Border officials in Arizona are seeing an increasing number of immigrants from India being smuggled into the United States.

Last week, 35 immigrants from India were apprehended in incidents in Santa Cruz County.

"It's unheard of," said Santa Cruz County Sheriff Tony Estrada, who has been in law enforcement in Nogales for 45 years.

There have never been so many Indian nationals go through the county jail in such a short period of time, Estrada says.

There has been a rise in apprehensions of immigrants from India at the ports and between the ports in Arizona, Custom and Border Protection said in an email. But the agency didn't say how many.

The number of Indian nationals apprehended by the Border Patrol in the Tucson and Yuma sectors jumped from eight people in fiscal 2007 to 249 people in 2012, apprehension data obtained by the Center for Investigative Reporting shows.

These numbers don't include apprehensions at the ports of entry. The data on port apprehensions was not immediately available Friday.

The vast majority of Indian immigrants who are apprehended are men who are first-time border crossers.

Homeland Security is responding to Indian apprehensions along the Southwest border by working with officials in Central and South America to identify and dismantle the human-smuggling networks involved, according to officials.

Indian nationals are increasingly coming to the United States via countries that don't require them to have visas, said Eleanor Sohnen, a policy analyst at the Migration Policy Institute, a D.C.-based think thank.

And they are using the same routes Central Americans use, she said.

Guatemala started requiring visas for Indian nationals in 2011 after it saw an increase of Indians using Guatemala as the route to the United States, Sohnen said.

But other countries, such as El Salvador, have not changed their visa requirements.

Last week, Mexico's National Migration Institute apprehended 24 undocumented Indian men in the Mexican state of Chiapas.

And on June 11, federal police officers rescued 58 migrants who were allegedly kidnapped and held at a flop house in Nogales, Sonora.

The majority of them were from Guatemala, but six were from India.

In 2011, The Associated Press reported the Rio Grande Valley in South Texas was the most active nationwide for apprehending Indian nationals.

The number of Indian nationals living in the United States without status has doubled to 240,000 in the last decade, Department of Homeland Security estimates show.

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Number of Indian nationals apprehended by the Border Patrol in the Tucson and Yuma sectors:

• 2012: 249 • 2011: 164

• 2010: 49 • 2009: 13

• 2008: 9 • 2007: 8

Source: Border Patrol apprehension data, courtesy of the Center for Investigative Reporting.

Contact reporter Perla Trevizo at or at 573-4213. On Twitter: @Perla_Trevizo