Border roundup: Politicians tour Nogales, mayors travel south
Politics and policy
Border security, though difficult to measure, is required for an immigration deal, concluded half the members of the "Gang of Eight" U.S. senators working on immigration reform who toured the U.S.-Mexico border Wednesday with officials from Customs and Border Patrol. The senators did not specify how they would measure border security or what the costs would be, though Sen. John McCain said that sequester budget cuts have "made our border is less secure." McCain, who organized the tour including a helicopter ride, port visit, close look at the fence and an unplanned illegal crossing attempt, was joined by Arizona's Jeff Flake and Democrats Michael Bennet (Colo.) and Chuck Schumer (N.Y.).
During a hearing on the lawsuit challenging Gov. Jan Brewer's decision against issuing driver's licenses to young immigrants in the federal delayed deportation program Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, lawyers representing Brewer and her co-defendants "insisted that her position was not discriminatory." Instead, Douglas C. Northrup said, it's about the legality of the federal program itself. The lawsuit charges that Brewer's executive order denying DACA applicants driver's licences is unconstitutional and "violates the federal government’s supremacy and discriminates against a certain group of people who would have been allowed to apply for licenses if the state had not changed its rules." Lawyers for both sides made their arguments while some of the plaintiff listened and, two floors down, new citizens were sworn in.
Perla Trevizo dug into Operation Streamline to see what the numbers and the costs of the program's Tucson branch has been since it opened five years ago. The controversial program was designed to prosecute illegal border crossers instead of deport them and thereby dissuade repeat offenders or first time crossers through the threat of a criminal record but its effects are debated by supporters and critics.
Safety and law enforcement
Ian Urbina and Catherine Rentz reported on federal data that "on any given day roughly 300 immigrants are held in isolation, many of them for 23 hours a day." Half or more of the cases lasted 15 days or more - raising the risk of "severe mental harm." Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said Tuesday that "solitary confinement should be the exception, not the rule" and that she was gathering information on the policy so that it could be reviewed.
Andrew Becker, G.W. Schulz and Tia Ghose analyzed Border Patrol arrest records and reported that out of those found with drugs, three out of four are U.S. citizens and four out of five busts involve a U.S. citizen. U.S. drug smuggling is still dominated by Mexican-based crime organizations, they continued, but the public's perception of who's being arrested may not match reality. Customs and Border Patrol responded in writing that their news releases "busts involve large amounts of narcotics, unusual trafficking or concealment methods, or other notable factors."
Off-road vehicles are "damaging the landscapes of two ecologically sensitive areas of southern Arizona" including Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument and Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge. Now two environmental groups, The Sierra Club and the Center for Biological Diversity based in Tucson are trying to spread information about the impact on nature like crushing cryptobiotic soil into dust - and they're urging Border Patrol to consider changing their policies about the vehicles.
Trying to outrun Border Patrol agents in pursuit, a smuggler crashed near Kingsville, Texas, killing six of the 15 Honduran immigrants in the 1996 GMC Sierra Truck and seriously injuring nine others.
The fatal shooting of 19-year-old Carlos Lamadrid by a Border Patrol agent was marked by a vigil in Douglas that included Lamadrid's mother, Guadalupe Guerrero, who said she's still waiting for justice. Lamidrid is one of at least 22 people nationwide fatally shot by Border Patrol in the last few years and one of nine cases in southern Arizona where the most recent case was 16-year-old José Antonio Elena Rodríguez who died last October in Nogales, Sonora.
Business and economy
U.S. Customs and Border Protection urged travelers planning extended holiday stays for Easter and Semana Santa to think ahead about their travel arrangements. For example, they can file their paperwork early to avoid delays from the holiday rush and they're sending out information for travelers about everything from crossing points to upcoming online options. For U.S. border states, Semana Santa is one of the biggest weeks for retail because Mexican shoppers cross the border to vacation and spend time with families while schools and businesses are closed and a powerful peso made this year look especially promising.
Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild took 11 other Arizona mayors to an economic meeting with Sonoran and federal Mexican officials because "the fates of the two states are entwined" and "our federal and state leaders are not delivering the right message." The event was designed to build economic ties. Moises Gomez Reyna, Sonora's secretary of the economy, presented information on the four cornerstones of Sonora's economy - "being the aerospace, automotive and mining industries and investment in education tailored to those industries" - to mayors from Avondale, Buckeye, Chandler, Glendale, Goodyear, Litchfield Park, Nogales, Phoenix, Scottsdale, Surprise and Youngtown.
Across the border
A gunman dressed in black shot two people in Naco, Sonora, killing the woman and wounding the man. The woman was 20-year-old Vianey Gutiérrez Camargo from Zamora, Sonora. Twenty-two-year-old Antony Xavier Grijalva Ramírez, of Tucson, was taken to the hospital and his condition has not been updated.
Seven men were shot in the head and placed in plastic chairs along a street in the western Mexican city Uruapan with a sign, "Warning! This will happen to thieves, kidnappers, sex offenders and extortionists." The night before in the neighboring state of Guerrero, seven people were killed in a bar shooting. The dead included three off-duty federal police.