Economic declines have led to declines in Mexican immigrants

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PHOENIX - New numbers reveal a steep decline in the number of Mexican immigrants, legal and illegal, coming in to the United States.

The Mexican government just released census data showing about 226,000 fewer people migrated from Mexico to other countries last year, a decline of 25 percent.

But for those still trying to get in to the United States, the stakes are high.

Despite the down economy and the lack of jobs there are still thousands of people trying to get across the border every day. Increased border security and new technology making it more difficult and people are turning to more extreme measures.

Illegal immigrants have a long history of adopting tactics to avoid barriers in their way, but these days the average isn't cutting it.

"They're looking for more creative ways to get by us," said Mike Scioli, Tucson Border Patrol.

Like this little girl, whose parents stuffed her inside a piata or these people who tried to sew themselves inside the seat of a car.

Edmundo Hidalgo with the organization "Chicanos Por La Causa" said the more the United States tries to snuff out illegal immigration, the more deadly the desert becomes.

In fact, crossing the border is so dangerous, immigrants often pray to this smuggler's saint to help bring them safe travels.

"Everytime you try a different way you're really pushing the envelope you're really pushing individuals to into a situation that has more potential for tragedy," he said.

Border patrol agents showed 3 On Your Side pictures of smugglers going to great lengths to try to disguise their vehicles, like one truck wrapped in or one spray-painted black so it won't stand out at night.

3 On Your Side got a first-hand look during a trip to the border, agents taking us through the streets of Nogales and down into tunnels, some that used to be sewage drains.

"Now what's happening is the tunnel systems yes they're still trying to burrow into here but they're also burrowing and making entries and exits out of houses and abandoned buildings lots in the middle of nowhere," Scioli said.

The most recent census data shows Arizona's undocumented immigrant population cost state taxpayers about $1.3 billion per year.

That's more than $700 per household for services like health care, education and incarceration.

Hidalgo said immigrants often face death or the desert and many times it's our immigration policy forcing them to decide.

"When you have individuals and families who are waiting in line to come to the United States and you're telling them that yes you will let them pass at some point but it may not be til 10 years from now," Hidalgo said. "Is that person gonna wait? Most likely not."

Despite his long to do list, president Obama said he wants to act on comprehensive immigration reform this year and he is expected to address the issue publicly this month.

A new proposal is expected to include a path to citizenship for the estimated 12-15 million undocumented workers currently in the U.S. but administration officials say the plan would not add new workers to the American workforce.