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Border roundup

U.S. seeks answers on border security; reporting in Mexico

Politics and policy

Border Patrol agents told Congress this week that the budget cuts their agency faces from the sequester will hurt security. The cuts, initially set to take effect April 7, were delayed by a temporary budget that covers the government until the end of the fiscal year in October. One solution would be for agents to give up overtime pay in exchange for avoiding work furloughs and a two-step increase in base pay, according to National Border Patrol Council President Brandon Judd, who said that the government would come out ahead financially and pointed out that furloughs or reduced overtime would "create holes in the border that smugglers would exploit to get people and drugs into the country" and thereby "make the country less safe and erase the progress the Border Patrol has made over the last several years."

U.S. Rep. Ron Barber, who organized the hearing, also introduced a bill to cut congressional salary by 20 percent - a move he said "is only right" since it was Congress' failure to address the sequester in time that now threatens Border Patrol agents and civilian defense employees with salary cuts of up to 40 percent. Barber's proposed pay cut would kick in after the 2013 election. Congress has not cut pay since during the Great Depression in 1933, when salaries were cut by 5.6 percent. Two days before she was shot, former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords proposed a five-percent pay cut in 2011 that did not pass. Members currently earn $174,000.

Meanwhile Sen. John McCain "pushed border officials to give Congress comprehensive metrics and standards, saying lawmakers would be unable to determine the level of security without such information" after Homeland Security officials told the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee that the border is more secure than ever and cited last year's record low border apprehensions as proof. McCain's concerns were backed by Sens. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., and Tom Carper, D-Del., and Coburn "cited a Government Accountability Office report that pointed to the absence of a security plan and encouraged border officials to inform Congress of the tools it will need."

Two Texas lawmakers believe they have a bill that address border security. U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Austin are behind the Border Security Results Act which "lay down a marker for what must be done on the border security front before we can reform our broken immigration system" and "would require Homeland Security to develop and implement a border security plan within 180 days of its passage and report periodically to Congress." McCaul referred to San Diego and Tucson as security examples that should be implemented along the entire border.

Philip E. Wolgin and Ann Garcia of the Center for American Progress took a look at the past, present and future of immigration policies as well as nine states where demographics are changing and discuss the implications for future policy and upcoming elections.

Attorneys, advocates and government spokespeople are raising the alert about notarios in the U.S. who take advantage of immigrants needing legal services. While notarios in Mexico are highly trained, the U.S. equivalent are not. Many play off of the misunderstanding to recruit Spanish-speaking immigrants who don't have the resources for a real lawyer and may be afraid to report fraud after they're taken advantage of, which allows dishonest notarios to "take money from desperate people and cause major problems in their immigration cases." Advocates fear that with the deferred action program and more immigration reforms on the way, opportunities for fraud - and the harm it causes immigrant applicants - will only grow.

Safety and law enforcement

Family and community activists on both sides of the border marked the six-month anniversary of the shooting death of José Antonio Elena Rodriguez with a vigil on Wednesday evening. While a truck with speakers played a song about him, more than 100 people walked from Nogales, Arizona through the port of entry to the location where 16-year-old Rodriguez died on Oct. 10, 2012.

There they lit candles and said prayers while about 30 supporters with signs of support looked down from the U.S. side of the border. Police reports from both sides of the border have been released as well as the autopsy and a ballistics report but the Federal Investigation Bureau's investigation is ongoing. Other recent border shootings are also still open cases including Ramses Barron Torres killed in January 2011, Margarito Lopez Morelos killed in December 2012 and an unidentified man wounded southwest of Gila Bend in the same month. The FBI declined to comment on any open cases, "saying that there's no specific timetable for results."

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Andrew Becker reviewed the records of polygraph tests taken by applicants for federal law enforcement programs including the U.S. Border Patrol and its parent agency, Customs and Border Protection - and the surprising, sometimes shocking confessions they include.

As part of The Arizona Republic's immigration and border coverage, Bob Ortega and Nick Oza took an in-depth look at security along the border that includes mapping the changes over timeexamining security measures and questioning the people trying to cross as they work to breakdown the costs for all involved. They also take readers behind the scenes with explanations of how they reported their stories and how they worked with others in the newsroom to put the project together.

Across the border

NPR's Michel Marizco investigated "Lucy," the reporter behind Blog del Narco, and her claims that no one else is reporting in Mexico - and uncovers a disturbing trend of stories that appear to have been lifted from other reporters in the process.

