NEW YORK — The head of the US Customs and Border Protection service announced Thursday he is to resign at the end of this year.
Alan Bersin, who was appointed by President Barack Obama in March last year, said he would step down on December 30. His departure comes after Republicans in the Senate opposed his confirmation.
Bersin highlighted his achievements in office, which coincided with a steady increase in political tensions over illegal immigration and worries over narcotics trafficking on the US-Mexico border.
“We have measurably strengthened border security, enhanced our ability to prevent potential terror threats, streamlined the entry process for lawful trade, and expanded our trusted traveler programs,” Bersin said in a statement.
“These extraordinary accomplishments are the result of the unstinting dedication, professionalism and sacrifice of the men and women of CBP,” he said.
The Mexican ambassador in Washington, Arturo Sarukhan, praised the outgoing Bersin, Tweeting: “He will be missed. He understands the border & has been good friend of the Mex-US relationship.”
The border patrol agency says that between October 2010 and September this year it caught 340,252 illegal immigrants, down 27 percent on the previous year.
Although officials say this decrease is due to tougher enforcement, independent immigration experts attribute the change also to improving job prospects in Mexico and the stagnant economy in the United States. At the peak of illegal immigration in 2000, some 1.6 million people were detained.
The Customs and Border Protection has 21,000 agents patrolling, double the number from seven years ago.