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Border Roundup: Feds debate border security, voter rights while border deaths rise

Politics and policy

Illegal immigrants would have to wait longer to work legally but would naturalize sooner once qualified under a new provision that may be part of the comprehensive immigration reform being worked on by eight bipartisan senators. The current wait time to work legally is eight years and would grow to 10, but after that the wait time to naturalize would go from five to three years. While the steps are different the overall time matches the president's administration's plan and also includes compromises for both Democrats and Republicans. The goal of the group of senators is to announce legislation in early April, meaning an increased build up in meetings to address key issues including guest-worker programs, adjusting family immigration policy and border security.

After hearing arguments on Arizona's 2004 voter registration law requiring proof of citizenship Monday, the Supreme Court seemed split. Supporters of the law says it prevents fraud while critics say it disenfranchises legitimate voters like plaintiff SevaPriya Barrier who said that after moving from Arkansas to Arizona her registration to vote was rejected before she could obtain an Arizona driver's licence. Meanwhile in Arizona voter advocacy groups protested at the State Capitol against more bills aimed at voters, including a bill that purge voters from early ballot lists if they sit out two consecutive election cycles and another that would require additional signed statements for volunteers to deliver collected early ballots to polling places.

Thomas Perez, President Barack Obama's choice for Labor Secretary, "is known for his aggressive tactics as a Department of Justice official, including civil rights enforcement in Southwestern states" and part of that reputation involves Arizona. Perez was involved in challenging Arizona's method for testing children for English language fluency and also filed a civil lawsuit alleging racial profiling against Sheriff Joe Arpaio and the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office in 2012; that lawsuit is still progressing through federal courts. Perez has also challenged voter id laws in Texas, a move which was supported by federal courts.Perez replaces Hilda Solis, the first Latina to hold that office in a first term cabinet that was "unusually diverse in both ethnicity and gender."

While some of those released had criminal convictions including "level-one" offences, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement Director John Morton said again Tuesday that the decision to release over 2,000 illegal immigrants "was necessary to keep the agency within its budget." Of those with criminal records, the eight "level-one" offenders were classified as such because of drug or violent offenses convictions like the 68-year-old-man released in Arizona. Morton attributed their release to mistakes, including inaccurate records and of the eight, four are back in custody while four are not. The cost of keeping someone locked up is $122 per day. All 2,228 inmates are being monitored through other less expensive measures measures including bonds and ankle bracelets and all still face deportation proceedings.

Julia Preston explores efforts by the Department of Homeland Security to "new, more accurate standards to assess security at the nation's borders" after promises of progress made over two years ago while Pamela Constable visits Arizona rancher John Ladd's property to help explore what sequester triggered budget cuts may mean to border security.

Safety and law enforcement

Two Yuma Sector Border Patrol agents on their way to patrol spotted a small house fire on Yuma's outskirts early Sunday morning. They alerted Rural Metro Fire Department and helped rescue the two occupants before returning to patrol. The incident was "part of a busy week for Yuma Sector who arrested 17 drug smuggling suspects as well as seized 1,728 pounds of marijuana and 5.7 pounds of methamphetamine in a five day period starting that started on Thursday."

More than 200 people marched to Tucson Police Department in a justice and dignity walk they hope will help end cooperation between local law enforcement and Border Patrol. The marchers also want SB 1070, the bill that requires local law enforcement to check immigration status if they suspect someone is in the country illegally, to be repealed. Tucson Police Chief Roberto Villaseñor "has said that he will enforce SB 1070 even though he disagrees with the law."

While fewer people illegally crossed the U.S.-Mexico border in 2012, border crosser deaths rose in the same period according to a National Foundation for American Policy report released this week. Border Patrol agents, many of whom are trained emergency medical technicians, also reported a "25% increase in rescues of people struggling to make the journey" and a spokesperson reiterated that the agency "works hard to avoid loss of life" in dangerous environments like the Sonoran Desert. Anna King takes a look at what border crossing stories mean to survivors - and their families.

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Across the border

Alberto Arce and the Associated Press take a look the arrest of suspected Bario 18 gang member Carranza Said Kevin Padilla, 28, and his girlfriend, Cindy Yadira Garcia, 19, and explore whether their subsequent disappearances are connected to allegations that the Hondoruan police are operating death squads as a response to cartel and gang violence.

Simeon Tegel takes a look at what Latin American countries are doing to diversify economies historically focused on natural resources including directing taxpayer money to strength STEM - science, technology, engineering, math - and encourage research and development.

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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Mar 27, 2013, 2:29 am
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Even though it’s easily circumnavigated with catapults, tunnels, drones, ramps, fat bribes and threats, border security has become a booming sector for the prohibition industrial complex. In 2012 alone, the U.S. government spent $18 billion on border and immigration enforcement agencies, more than on all other federal law enforcement agencies—including the FBI, DEA, etc—combined.

The only people who believe prohibition is working are the ones making a living by enforcing laws in it’s name and those amassing huge fortunes on the black market profits. This situation is wholly unsustainable and as history has shown us, conditions will continue to deteriorate until we finally, just like our forefathers, see sense and revert back to tried and tested methods of regulation. None of these substances, legal or illegal, are ever going to go away but we CAN decide to implement policies that do far more good than harm.

