sneak themselves into the country, drawing complaints from immigrant rights advocates that the statute was intended for often-violent smugglers, not their customers. (AP Photo/U.S. Border Patrol, File)

PHOENIX - The number of so-called drophouses discovered harboring undocumented immigrants in the Phoenix area has decreased significantly over the last four years, a trend federal officials said is another indication that human smuggling in Arizona is declining.

There were 490 undocumented immigrants discovered in 37 Phoenix area drophouses during the federal fiscal year that ended Sept. 30. The Arizona Republic said that compares with 3,221 undocumented immigrants found in 186 drophouses in the 2008 federal budget year that ended in September 2008.

The special agent in charge of Immigration and Customs Enforcement investigations in Arizona, Matthew Allen, tied the decrease to an overall drop in illegal immigration nationwide. He cited the weak U.S. economy, tighter border security, stepped-up immigration enforcement and tougher sentences imposed on smugglers.

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