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The top border stories of 2015

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The top border stories of 2015

6 Sentinel stories covering the Arizona-Mexico borderlands and immigration, plus 3 more worth the read

In 2015, the published more than 400 stories about the borderlands, but not every story came from the U.S.-Mexico border. 

Instead, the reports ranged from the Sonoran desert to Washington D.C., where a budget showdown nearly furloughed most of the Department of Homeland Security, to Texas where a lawsuit involving 26 states stalled a program allowing thousands of unauthorized immigrant parents to stay in the United States. 

Stories by our own reporters, as well as those talented journalists at Global Post, the Texas Tribune, and others reached into Mexico to understand the economics of remittances, snapped back to cover the discovery of drug tunnels beneath Nogales, and went to federal court, where lawsuits over the use-of-force by U.S. Border Patrol agents came into personal, and poignant focus. 

We also covered repeated complaints that border officials are subjecting immigrants to inhumane conditions, the push for transparency at U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and efforts by churches to protect Tucsonans from deportation. 

Here are just a few of those stories from the TucsonSentinel archives that tell the tale, and a few stories by other outlets that are worth the read:

Immigration activists on trial for 2013 Streamline protest

In mid-March, 12 activists involved in a 2013 protest that stopped two buses carrying immigrants bound for federal court went to trial in Tucson. The protesters hoped to stop, even for just a day, a federal fast-track program called Operation Streamline that they call “assembly line justice.” 

Just before their trial began, the protesters went to breakfast at the Kino Border Initiative in Nogales, Sonora, where immigrants often go for help after they are deported to Mexico. The trip was a reminder of why they chained themselves beneath the wheels of two buses until their arrest by Tucson police. And, the story describes a movement in Tucson that sought to blunt the enforcement of U.S. immigration polices.

Border security still big biz despite financial problems, legislative flameouts

We’ve covered the Border Security Expo before, but it’s worth understanding that the border security business isn’t just about U.S. borders, but ranges internationally, and includes small companies, as well as the biggest defense manufacturers in the world. Analysis shows that the securing international borders was worth $16.3 billion in 2012 — nearly $374 million spent in the United States alone — and will grow to $32.5 billion by 2021. 

Fury, tears over deferred action at Tucson immigration forum

An April forum on immigration set the stage for the political fights that would break out in the summer over immigration and deportations. Intended as a public talk about the two deferred action programs announced by President Barack Obama in late 2014, the forum turned emotional and angry, as a few men openly protest the event and an appearance by U.S. Rep. Raúl Grijalva.

Tucson woman marks one year in sanctuary


Migrant granted new deportation stay as he returns to sanctuary

Rosa Robles Loreto was one of three people who went into sanctuary at Tucson-area churches to avoid deportation in 2014. However, while those two cases were quickly concluded through discretionary decisions by immigration officials, Robles Loreto spent 461 days in legal limbo.

This story covers the year anniversary of her entrance into sanctuary at Southside Presbyterian, and examines not only the loss of a year, but also efforts throughout the summer to pressure immigration authorities to allow her to stay in the United States with her husband and two sons.

Even while she waited, Daniel Neyoy Ruiz not only received a stay, but also had his stay extended by another year, illustrating an immigration system so complex it appears arbitrary. 

In November, lawyer Margo Cowan and ICE officials struck a deal allowing Robles Loreto to leave the church and return to her family. 

BP agent pleads not guilty to murder in 2012 cross-border shooting

Border Patrol Agent Lonnie Ray Swartz was indicted in Sept. for the cross-border killing of a 16-year-old Mexican boy. Earlier in the year, we covered a lawsuit by the family of Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez, who was shot to death by Swartz while he was walking along a street in Nogales, Sonora, in October 2012. 

The civil lawsuit didn't name the agent, instead it took a court order to get DHS to announce that Swartz fired at least 10 rounds into Mexico, killing Elena Rodriguez. The case illustrates problems in the use-of-force by Border Patrol agents and Customs and Border Protection officers, and the lack of transparency from the nation's largest law enforcement agency. 

In this story, the family sees the agent for the first time as he pleads innocent to the charges, laying the groundwork for a trial that will begin in January 2016. Meanwhile, the civil lawsuit waits for the U.S. Supreme Court to consider whether Border Patrol agents and Customs and Border Protection officers can be sued for violating the constitutional rights of people in Mexico. 

Two investigations, one by the Los Angeles Times and the other by the Texas Observer help illustrate these problems.

How Tasers became instruments of excessive force for the Border Patrol

The first by the LA Times looks at 450 cases to understand how the agency uses Tasers and how the less-lethal weapons became "instruments of excessive force" by Border Patrol agents.

Homeland insecurity

The second, by the Texas Observer, reports on a fundamental schism that keeps DHS from investigating corruption among Border Patrol agents. Until a few months ago, CBP was unable to investigate its own agents and had to rely on a complicated system that included ICE and the FBI to probe complaints and misconduct.

From $300 to $50,000 per load, smuggling wages range widely

And, finally, it's worth taking a look at work by the Nogales International, which finds that those smuggling drugs through the city's port of entries can earn as little as $300 or as much as $50,000.

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