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Border Roundup: BP abuse allegations; agency email denies interviews

General immigration

Theodoric Meyer rounds up in-depth reporting on immigration ranging from children to crime to business and across both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border.

Marshall Fitz, Philip E. Wolgin and Patrick Oakford delve into work on the economics of immigration from use of public programs to taxes and Social Security contributions, determining that immigrants are ultimately "makers, not takers."

Julian Aguilar takes a look at the challenges involved in accurately determining apprehension rates along the border - and the dangers of using them as the only metric for border security.

Law enforcement

Migrants suffer "incidents of physical and verbal abuse suffered by migrants both at the hands of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Mexican police, and through attacks by human traffickers, robbers and gangs" and many of these are documented in a new report released Thursday by the Jesuit Conference, the Kino Border Initiative (KBI) and Jesuit Refugee Service/USA. The reports were collected during humanitarian work along the border.

Tim Stellar takes a look at press relations and transparency in Border Patrol including an internal email on Feb. 1 that instructs public information officers to deny interviews, ride-alongs, visits and similar communication with reporters. The agency later released a statement about the memo, saying that CBP "remains committed to open and transparent engagement with the public and will continue to facilitate media requests for interviews and information about operations and programs while maintaining our focus on protecting our borders."

Gov. Jan Brewer declared that the border is not secure and that there "needs to be more boots on the ground" after she took an aerial tour of the border as well as meeting with area ranchers and Customs and Border Protection officers on Tuesday.

Politics and policy

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano responded to challenges from both sides of the immigration debate, saying that it is time for immigration reform because the border is "as secure as ever."

Allowing young immigrants who've successfully applied for the DACA program to work without allowing them drive is setting them up to break the law, say advocates of an Arizona bill that contests current state law. Gov. Brewer's executive ban on issuing driver's licenses to young immigrants in the DACA program is being challenged in court. Judge David Campbell, the federal judge in that case, recently ruled that witnesses cannot be forced to testify with details about their work or status but then also cannot testify that they've been irreparably harmed by Brewer's policy.

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Texas may be able to "lead the conversation on immigration reform" and help Republicans avoid an anti-immigrant label, Grover Norquist said this week at a Texas Immigration Panel in Austin during which he called for the "center right" to unite on the issue.

A steep price increase may be the cost of avoiding a trade war between the U.S. and Mexico over tomatoes, a scenario would likely have an economic ripple effect across ports of entry like Nogales' Mariposa Port of Entry.

Across the border

Nick Miroff interviews potential border crossers on the Mexican side and finds that many are desperate to be in the U.S. if and when immigration reform goes into effect - no matter what the cost - and discovers that they face a variety of dangers from Tijuana to Juarez or San Diego to Brownsville. Miroff also looks into the policy of lateral deportation in which border crossers apprehended in the harsh desert of southern Arizona are discharged to the Mexican side through southern Texas cities like Brownsville. The policy may reduce risks of recrossing in a dangerous area - but it may also leave them vulnerable to cartel violence.

The Nieman Fellows have awarded the Louis Lyons Award for Conscience and Integrity in Journalism to Mexican journalist Marcela Turati. During her acceptance speech, Turati, who works at the magazine Proceso, spoke about the dangers of covering the drug wars and cartel violence including attempts to silence journalists.

Gabriela Rico checks in on Nogales, Sonora's first master-planned community five years into the 20-year project that blends residential, commercial and industrial real estate and finds it doing well.

Forty percent of all Catholics are in Latin America, where the pope's retirement announcement is drawing big reactions. Pope Benedict was openly critical of Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez. He also visited Mexico and Cuba in March 2012. It is thought that clergymen from Brazil, Mexico and Argentina may be in the running to be appointed as his replacement.

With a fungus known as coffee rust affecting 70 percent of Guatemala's crop, President Otto Molina Perez has declared a national emergency and ordered funds to be released for aiding coffee growers so that they can combat the threat. Crops in Mexico, El Salvador, Honduras and Costa Rica are also being affected.

TucsonSentinel.com's original reporting and curation of border and immigration news is generously supported in part by a grant from the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation.

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Border Patrol Activity

As reported by U.S. Customs and Border Protection press releases:

Friday, 8 Feb.

Yuma Sector agents in the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge found 484 pounds of abandoned marijuana in the morning

Yuma Sector agents southeast of Gila Bend apprehended seven suspects carrying a combined 262 pounds of marijuana that night

Sunday, 10 Feb.

Two Yuma Sector agents near Gila Bend followed footprints found and arrested a smuggler hiding with 320 pounds of marijuana in a cave

Yuma Sector agents near Gila Bend found 230 pounds abandoned marijuana

Monday, 11 Feb.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at the Nogales Port apprehended a suspect attempting to transport black tar heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine into the U.S. (total estimated value $232,400). A drug dog alerted to a Chevrolet van being inspected and the black tar heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine were discovered in the firewall / dash area of the vehicle leading to the arrest of Reyna Gisela Ramirez-Hernandez, 34, of Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico.

Wednesday, 13 Feb.

Wellton Station agents in the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge followed footsteps crossing the Camino Del Diablo and apprehended seven suspects with 337 pounds of marijuana (estimated value at $168,500)

Thursday, 14 Feb.

Wellton Station agents responded to a citizen report near Sentinel and apprehended a male Mexican national for "illegally present in the United States" and discovered through background checks that he had felony convictions including several deportations, possession of marijuana for sale in Phoenix and rape in Twin Falls, Idaho.

Sources