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Border roundup

Study sheds light on gun running; AP drops 'illegal immigrant'

Politics and policy

On Tuesday, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments on the "transport provision" of SB 1070 which "makes it a misdemeanor to knowingly harbor or transport undocumented immigrants." Supporters of the 13-2929 provision said it will only affect criminals while critics said it is poorly written and "incomprehensible" and civil rights groups are concerned that "it would also threaten organizations that work with or provide support for illegal immigrants" like those "giving your neighbor a ride to grocery store, or to school, or to work, helping someone go to the hospital."

Since SB 1070 went into effect in 2010, three sections have been struck down and others, including the 13-2929 provision, are temporarily blocked in litigation. Tracy Greer broke down which sections of SB 1070 are in effect, blocked or struck down.

Designed by a bipartisan group of senators known as the "Gang of Eight," a comprehensive immigration reform bill "will include a temporary worker program covering more than agriculture," said U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz. Flake said that the senators expect the bill to be written and introduced in the upcoming weeks and that it will try to balance "job opportunities for Americans" with "the needs of employers and the labor community" and that Arizona needed foreign workers for construction as well as agriculture. Flake also said that passing immigration reform will "create other opportunities for bipartisan legislation."

Concerned that the Gang of Eight immigration reform bill may reduce family visas to increase job related visas, religious and union leaders in Arizona urged lawmakers to include family-unification policies in the legislation because "protecting and keeping immigrant families together should be paramount as federal lawmakers consider reform."

Kevin Appleby, director of migration policy and public affairs at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said that relocated immigrant families help all communities because they "contribute to the economy, they start their own businesses, they help in different areas of the economy that aren’t necessarily in the high-tech sector" but when families are left behind workers send their money back home instead of keeping it within the United States. Bishop Kirk Smith, the Episcopal bishop of Arizona, said that "[t]his is one thing that we do all agree on, and that is support of the family, because we consider that to be an imperative that’s given to us by our religion and by our God" and called family the “chief social unit in society.”

During a discussion with Arizona mayors, the head of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, Gil Kerlikowske, noted increased communication between local, state and federal governments on both sides of the border, an important step in securing the border and combating drug and fire arms trafficking. Kerlikowske also said that he'd observed increased seizures of money, northbound drugs and southbound firearms as well as improvements in technology and increased officers over the last four years. Cocaine and methamphetamine use in the U.S. is declining but that "synthetic drugs such as spice and bath salts are a challenge for law enforcement," he said.

A Pew Hispanic Center report found that Mexican immigrants are less likely to become U.S. citizens than other immigrants and "[o]nly 36 percent of Mexican immigrants who are eligible to become United States citizens are taking steps to do so." The main obstacles cited: language, financial and administrative barriers. Some also "keep the thought of returning to their homelands in the back of their minds."

The report estimated that Mexicans "account for 6.1 million of the estimated 11.1 million people who immigrated illegally to this country" and "also make up the largest group of legal permanent residents in the United States, accounting for 3.9 million of the 12 million people."

As of Tuesday, the Associated Press stylebook "no longer sanctions the term 'illegal immigrant' or the use of 'illegal' to describe a person," reserving that term for actions "such as living in or immigrating to a country illegally." The decision comes after wide-ranging discussions concluded that "while labels may be more facile, they are not accurate."

Though some newspapers, websites and TV stations have their own internal policies and include variations, the AP Styleguide often acts as an industry standard and other influential organizations including The New York Times are considering changing their internal style guide to match. The announcement made waves amongst journalists: Alex Leff compared the impact to a similar style change in 1986 when AP replaced "pro-life" and "pro-choice" with "anti-abortion" and "abortion rights," Alisa Barber discussed how the style change will affect the way journalists report and write about people who are in the country illegally and John Rosman asked readers along the border to discuss what terms they used and mapped their responses.

Safety and law enforcement

Katie Arnoldi and Greg Olear continued their five-part discussion of border issues including drug trafficking, human smuggling and cartel violence with a look at the challenges of immigrant women in or on their way to the United States. Their challenges include "systemic sexual abuse" and border relief organizations "estimate that something like 80 percent of women are sexually molested on their journey north, whether it’s in Mexico or the U.S. or on both sides of the border" and assaults are under-reported.

A new book by Seattle journalist Davie Neiwert chronicles the history of convicted murderer Shawna Ford and how "well-meaning people" in border militia groups like the Minutemen "were providing a huge avenue, something white supremacists and people on the far right had been dreaming of doing for years -- vigilante border watches." Neiwart, who attended Ford's Tucson trial, describes Ford as a psychopath who "could fake empathy quite well" and includes an account by Ford's mother about how she learned of the 2011 shootings which killed 9-year-old Brisenia Floresa and her father, Raul Flores, in the book, "And Hell Followed With Her: Crossing the Dark Side of the American Border."

