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Tuesday, 11 July, 2000, 13:08 GMT 14:08 UK
Patrols puncture immigration racket
Migrants climbing from a border patrol vehicle
Thousands of immigrants are arrested each month
Mexican migrants tried to evade US border patrols - by disguising themselves as weekend cyclists.



They had 10-speeds, helmets, sunglasses, shorts

Al Moreno, US Border Patrol
The patrols thought nothing of it at first when the cyclists pedalled down a Mexican road running parallel to the US highway at Laredo, Texas.

But they moved in when the cyclists dumped their disguises and jumped into the back of a waiting truck.

Al Moreno, an officer at the Laredo border patrol, said: "They had 10-speeds, helmets, sunglasses, shorts ... We thought it was a local bicycle club."

A number of people have been arrested in connection with the smuggling racket.

The immigrants paid $1,500 to an alleged smuggler who set up the operation to help them cross into the US.

The US border patrol office in Arizona says its agents capture and return about 22,000 illegal immigrants a month.

Open border call

But local ranchers say more than four or five times that number are never caught.

Following his election victory on Sunday, Mexican President-elect Vicente Fox said he backed an open border between his country and the US within 10 years.

He said: "If we have a long-term view we can accomplish that. Europe did accomplish that.

"Migration of Spaniards to Germany 25 years ago was at the level that we have today between Mexico and the United States. Today there is no migration."

An estimated 9 million Mexicans currently live in the US, many of whom entered illegally and do not have resident permits.

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See also:

18 May 00 | Americas
Mexico attacks US vigilantes
07 Jun 00 | Americas
Tempers rise over US border deaths
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