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.
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.