The night he was shot and killed, witnesses say Nogales 16-year-old José Antonio Elena Rodríguez "was simply walking down the street and not throwing rocks at U.S. Border Patrol agents." Isidro Alvarado, 36, was one of the first callers to report the shooting and said he was walking "less than 20 feet behind José Antonio Elena Rodríguez when two other young men suddenly ran past him and into a side street. He then heard gunshots come from different directions and he saw José fall to the ground."

Reports, including initial crime scene accounts, ballistics and autopsy have been released but the investigation into the shooting is ongoing and an FBI spokesperson said "[t]here's no specific timetable for when the investigation will be completed." On April 10 there will be a vigil to mark the six-month anniversary of Rodríguez's death with participants on both sides of the border.

Sophisticated airborne radar is revealing security gaps along the U.S.-Mexico border including "evidence that Border Patrol agents apprehended fewer than half of the foreign migrants and smugglers who had illegally crossed into a 150-square-mile stretch of southern Arizona."

Nearly 365,000 people were apprehended in 2012 and the Government Accountability Office, Congress' investigative arm, said in January that "Border Patrol had caught 64 percent of those who illegally crossed into the Tucson sector in 2011." However, internal reports showed that the radar system (developed for tracking Taliban fighters in Afghanistan) spotted 1,962 additional people in the Sonora Desert after 1,874 were arrested and detained between Oct. 1 and Jan. 17 in the Sonora Desert.

The U.S. is "a significant, albeit unintentional, contributor to the global black market in arms and ammunition" including guns trafficked into Mexico, according to a new study by University of San Diego's Trans-Border Institute. As many as 253,000 firearms purchased between 2010 and 2012 in the United States were bought to be trafficked across the border to Mexico, nearly three times the amount trafficked while the federal assault weapons ban was in place between 1997 and 1999.

Report co-author Topher McDougal also wrote that the findings underline "the point that with domestic gun rights come responsibilities" and suggest "that the United States has been negligent in preventing illegal firearms trafficking." The reports policy recommendations include "universal background checks and eliminating cash transactions for gun purchases in border states." Critics dispute the reports' method of collecting data which is complicated by limitations on the data the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is legally able to collect on gun sales. However a 2012 ATF report said that "about 68,000 of the 99,000 weapons at crime scenes in Mexico since 2007 were traced back to the U.S.," firearms that "were either manufactured here or legally imported and subsequently smuggled."

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A 26-year-old man, Adam Ortiz, was apprehended Thursday on state charges for human smuggling and aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer, according to a Marciopa County Sheriff's Office press release. In his vehicle Ortiz had five Mexican nationals believed to be headed to Kansas, Texas, Chicago and New Jersey and he assaulted a sheriff's deputy during his arrest, Sheriff Joseph Arpaio said. Ortiz, a U.S. citizen whose green Dodge Durango had an unreadable temporary license plate from New Mexico, is free on bond for charges of conspiracy to commute aggravated armed robbery, second degree aggravated armed robbery, tampering with evidence and possession of firearm enhancements in that state. The five passengers were "booked as co-conspirators for human smuggling related chargers and are believed to be in this country illegally."

Mexican drug cartels are sending "trusted agents to live and work deep inside the United States," a move that authorities say could make them "harder than ever to dislodge and pave the way for them to expand into other criminal enterprises such as prostitution, kidnapping-and-extortion rackets and money laundering." The affected areas include "at least nine non-border states, often in middle-class suburbs in the Midwest, South and Northeast" and may be "the most serious threat the United States has faced from organized crime." While part of the increase is attributed to "better reporting," reported cartel presence in neighborhoods "has increased 421 percent — from 230 in 2008 to 1,200 in 2011" according to DEA stats.

A suspected drug cartel member who fled to Mexico will be extradited and arranged at the Pima County Courthouse after being arrested Nov. 3. Rafael Enrique Araiza, along with 17 other defendants, was indicted on Nov. 23, 2010 by a grand jury for 65 counts including illegally conducting a drug enterprise, money laundering, and unlawful use of wire communications.

Across the border

Ciudad Jaurez saw a spike in reported homicides during March, a cause for concern after "a relatively calm period for the border city" though still below reports for previous years. With 25 homicides reported in January and 26 in February, March has seen the highest reported number for 2013 with 45 homicides. In 2011, there were 106 reported homicides in Juarez for March and 240 the year before in 2010.

