updated 7/26/2006 9:43:50 PM ET 2006-07-27T01:43:50

Arrests of would-be illegal immigrants along a section of the Mexican border that includes New Mexico have increased 13 percent in the last 10 months, the U.S. Border Patrol said.

The increase comes as arrests along the entire U.S.-Mexico border have dropped since President Bush ordered the military to help tighten the border.

Border Patrol Chief David Aguilar said Tuesday that New Mexico arrests were up because the area had been shortchanged on resources to fight illegal immigration in the past.

The Border Patrol "had not been able to do a very good job" in the Deming and Lordsburg areas, Aguilar said.

"We just didn't have any resources," he said.

Spurred by complaints from New Mexico politicians, the Border Patrol added 305 agents to the El Paso Sector of the border, which includes all of New Mexico and Texas' two westernmost counties.

Doug Mosier, a spokesman for the El Paso sector, said 1,642 agents are assigned to the sector with plans to raise that number to 1,900 by year's end.

New Mexico also has 692 of the 4,500 National Guardsmen that Bush ordered deployed to California, New Mexico, Texas and Arizona.

From Oct. 1, the start of the federal fiscal year, through Sunday, 110,217 illegal immigrants were caught in the El Paso sector of the border. That compares with 97,194 arrests during the same period the previous fiscal year.

Along the entire U.S.-Mexican border, Aguilar reported a 45 percent decline in the number of people arrested from May 16, a day after Bush announced he would deploy National Guard troops to the border, to July 23.

Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., said for the last several years he has been urging the Bush administration to deploy more resources to New Mexico's border.

"I'm glad that the White House has finally recognized that things have, in fact, not been under control and has begun to take the problem seriously," Bingaman said.

Rep. Steve Pearce, R-N.M., said there has been a "dramatic" change since August, when "high-ranking officials in El Paso seemed unaware and unconcerned about the problem, and unwilling to make significant changes."

A spokesman for Gov. Bill Richardson says the increased arrests in New Mexico show why the governor declared a state of emergency along the border last year and freed up $1.75 million in state funds to help county law enforcement along the border.

"The National Guard deployment is a helpful stopgap, but the governor still believes that what are needed are additional, permanent Border Patrol agents along the New Mexico border," Goldstein said.

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