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A Mexican man peers towards U.S. sands on the beach in Tijuana from behind the border fence. - 


Scott Jagow: The Homeland Security Department is tallying up how many people were caught trying to cross the Mexican border in the past year.
We know it's gonna be a lot fewer than last year -- probably less than a million people.
More now from Alisa Roth.

Alisa Roth: Not suprisingly, Homeland Security says its patrols have made sneaking into the country much harder to do. But some say the harrowing trip isn't the only reason to stay away from the U.S.

Tony Payan is a political science professor at the University of Texas at El Paso:

Tony Payan: It is now increasingly difficult to live without documents in many more communities in the United States.

Meanwhile, some say crossing over has now gotten so tough that would-be migrants have stopped using garden-variety coyotes to shepherd them across, and are instead turning to drug smugglers for help.

Payan doesn't buy it:

Payan: They're huge organizations. The last thing they need is to be bothering with crossing people who have no money and who are just simply are going to look for a job in Phoenix or Denver.

Payan says he's also skeptical of the government's numbers, since they're based on extrapolation from other data. And he says the bureaucracy has every reason to fiddle with the figures.

In New York, I'm Alisa Roth for Marketplace.