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Border Roundup: Feds challenge SB 1070, shootout in Sonora

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Border Roundup: Feds challenge SB 1070, shootout in Sonora

  • Near the border in Tijuana.
    Punxsutawneyphil/FlickrNear the border in Tijuana.

SB 1070 update

The New York Times reported that the federal government has filed a lawsuit challenging SB 1070:

The Justice Department filed a lawsuit on Tuesday against Arizona to challenge a new state law designed to combat illegal immigration, arguing it would undermine the federal government’s pursuit of terrorists, gang members and other criminal immigrants. The suit, filed in federal court in Phoenix, had been expected since mid-June, when Obama administration officials first disclosed they would contest Arizona directly, adding to several other suits seeking to strike down the law.

In Arizona, reactions to the federal lawsuit were mixed, reported

Rep. Raúl Grijalva supports the lawsuit. Tuesday he thanked President Obama for "seeing clearly that (SB 1070) is not the way to handle immigration reform or border issues."

"Even the most ardent supporters of SB 1070 should support this crucial test of its legality,” Grijalva said in a news release. “All elected officials have sworn to uphold the Constitution, and a test of SB 1070’s constitutionality is not a left-right issue."

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords called both SB 1070 and the lawsuit "unnecessary distractions."

"I am disappointed with the federal lawsuit against SB 1070 for the same reason I was disappointed when this bill became law: Neither will do anything to make Arizona’s border communities more secure," she said in a statement Tuesday afternoon.

"To fully appreciate the seriousness of what Arizonans are up against, President Obama should come to the border. The president should spend an afternoon with the ranchers of Cochise County and the retirees of Green Valley so he can see for himself that what we need are Border Patrol agents on the border, not lawyers in court," Giffords said.

As the lawsuit unfolds at the federal level, the Washington Post reported that opponents of SB 1070 are planning on filing similar lawsuits in 28 states:

Most are members of State Legislators for Progressive Immigration Policy, a group of 54 legislators from 28 states pushing pro-immigrant measures. Membership has jumped 50 percent since the Arizona law was enacted.

One such battle is brewing in Utah, where the Salt Lake City police chief opposes a bill similar to SB 1070, reported the Salt Lake Tribune:

A pledge by Utah lawmakers to enact an Arizona-like illegal immigration law creates a battlefield not just with immigrants, but also between the Legislature and Salt Lake City. After all, Police Chief Chris Burbank — with Mayor Ralph Becker’s blessing — excoriates the Grand Canyon State measure as “evil” and “racial profiling.” Before Congress last month, he accused a conservative cadre of Utah legislators of using “racist rhetoric” to enact an “obvious xenophobic agenda.” Invited back to Washington last week, Burbank called President Barack Obama’s immigration address “spot on,” adding that overzealous state leaders don’t share the sanctity of civil rights.

Also in the Salt Lake Tribune, the governor of Utah plans to hold a summit to discuss immigration:

Gov. Gary Herbert said Thursday that he will convene an immigration summit by the end of the month with representatives of various Utah communities to try to tone down the heated rhetoric and reach some consensus on the divisive issue.

“We’re going to have an inclusive group of stakeholders talk in a respectful fashion,” the governor said during an interview on “Pulso Latino” radio program.

The governor said he hopes to have members from various minority communities, the business community, various faith-based organizations and legislators, including Rep. Stephen Sandstrom and Sen. Luz Robles."

The federal judge that will hear challenges to SB 1070 limited the number and size of briefs that can be filed, reported the Arizona Daily Star:

A judge considering the five lawsuits challenging Arizona's immigration enforcement law is trying to avoid being buried by legal paperwork. 

U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton has imposed limits on so-called "friend of the court" briefs filed by groups that aren't plaintiffs or defendants in the case.

Bolton's order lifts a requirement for the state to respond to all briefs and imposes size limits on new briefs being filed.

