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Border Roundup: First court hearing on SB 1070; migrant deaths rise

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Border Roundup: First court hearing on SB 1070; migrant deaths rise

  • A portable surveillance tower near Douglas, 2007.
    ThreadedThoughts/FlickrA portable surveillance tower near Douglas, 2007.

SB 1070 update

The first hearing on SB 1070 was held Thursday, without a clear indication of how Judge Bolton would rule, reported the Arizona Republic:

U.S. District Court Judge Susan Bolton drilled attorneys representing both sides of Arizona's new immigration law on Thursday.

She asked them to explain how the state law conflicts with federal law, how the plaintiffs could be harmed if she lets the law go into effect and whom certain parts of the law intend to target.


She had been asked to consider two motions: Defendant Gov. Jan Brewer's request to dismiss the case; and the plaintiffs' request for a preliminary injunction, which would stop SB 1070 from going into effect until the judge could hear the full case and issue a ruling.

Bolton gave no indication as to when she would issue a ruling or which way she was leaning.


Next week, there are hearings scheduled in the lawsuit filed by the U.S. Department of Justice, the lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and several other groups.

Thursday's hearing involved the legal challenge filed by Phoenix police Officer David Salgado and the non-profit group Chicanos Por La Causa. The suit alleges that the state law is unconstitutional.

Thursday's hearing was a precursor to the hearing on July 22 in which Judge Bolton will hear arguments in the other lawsuits challenging SB 1070, reported by Capitol Media Services:

On July 22, Bolton will hear arguments in two related cases that challenge other aspects of SB 1070 - one by the U.S. Department of Justice and one by a coalition of the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Immigration Law Center and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

The hearings this week and next are on requests for an injunction to stop the law from taking effect July 29 until the courts can determine its legitimacy. Four other suits have been filed but are not seeking injunctions.

John Bouma, Brewer's lawyer, said legislators passed SB 1070 to deal with the effects of illegal immigration, from human smuggling and crimes committed by gangs of illegal immigrants to the financial burdens placed on the state, while the claims of those challenging the law that they will be injured are "speculative."

But Stephen Montoya, who represents Phoenix police Officer David Salgado, said the law puts his client in an untenable position. "He has a claim to his job," Montoya said.

Lawyers from both sides presented the basic legal arguments for and against SB 1070, reported the Los Angeles Times:

"We have only one nation; we can only have one immigration law," attorney Stephen Montoya argued in a courtroom packed with more than 100 spectators. "Even though the state of Arizona believes Congress is not very competent and is inept, the state of Arizona has to live with the laws of Congress."


John Bouma, a lawyer for Gov. Jan Brewer, said the state wanted only to help the federal government do what it has so far been unable to do: secure the border.

"There's no reason Arizona should stand by and suffer the consequences of a broken system when Arizona has 15,000 well-trained law enforcement officers who can help the federal government fix it," he said.


The Arizona law runs 20 pages and contains 14 provisions, some so complicated or vaguely written that even the governor's lawyer wasn't sure of their meaning. Montoya said his client, Officer David Salgado, mainly wants to invalidate the parts that involve local law enforcement's obligations to investigate illegal immigrants.

Officers nationwide are allowed to ask people if they are in the country legally and arrest them if they are not. But SB 1070 requires Arizona officers to do so when they stop people for violations of any laws or ordinances and suspect they are in the country illegally.

Montoya said the law means that if an officer saw him spitting on the sidewalk or parking his car at an expired meter and believed he was an illegal immigrant, the officer would be required to investigate.

Supporters of SB 1070 continue to raise funds for a legal defense, reported the Associated Press:

Contributions to Arizona's fund to help pay for defending the state's law cracking down on illegal immigration now total more than $1.2 million, with donations from nearly 27,000 people. Gov. Jan Brewer's office says 24,767 online contributions totaling $1,149,0087 were made through Thursday morning. Brewer's office says an additional $110,805 has been donated through 2,084 mailed contributions.

The role of race in the SB 1070 debate was reflected in the donations by hate groups to the SB 1070 legal defense fund, reported the Arizona Daily Star:

Gov. Jan Brewer’s office is poring through thousands of donations to the legal defense fund she set up in the wake of challenges to the state’s new immigration law, looking for contributions from hate groups.

