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Border & immigration news roundup

Chavez dies, Mexican journalist killed, Brewer loses in court

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez died of cancer Tuesday, an announcement made to the public by Vice President Nicolás Maduro. The news triggered outpourings of grief and concerns about the future and came shortly after the government said it was ejecting two American military attachés for "sowing disorder." Chávez, 58 and a powerful and controversial figure internationally as well as within his own country, had undergone several surgeries and not been seen since the fourth and most recent one occurred in Cuba last December, but the type of cancer is unknown.

Politics and policy

A federal appeals court has ruled against the "day labor" provision of SB 1070, supporting previous rulings that blocked its enforcement, on the grounds that it interferes with a lawful service. Hiring or being hired for day labor is legal in Arizona. Gov. Jan Brewer argued that the provision, which "prohibited people from blocking traffic when they seek or offer day labor services on streets," was needed for "traffic safety." Challengers said it "unconstitutionally restrict the free speech rights of people who want to express their need for work."

Arizona lawmakers are reviewing a number of voting restrictions that they say will reduce fraud and critics say will erode voters rights. The restrictions include purging " voters who haven’t cast a mail ballot in the previous two federal election cycles from the Permanent Early Voting List" and making it a felony when "community groups or political committees...gather and submit mail ballots before elections." Critics point to the high, and rising, number of Arizona voters who choose to receive ballots by mail and say that targeting ballot collection is actually an attack on Latino voters. The move comes as the Supreme Court considers a Voting Rights Act provision requiring states to clear voting law changes with the Justice Department.

After a tweet that his friend's property was crossed by hundreds of immigrants nightly drew skeptical reactions, Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, declined to give further information on the friend or his property's location. Cornyn used the anecdote in support of his arguments that the border is not secure but described the location merely as "south Texas" - an area previously defined by U.S. Customs and Border Protection as "running from the tip of Texas to the Del Rio area, spanning eight border counties and three patrol sectors."

Business and economy

Julian Aguilar reports on reactions in the Texas oil industry to the Mexican government's consideration of opening its oil monopoly to private investment. The Institutional Revolutionary Party, made the country's ruling political party through the election of President Enrique Peña Nieto, says that state-owned company Petróleos Mexicanos will remain under state control but that pending legislative approval their proposal may "turn to Americans for guidance on how to increase production" as well as sending more oil from Mexico to the U.S.

Tom Beal visits The University of Arizona's Science and Technology Park to find out more about its goals for the future as well as its partnership with an international defense systems company and its work on border security technologies like surveillance towers that mix radar, infrared and electro-optical cameras.

Law enforcement

David Martin Davies looks into why videos of people refusing to answer questions about citizenship status at Department of Homeland Security checkpoints are going viral, including why people are refusing to answer the question, why they're filming it and how Border Patrol is responding.

One of three suspects has pleaded "no contest" to a cartel related beheading that took occurred in Chandler. Crisantos Moroyoqui-Yocupicio, 39, may be facing 10-16 years and sentencing is scheduled for May. The case has been cited as an example of spillover violence from the drug war in Mexico and as validation for a statement by Gov. Jan Brewer about headless corpses in the desert, but the suburban killing actually occurred a month after her statement was made.

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Across the border

Jan-Albert Hootsen takes a look at the Sinaloa cartel from its leader Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman and worldwide operative arrests to Badiraguato, a wealthy town deep in the heart of drug country, and tries to answer the question of who has won the drug wars in Mexico.

Gunmen shot journalist Jaime Guadalupe Gonzalez Dominguez at least 17 times and stole his camera while he ate at a taco stand in & Ojinaga on Sunday. His local news website, Ojinaga Noticias, was taken down soon after. Mexico's human rights commission, The Committee to Protect Journalists and the Inter-American Press Association have all previously expressed concerns about the safety of journalists in Mexico and cite cases including deaths and disappearances since 2000.

Dudley Althaus talks to advocates trying to locate missing persons to learn more about promises of help from President Enrique Peña Nieto's new administration and key state governments. Thousands of people have died or disappeared - 26,121 according to the latest talley by the government - in cartel violence that escalated when former President Felipe Calderon vowed to take on the cartels with federal troops shortly after taking office.

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U.S. Customs and Border Protection

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at the Lukeville Port apprehended Monica Guaydacan, 23, of Phoenix, after a CBP dog altered to her car and 5.5 pounds of crystal methamphetamine was discovered in the front bumper of her Ford truck.

Border Patrol Activity

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

Friday, 1 March

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at the San Luis Port of Entry apprehended a Mexican man, 48, and seized 27 packages of marijuana (669 pounds) when an x-ray system discovered anomalies during inspection of the tractor trailer he was driving and a drug dog alerted to the vehicle

Yuma Sector agents followed footprints south of Tacna and apprehended five Mexican nationals in camoflage carrying a total of 190 pounds of marijuana

Yuma Sector agents south of Interstate 8 near mile marker 93 located three abandoned backpacks containing 56 pounds of marijuana (combined Yuma Sector seizures for the day: 246 pounds of marijuana, estimated value $123,000)

Sunday, 3 March

Tucson Sector agents at the State Route 83 checkpoint apprehended a male suspect after seizing 444 wrapped bricks of marijuana (1,500 pounds, estimated value $744,000) discovered hidden in false compartments throughout a 2003 F-350 pickup truck after a drug dog alerted to the vehicle

Yuma Sector agents using night vision equipment south of Gila Bend apprehended two Mexican nationals and seized 413 pounds of marijuana

Monday, 4 March

Yuma Sector agents in Davidson Canyon on the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge discovered 300 pounds of abandoned marijuana

Yuma Sector agents at the California Highway 78 checkpoint apprehended a suspect with five pounds of marijuana

Tuesday, 5 March

Wellton Station agents on I-8 near mile marker 76 apprehended a male Mexican national with 89 pounds of marijuana (estimated value $44,500)

Wednesday, 6 March

Wellton Station agents a mile south of I-8, near mile marker 96, apprehended a group of 5 suspects carrying backpacks with 245 pounds of marijuana worth (estimated value $122,500)

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at the Lukeville Port apprehended Monica Guaydacan, 23, of Phoenix, after a CBP dog altered to her car and 5.5 pounds of crystal methamphetamine was discovered in the front bumper of her Ford truck

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at the Dennis DeConcini Port of Entry in Nogales apprehended Alejandro Talamantes-Osorio, 28, of Nogales, Sonora, Mexico as he tried to enter the U.S. through the pedestrian lane and records revealed he was wanted on homicide charges filed in Tucson

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at the Dennis DeConcini Port of Entry in Nogales apprehended a male Mexican national after a CBP dog alerted to the vehicle and $464,250 in unreported U.S. currency was discovered hidden in items within the car he was attempting to drive into Mexico

Thursday, 7 March

Wellton Station agents on the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge apprehended nine suspects backpacking 357 pounds of marijuana (estimated value $178,500)