Some Tucson businessmen are taking an altogether different approach to resolving immigration issues. The Star reported that these entrepreneurs are working on creating jobs in Mexico to attract potential migrant workers:

A group of Tucson businessmen hopes to open a furniture factory in a small Mexican town to create jobs for countrymen leaving Arizona because of the new immigration law. 

The group, natives of the state of Guanajuato, in northwest Mexico, believes if people return home to make a living, the younger generation will reconsider the journey north - a rite of passage for many generations. Modeled after a furniture factory in the Tucson area, the group aims to create about 100 jobs in their hometown Doctor Mora, Guanajuato. They will invest about $40,000 in the project.

"We came up with the idea because of the new law. We know many immigrants here who are carpenters ... we are worried about our people leaving the state," said businessman Jaime Mata.

Immigration in Arizona politics

In the wake of the passage of SB 1070, similar laws have been discussed. One of these is the denial of U.S. citizenship to children of illegal immigrants. reported that 64 percent of Arizona voters said in a Rasmussen Reports survey that these children should not be granted citizenship for being born in the United States.

To get a better perspective on how the next governor might view immigration, the Arizona Republic analyzed the positions of Arizona gubernatorial candidates on the issue. 

Despite positive signs from the border, immigration and border security remain vital issues in the upcoming elections, according to an analysis by the Arizona Daily Star:

Fewer people are crossing Arizona's border from Mexico. Fewer "criminal aliens" are being sent to Arizona's prisons. More officers are patrolling Arizona's southern frontier. The number of illegal immigrants in Arizona has declined by 100,000 or more. Yet border security and illegal immigration are the hottest topic in Arizona's politics this year, returning the state to the center of a national debate.

Also in the Star, although there has been a decrease in the number of people crossing the border into Arizona, there are still people making the treacherous journey through the desert.

Pinal County sheriff's deputies have rescued nine immigrants, including two children ages 6 and 11, after smugglers abandoned them in the southern Arizona desert. Sheriff's deputies report getting a 911 call Saturday from a man who said he and another man, five women and the two children had been left in the desert two days before and were extremely dehydrated and unable to move.

Drug violence in northern Sonora

The Nogales International explained the circumstances behind the gunfight that left at least 21 people dead in northern Sonora. In response to the violence, the road leading from El Saric, close to where the violence occurred, to Nogales was closed, reported El Imparcial. The gunfight may be a sign that drug cartel violence has arrived to northern Sonora, but the violence in the area has not yet reached the levels seen in Ciudad Juarez, reported the Star:

The carnage still pales compared to other Mexican border cities, most notably Ciudad Juarez, which lies across from El Paso, Texas, which had 2,600 murders last year. But the increase shows that some small cattle-grazing towns near Nogales are now in the grip of drug traffickers who terrorize residents.

The violence is concentrated in a few villages in the mountainous desert area of Rio Altar, which, until recently, drew tourists for its handsome churches, its river, a tilapia-filled lake and cooler temperatures. The roads wind through mountains of mesquite trees and saguaro cactus.

That's where Thursday's pre-dawn shootout occurred, just 12 miles (19 kilometers) south of the border, on a deserted stretch between the villages of Tubutama and Saric. Eight vehicles and numerous weapons were found in what authorities described as a confrontation between rival gangs competing for drug and immigration routes into the U.S."

A different type of violence is also on the rise. An increasing number of children are being used to smuggle drugs across the border, reported the Arizona Republic:

In the past two years, Homeland Security officials have witnessed a disturbing development along the Mexican border: kid smugglers. "It's going up," said Michael Lowrie, a public-affairs agent for the U.S. Border Patrol. "Not a whole lot, but more than we've seen in, well, pretty much ever."

In an interesting piece of news from South America, drug cartels in Ecuador and Colombia have passed a milestone in smuggling sophistication. A fully submersible submarine apparently used by drug smugglers was found by Ecuadorian authorities near the border with Colombia, reported El Imparcial.

Curtis Prendergast also writes for The Sonoran Chronicle.

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