The search is coming after the white supremacist group, American Third Position — whose mission statement says it “exists to represent the political interests of White Americans because no one else will” — announced on its website that it made a “triple-digit donation” to the fund. “We support all constructive endeavors by private citizens, businesses, local governments — or in this case a sovereign state — to stem and reverse the browning of America,” the site states, adding Arizona’s statute represents the best opportunity to reduce this number.

“We will reject any funds from racist organizations,” said Brewer spokesman Paul Senseman, adding the governor has dedicated several staff to the effort and hopes to complete the search “as quickly as possible.” The difficulty, of course, is ferreting those donations out, since the roughly $1.2 million in funding has come from 24,000 individuals from nearly every state.

Other groups are also raising money for legal defenses. Local sheriffs, anticipating lawsuits aimed at law enforcement officers are creating a fund for their own legal defense, according to the Star:

The sheriffs from Cochise and Pinal counties have teamed up to create a fund intended to help them defend against possible backlash created by the soon-to-go-into-effect state immigration law. Cochise County Sheriff Larry Dever and Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu announced the startup of a legal defense fund for issues dealing with SB 1070, according to a news release issued by the Pinal County Sheriff’s Department. The fund is meant to help those sheriffs “defend themselves against pro-amnesty groups and federal government lawsuits” as well as explore the possibility of counter litigation, the release said.

Several local businesses have entered the fray by endorsing one side or the other of the SB 1070 debate. One local businessman, after reading the text of the law, no longer opposes the law, reported the Star:

Restaurateur Tony Vaccaro, owner of Brooklyn Pizza Company and Sky Bar, both on North Fourth Avenue, originally supported the No More Deaths campaign, but changed his stance on SB 1070, after reading the 17-page document in its entirety. He has since removed the "We Mean Business" signs from his establishments.

In an e-mail sent to the Arizona Daily Star on Tuesday, Vaccaro wrote: "This weekend I actually took the time to read the official state version of SB 1070. I could not find any language in the law that I opposed. It appears to simply require the state to do the job of the federal government. We can let our venerable judicial system figure out if this is constitutional.

"Additionally, barring extreme situations, I do not believe that businesses should get involved in politics. That is for individuals, politicians and lobby groups. I feel that I have let some of my customers down by getting involved in the SB 1070 debate."

As the legal arguments are heard in federal court, the potential effects of SB 1070 are being felt on the ground in Arizona, especially in agriculture, reported the Arizona Republic:

For years, both sides of the immigration issue have debated whether immigrants take jobs that Americans won't. Now, high unemployment and a tough new Arizona immigration law will test that idea in a $9 billion industry: Arizona agriculture. Arizona needs about 50,000 temporary workers to harvest winter produce, and only 25,000 of those workers typically come from the U.S. side of the border, according to an Arizona farm lobby group.


So the agriculture industry is waiting to see if Americans will take what are typically immigrant jobs.


The temporary workers who head to Arizona's fields and ranches each year are a blend of legal guest workers, citizens and undocumented immigrants, Joe Sigg, director of government relations for the Arizona Farm Bureau. Typically farmers get workers a combination of ways: through temporary-worker visas, also called H-2A visas, labor contractors and direct hiring. If a farm needs a lot of temporary workers, the farm hires a labor contractor to do the work and the contractor provides the workers. For years farmers have had "a modified version of don't ask, don't tell" policy when it came to workers' immigration status, Sigg said.

On the border

The background to the pro-SB 1070 argument is the economic cost of illegal immigration to the state of Arizona. On the other side of the debate, arguments often come from a humanitarian perspective calling for more humane treatment of illegal immigrants.  Perhaps no sign of this treatment is as potent as the deaths of migrants as they cross the desert of southern Arizona.  Unfortunately, the number of these deaths is on the rise, reported the Star:

Illegal border crossers are dying at record rates this month. Since July 1, the Pima County Medical Examiner’s Office has handled the bodies of 38 illegal border crossers, said Dr. Bruce Parks, chief medical examiner. That mid-month total puts July on pace to match or break the all-time single month record of 68 in July 2005. “I never thought we would see that again,” Parks said. “It’s scary. Maybe the rain will slow these down.”