Two separate bar shootings killed four people Sunday in Guadalajara, Mexico's second largest city, and wounded another 17-29. A 45-year-old U.S. citizen, Jeff Lydell Comer, was among the dead in the attacks which officials said were "directed at the establishments and not against specific customers."

The Mexican Facebook and Twitter accounts “Valor por Tamaulipas” are temporarily suspended due to "security concerns and work conflicts" but are expected to reopen, allowing crow-sourcing of information on violence crime in the state of Tamaulipas. The accounts abruptly went offline on April 1 after at least two treats but posted the plan to reopen on a related social media page, Responsabilidad por Tamaulipas, two days later. In February the citizen journalist who founded the “Valor por Tamaulipas” accounts told El Pais that his family had fled to the U.S. after flyers offering $47,000 for information leading to his identity circulated the state's capital Cuidad Victoria that same month and, in 2012, the Gulf Cartel "established the website 'Anti-valor por Tamaulipas' to intimidate him."

Damien Cave explored the economic and social impacts of migration on the Mexican town of El Cargadero, a city which has benefited from wages sent back by residents who've travels to the U.S. for work and sent money back to their families but also shrunk to a few hundred people from "a once-thriving farm community of 3,000" during the exodus. Now residents say that a struggling U.S. economy, a more secure border and anti-immigrant sentiment are dissuading people from going north and some family members are even returning to the town, all as Mexico's own economy strengthens and its birthrate drops.

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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U.S. Customs and Border Protection

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at Nogales' Dennis DeConcini Port of Entry apprehended a 43-year-old Nogales, Sonora woman when additional inspections showed she was hiding $11,361 in unreported U.S. currency in her purse. The woman told officers she was being paid to carry the funds, which came from drug sales, back to Mexico.

Border Patrol Activity

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

Monday 1 April

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at Nogales' Mariposa Port of Entry discovered nearly three pounds of undeclared pork products wrapped in a towel and hidden in a cereal box after an agriculture dog altered to the vehicle even though the woman driving the vehicle said she had nothing to declare. The woman was fined and released, the pork products were seized and destroyed. Fines of up to $1000 can be issued on the spot for failure to declare prohibited items.

Yuma Sector agents using night vision equipment southwest of Gila Bend apprehended a group of suspects, Mexican nationals, carrying 209 pounds of marijuana (estimated value $104,500)

Tuesday 2 April

Yuma Sector agents at the I-8 checkpoint near spot road apprehended a 35-year-old male when a drug dog alerted to his car during additional inspection and agents found 11 pounds of methamphetamine (estimated value $630,000) behind the dashboard of the vehicle

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at Nogales' Mariposa Port of Entry apprehended a 36-year-old Nogales, Sonora woman, Nancy Melina Lopez-Martinez, when she attempted to leave the United States in her Dodge sedan with $61,850 of unreported U.S. currency hidden in her clothing

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at Nogales' Dennis DeConcini Port of Entry apprehended a 42-year-old Tucson man, Silvester Padilla Romero, when a drug dog alerted to his vehicle and officers discovered 110 packages and 11 loose bundles of marijuana (more than 545 pounds, estimated value nearly $273,000) inside the back panels and toolbox of his Chevrolet truck

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at Nogales' Dennis DeConcini Port of Entry apprehended a 29-year-old Mesa woman, Tasha Smith, when a drug dog alerted to her vehicle and officers discovered 16 packages of marijuana (almost 62 pounds, estimated valued nearly $31,000) inside a spare tire on her Dodge SUV

Wednesday 3 April

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at Nogales' Dennis DeConcini Port of Entry apprehended a 26-year-old Sinaloa woman when additional inspections showed she was hiding $20,000 in unreported U.S. currency under her clothing, $13,400 in her shoes, $10,979 in the her purse and $5,600 in pair of pants she was carrying (for a total of $49,979) as she tried to leave the United States

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at Nogales' Dennis DeConcini Port of Entry apprehended a 43-year-old Nogales, Sonora woman when additional inspections showed she was hiding $11,361 in unreported U.S. currency in her purse. The woman told officers she was being paid to carry the funds, which came from drug sales, back to Mexico.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at the Nogales Port of Entry apprehended a 21-year-old Nogales, Sonora man, Benjamin Fornes, after officers found almost 15 pounds of heroin and nearly four pounds of methamphetamine (estimated value nearly $260,000) inside the vehicle’s spare tire during additional inspection of his Toyota SUV

Sources

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