Prohibition causes massive crime and suffering, causes government/police corruption, causes America to have the highest prison population of any country in the history of the planet, causes Americans to lose all their rights and all their true core-values, causes the waste of trillions in taxpayer dollars, causes wars, violence and death,  perpetuates racism, and funds both criminals and terrorists.

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U.S. Customs and Border Protection

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at the Naco Port of Entry apprehended Emilia Reyes-Balderrama, a 54-year-old Mexican woman, after discovering more than 150 pounds of various drugs (estimated value more than $1.8 million) in her vehicle as she tried to enter the United States. While inspecting her Ford truck, officers found nine pounds of heroin (estimated value $126,000), nearly 80 pounds of cocaine (estimated value more than $725,000) and almost 64 pounds of methamphetamine (estimated valued nearly $987,000).

Youtube Video

Border Patrol Activity

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

Thursday 14 March

Yuma Sector agents on the western side Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge approached a northbound Chevy Tahoe that turned and drove south towards the U.S.-Mexico border but was stopped by a vehicle barrier. Unable to take the vehicle across the border, two men left it behind and fled into Mexico on foot. Agents discovered 802 pounds of marijuana in the abandoned vehicle.

Friday 15 March

Yuma Sector agents at the Spot Road checkpoint on Interstate-8 apprehended a suspect after a canine unit alerted to a Ford-F-350, leading to the discovery of 150 pounds of marijuana and 5.7 pounds of methamphetamine. The apprehended driver turned out to be a Mexican national with permanent legal resident status.

Saturday 16 March

U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Office of Air and Marine (OAM) and Border Patrol Search, Trauma and Rescue teams rescued two hikers in two separate incidents. The first involved a lost hiker discovered near Hutch's Pool, north of Sabino Canyon where pilots were able to land OAM Blackhawk helicopter at the scene and stabilized the man who was suffering from hearing loss, exposure and complications from diabetes before transporting him to an ambulance for transfer to a local hospital. The second hiker, also a diabetic, was lost near Kimble Peak and found in an area where pilots could not safely land so OAM agents reached the hiker via fast-rope and stabilized him for extraction. He too was taken to an ambulance for transfer to a local hospital. Border Patrol provided the accompanying video from the second rescue.

Sunday 17 March

Yuma Sector agents south of Gila Bend apprehended two groups of suspects after dark using night vision equipment. The first group, eight suspects carrying a total of 390 pounds of marijuana, was apprehended around 10 p.m. A second group of five smugglers was apprehended carrying 257 pounds after a sixth suspect escaped. Background checks revealed all 13 suspects to be Mexican nationals.

Monday 18 March

Yuma Sector agents southwest of Gila Bend spotted five suspects in the afternoon and apprehended three with 130 pounds of marijuana.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents at the San Luis Port of Entry apprehended 46-year-old Martin De La Torre Dominguez, of Phoenix, after a canine unit altered to his Ford pickup and discovered 16 packages of drugs (estimated value more than $378,000).

Tuesday 19 March

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at the Dennis DeConcini Port in Nogales apprehended 21-year-old Lilia Guadalupe Martinie-Munoz of Nogales, Sonora, after a canine unit altered to her Chrysler sedan and officers found 10 packages of cocaine (estimated value $237,000) in the trunk of the vehicle.

Yuma Sector agents using night-vision equipment southwest of Gila Bend apprehended two groups of smuggling suspects using known smuggling routes through the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. The first group of sevel suspects were carrying 317 pounds of marijuana; the second group of five suspects were carrying 292 pounds.

Wednesday 20 March

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at the Naco Port of Entry apprehended Emilia Reyes-Balderrama, a 54-year-old Mexican woman, after discovering more than 150 pounds of various drugs (estimated value more than $1.8 million) in her vehicle as she tried to enter the United States. While inspecting her Ford truck, officers found nine pounds of heroin (estimated value $126,000), nearly 80 pounds of cocaine (estimated value more than $725,000) and almost 64 pounds of methamphetamine (estimated valued nearly $987,000).

Wellton Station agents at the Interstate 8 checkpoint near Spot Road apprehended a Mexican national with a fraudulent visa and discovered during background checks that he had been convicted and deported from San Bernardino, California as an aggravated felon.

Thursday 21 March

Wellton Station agents at the Interstate 8 checkpoint near Spot Road apprehended a U.S. citizen after a drug sniffing dog helped with the discovering of more than 12 pounds of marijuana in a deep hidden compartment.

Yuma Sector agents in the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge apprehended a Mexican national with a stash of 409 pounds of marijuana in Davidson Canyon.

Yuma Station Boat Unit agents on Squaw Lake picked up three men after a fire disabled their boat shortly after 10 a.m. They had already contained the flames from their inboard motor with an onboard fire extinguisher, allowing agents to tow the boat to a safe place where the Yuma Proving Ground Fire Department could finish putting out the fire.

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