The Douglas City Council voted down a resolution asking for more border security, despite heated opposition at a public meeting, reported the Douglas Dispatch:

Tension and emotions ran high as a crowd packed the boardroom with people spilling out in to the lobby. The public was invited to voice concerns on the resolution, and 26 out of 32 people who spoke were in favor of the resolution. Council member Ray Shelton and Mayor Dr. Michael Gomez, who both voted to approve the same resolution a month ago, were once again the only two "yes" votes in a four to two tally.


The proposed resolution would be presented to the League of Cities and if approved then taken to Washington D.C. to ask for more security on the border and more Border Patrol agents. Sierra Vista wants to co-sponsor the resolution and help take it to the League of Cities, Gomez said.

A new study says that more immigration cases have been referred to federal prosecutors in the last two months than in any similar period since 2005, reported the Associated Press:

Federal prosecutions of immigrants soared to new levels this spring, as the Obama administration continued an aggressive enforcement strategy championed under President George W. Bush, according to a new study released Thursday. The 4,145 cases referred to federal prosecutors in March and April was the largest number for any two-month stretch since the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency was created five years ago, the Syracuse University-based Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse found. They ranged from misdemeanor illegal entry to prosecutions of immigrants with criminal records.

Violence on the border

The number of murders in Nogales so far this year is already higher than the total for 2009, reported El Imparcial:

Although the first half of the year is barely over, the number of murders in Nogales has already surpassed that of 2009 and the violence is not stopping. Yesterday two people were executed and one more was hurt in an armed aggression on Galeana Street, in the Obrera colonia, in a downtown colonia on the border. According to statistics of Everyone for the Security of Everyone of the Executive Secretary of Public Security in 2009 there were 130 homicides. In contrast, only in the first six and a half months of 2010 there are already 135, according to a statistical analysis by El Imparcial. The increase in violent incidents has been maintained in recent years; in 2009 there were 130; in 2008 the number was 116; in 2007 there were 52 and 35 in 2006.

Border violence in Nogales is certainly increasing, but still remains well below that of Juarez, where the violence has spilled into surrounding towns, according to a Texas Tribune report posted by

Fewer than 20,000 people live in the Valle de Juárez, a 60-mile stretch of small villages that line the highway from Juárez to El Porvenir. In what was once a peaceful if desperately poor farming community, more than 75 people have fallen victim to the raging drug war so far this year.

It's an astonishing death rate. If the pace of killings continues this year, the murder rate could reach 1,600 homicides for every 100,000 people (in New Orleans, the 2009 murder rate was 52 per 100,000, the highest in the nation, according to FBI data).

Cartel leaders have told entire towns to vacate or be decimated. They've burned homes and churches and left in their wake residents paralyzed with fear. The aftershocks extend far from the epicenter of the violence, bringing fear and confusion - along with legions of armed guards, and refugees from the bloodbath - to Fort Hancock and other rural Texas border outposts.

Crossing the border into Mexico to party has long been a border tradition. That tradition continues today, but in reverse. As violence continues to plague Juarez, business is thriving in restaurants and clubs in El Paso, according to a Texas Tribune report on

It’s a Thursday night during Holy Week, and this El Paso karaoke bar, Il Cantö, is one of several new nightclubs and restaurants hopping with patrons from both sides of the Rio Grande. El Paso never used to be so hip; the nightlife in Juárez, just across the border, had always outshined that of its comparatively plain sister city. But as the savage drug war rages on there, both the fun and the business have fled — following the customers. Juarenses don’t go out at night. Tourists don’t come at all. With the streets empty and their cash registers quiet, many restaurant, nightclub and small-business owners have moved to El Paso, bringing the sleepy city a vibrant new culture and an economic boost. In a tragic irony, a measure of El Paso’s recent fortune results directly from the suffering of its sister city.

Nobody knows the exact number of people who have crossed into the U.S., not only to have a safe place to party, but also to live, reported El Universal:

"What we have seen recently is people that cross the Rio Grande and are fleeing crime. When we detain them we ask them why they come here and they say that it is not just to find work. They say they are living an awful situation in Mexico because there is no work, there is a lot of crime and they are afraid even to leave their houses," explained the sheriff [Chief of Police Jose del Angel].

Curtis Prendergast also writes for The Sonoran Chronicle.

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