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I often receive questions about what happens at the border to the loved one of immigrants who are detained. Here are a few questions and answers published by the customs border protection agency. Please call me if you have further questions.

Q: What happens to a person arrested by the Border Patrol?

A: San Diego Sector Border Patrol agents arrested over 182,000 illegal aliens in fiscal year 1999. Though the number seems staggering, the volume of apprehensions has decreased dramatically since the implementation of Operation Gatekeeper. Individuals arrested by the Border Patrol are predominately illegal aliens, though it is not uncommon for a United States citizen or legal resident to be arrested for committing immigration violations. Illegal aliens are afforded two essential legal rights: a voluntary return to their host country or a removal hearing.

The voluntary return allows the non-criminal illegal alien to return to his/her host county without being prosecuted. A removal hearing is a formal immigration hearing in which the illegal alien seeks relief through the courts.

When an alien with a criminal record is arrested, he/she is processed for criminal prosecution. The criminal alien is tried in federal court and may be subsequently formally removed from the United States.

Q: How do I find someone in the custody of the Border Patrol?

A: Border Patrol stations are equipped for short-term detainment. Illegal aliens are normally detained for brief periods of time, usually less than four hours, and then either voluntarily returned to their country or, in the case of an illegal alien with a criminal record or an illegal alien requesting a removal hearing, transferred to an U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Service Center.

Q: Does the Border Patrol operate at the ports of entry?

A: No. Border Patrol agents operate between the ports of entry. In essence, Border Patrol agents patrol the unregulated area of access to the United States. Border Patrol agents are responsible for deterring, interdicting, and stopping the flow of illegal aliens between the ports of entry.