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Customs and Border Protection officers after the January 2019 seizure of 650 pounds of fentanyl and methamphetamines in Nogales. Experts say an increase in the availability of such deadly drugs, combined with the isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic, led to historic levels of drug overdoses in the U.S. last year.

The COVID-19 pandemic and a growing unsafe drug supply combined to push overdose deaths up by 27.6% in the U.S. over a 12-month period from 2020 to 2021, a surge in deaths that was matched in Arizona. Read more»

Despite a relatively high number of 'maternity care deserts' – areas where prenatal care is difficult to get – Arizona did slightly better than the national average when it came to premature births and infant deaths in 2020. Here, an Oklahoma Army National Guard member consults with a patient during a routine checkup in Hoopa, Calif.

Arizona outperformed the nation on its rates of premature births and infant deaths, despite having some of lowest rates of prenatal care among the states, according to a recent March of Dimes report that describes “maternity care deserts” in southern Arizona. Read more»

Arizona saw one of the nation’s sharpest increases in 2021 in thefts of catalytic converter, the part of a car’s exhaust system that contains valuable precious metals and can be relatively easy for thieves to saw off. Here, a mechanic checks underneath a car in a file photo from 2018.

Theft of catalytic converters – the part of a car’s exhaust system that changes toxic gases to less-harmful emissions – is surging across the country and in Arizona, with cases making a a 956.4% increase from last year, second in the nation only to Colorado. Read more»

Customs and Border Protection officials process a small group of asylum-seekers in February, when the Biden administration was starting to phase out the Migrant Protection Protocols that forced migrants to wait in Mexico for a hearing. The 'remain in Mexico' policy is resuming, under court order, even as administration officials vow to continue fighting to end it.

The Trump-era “Remain in Mexico” policy will resume, even as DHS vowed to continue working to end the program it is now being forced to reinstate. Opponents of the policy urged the Biden administration to terminate the “inhumane and illegal” program. Read more»

The Maricopa Domestic Water Improvement District can charge a higher deposit to residents of public housing – even though it falls disproportionately on minority customers – because if cannot collect overdue water bills from Pinal County as it can from private landlords, a federal court ruled.

A federal appeals court said Friday that the Maricopa Domestic Water Improvement District can charge more in upfront fees to public housing residents, even though the policy disproportionately affects minority customers and single mothers. Read more»

House members worked into the early morning Saturday to pass the Biden administration’s $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill and move forward on a separate $1.85 trillion social spending package that Democratic leaders hope to deliver before Thanksgiving.

Arizona lawmakers split on party lines late Friday night as the House voted 228-206 to pass a $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill, which has already passed the Senate and now goes to the president for his signature - but the $1.85 trillion Build Back Better bill still on hold. Read more»

Copper Rim Elementary School paraprofessional Chelsea Holyoak waits for her second dose of COVID-19 vaccine in February. Vaccinations – or masking and regular testing – would be mandatory for most workers under new federal rules.

Just hours after the Biden administration issued regulations Thursday to require that businesses mandate COVID-19 vaccinations for their workers, Arizona officials were vowing to fight what one called a “direct attack” on personal liberty. Read more»

While the Supreme Court heard arguments over SB 8, the restrictive Texas abortion law, demonstrators outside were mostly low-key and peaceful Monday morning, sitting and listening to arguments over loudspeakers after a round of protesting and counter-protesting.

The future of abortion rights was not strictly the issue before the Supreme Court when it took up Texas’ strict abortion law Monday, but that was not evident from the scores of protesters who gathered outside the court. Read more»

Protesters tried to deliver letters to Democratic Sens. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Joe Manchin of West Virginia, the two moderates who have held up action on the Build Back Better plan, but were unable to enter the Senate office buildings because of ongoing COVID-19 restrictions.

Hundreds of protesters, including several from Arizona, gathered on Capitol Hill Wednesday to demand that Democrats fulfill promises on childcare, healthcare and immigration reform by taking action on President Joe Biden’s “Build Back Better” plan. Read more»

Health care advocates say that expanded outreach and longer enrollment periods are helping get the word out to people that they may be able to get free or low-cost insurance under the Affordable Care Act. An Oklahoma Army National Guard sergeant meets with a patient in California in this 2009 file photo.

More than 40,000 Arizonans signed up for Affordable Care Act health insurance in the six-month special enrollment period earlier this year, and advocates expect the numbers to keep rising in the enrollment period that opens next month. Read more»

A federal appeals court rejected Leroy McGill’s argument that he should not have been sentenced to death in the 2002 burning death of his Sunnyslope ex-roommate.

An appeals court Thursday rejected an Arizona death-row inmate’s argument that his sentence was unconstitutional because his crime, burning a former roommate to death, was committed in a brief window when the state was revising its death penalty law. Read more»

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez, left, said the Native American Voting Rights Act is needed to guarantee the vote on tribal lands, but attorney Sara Frankenstein, right, said the bill is too broad and will open the door to fraud.

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez urged a Senate Judiciary subcommittee to support the Native American Voting Rights Act, which would set minimum federal requirements for voting on tribal lands, including early voting, mail-in balloting, ballot collecting and ID standards. Read more»

New citizens take the oath of allegiance during a naturalization ceremony in San Francisco in 2015. More than 900,000 citizenship applications are pending in the U.S., with over 11,000 of those in Arizona, as the pandemic and other issues have caused a backlog at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

More than 11,000 U.S. citizenship applications currently pending in Arizona - nearly double the backlog of 6,307 cases at the end of 2015 - and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services said the backlog comes from delays caused by pandemic service reductions last year. Read more»

Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents in a poultry processing plant in Canton, Mississippi, during an August 2019 worksite enforcement raid. Such raids will stop under a new Department of Homeland Security policy that will focus on worker and workplace rights instead.

Reversing a Trump-era policy, the Department of Homeland Security said Tuesday that it will stop raiding workplaces to search for undocumented immigrants and will focus instead on “unscrupulous employers who exploit the vulnerability” of undocumented labor. Read more»

The Navajo, Hopi, Ute and Zuni tribes all have historical roots in the area known as Bears Ears, which also is home to important environmental sites, say supporters of the move to re-establish a 1.36 million acre national monument in the southern Utah lands.

President Biden restored Bears Ears National Monument to its previous 1.36 million-acres footprint Friday, reversing a Trump-era decision to cut as much as 85% of the Utah site valued for its environmental, archeological and tribal treasures. Read more»

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