Mexico's Attorney General's Office has just classified information on cartels operating in the country - the number, the names, their leaders and areas of operation - for the next 12 years, according to El Norte's Benito Jiménez who compared the move to transparency about crime statistics in the U.S.

An armed group of suspects plotting to assassinate two leftist leaders, federal legislators and brothers David and Ricardo Monreal, have been arrested by Mexican authorities in downtown Mexico City.

Nearly 40 years after his death, the body of Chilean poet Pablo Neruda has been exhumed so that the cause of his death in 1973 can be determined. Neruda's death certificate said he died of complications from prostate cancer but a magistrate investigating his death points out that Neruda's cancer was under control, his medical records are missing and his death came shortly after Socialist President Salvador Allende was overthrown in a coup.

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U.S. Customs and Border Protection

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at the Douglas Port of Entry apprehended a 22-year-old woman after a drug dog alerted to her Chrysler sedan and officers discovered 196 packages of marijuana (more than 200 pounds, estimated value $105,000) in the rear bumper area and spare tire.

Border Patrol Activity

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

Friday 5 April

Yuma Sector agents pursued a Chevy Tahoe that used ramps to cross a shallow portion of the Colorado River at the U.S.-Mexico border. The two suspects, unable to get the vehicle back over the barrier once they turned back, abandoned it and fled into Mexico on foot. Officers discovered 23 tightly wrapped bricks of marijuana (281 pounds) in the vehicle and followed tire tracks to a second vehicle that was transporting heavy metal ramps like those used to get the Chevy Tahoe over the border barrier.

Saturday 6 April

Yuma Sector agents using night vision equipment apprehended seven suspects, all Mexican nationals, carrying plastic-wrapped bundles of marijuana (346 pounds) across the Colorado River and hiding them in a farm field

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at the Douglas Port of Entry apprehended a 22-year-old woman after a drug dog alerted to her Chrysler sedan and officers discovered 196 packages of marijuana (more than 200 pounds, estimated value $105,000) in the rear bumper area and spare tire

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at the San Luis Port of Entry inspecting a shipment of celery discovered insects and quarantined the shipment as a precaution against introducing disease and parasites. The insects which were later confirmed by a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) entomologist to be Perdita sp. (Andrenidae), also known as mining bees, that were new to the U.S. The Andrenidae bees are usually ground-nesting bees found in sandy soil.

Sunday 7 April

A Yuma Sector agent near Dateland tracked down and apprehended a male suspect from El Salvador after he fled when discovered guarding two bundles of marijuana (95 pounds)

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at the Dennis DeConcini Port of Entry apprehended a 29-year-old Nogales, Sonora man, Samir Alexander Lara-Ambriz, after officers discovered a concealed compartment with 14 packages of unreported U.S. currency (more than $175,000) during inspections as he tried to leave the country.

Monday 8 April

Blyth Station agents at the Blythe, California's Greyhound Bus Station apprehended a female U.S. citizen when a drug dog alerted to her large black suitcase in a bus's baggage compartment and agents discovered 20 airtight bags with 490 to 560 grams each of marijuana buds (21 pounds, estimated value $10,500)

U.S. Marshals took 29-year-old John Caro into custody in Medellin, Columbia after more than six years on the run for attempted murder in Pennsylvania in late December 2006

Tuesday 9 April

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers at Nogales' Dennis Deconcini Port of Entry turned a 31-year-old man, Neri Cristobal Rodriguez-Reina, over to Mexican federal police so that he can face firearms-related charges in his native country after he finished serving a sentence with the Arizona Department of Corrections for convictions including felony burglary

Wednesday 10 April

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at the Lukeville Port of Entry apprehended a 22-year-old Phoenix man when officers discovered $10,744 in unreported U.S. currency hidden in his shoes when he tried to leave the country

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at the San Luis Port of Entry apprehended a 41-year-old woman from Mexico, Maria Glenda Motrales Ramirez, after a drug dog alerted to her Ford sedan and officers discovered nearly nine pounds of marijuana in the rear bumper and nearly 2.5 pounds of heroin in her purse (combined estimated value $37,000)

Thursday 11 April

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at the Dennis DeConcini Port of Entry apprehended a 58-year-old man from Caborca, Sonora who was leaving the U.S. after officers searching his Ford truck discovered seven packages of unreported U.S. currency (totaling $348,840) hidden in a box labeled "lawn furniture"

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at the Dennis DeConcini Port of Entry apprehended a 25-year-old man from Nogales, Sonora who was leaving the U.S. after officers searching his Ford truck discovered unreported U.S. currency totalling $27,670 hidden in a gym bag, a fast-food sack and a brownie mix box


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