Budget cuts have hampered the U.S. Border Patrol's work in its busiest sector on the Southwest border, agents said Friday, with the agency introducing fuel conservation measures in the Rio Grande Valley that have agents patrolling on foot and doubling up in vehicles.

The Border Patrol instituted the changes after the across-the-board government spending cuts known as sequestration. The constraints come as Congress moves deeper into the debate over comprehensive immigration reform and Republican legislators push for stronger border security components as a precursor to any path to citizenship for immigrants who have entered the country illegally.

The Rio Grande Valley sector—a stretch of border from Brownsville to Laredo on the southernmost tip of Texas—has become the agency's hottest area along the border. The Border Patrol’s arrests of people trying to cross the border illegally jumped 65 percent in that area last year. At the end of May, sector Chief Patrol Agent Rosendo Hinojosa said agents had already made more than 90,000 apprehensions in the first eight months of the fiscal year, a 50 percent increase over the same period last year.

Read the full Associated Press story.

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