Dec 31, 2010

Immigration Politics: What Congress can still get done on immigration

A Washington Post editorial on how politics are likely going to prevent any congressional action on immigration. But it thinks that Congress can address one area: work visas. Vamos a ver - we'll see.

What Congress can still get done on immigration: "particular pieces of immigration reform might still have bipartisan appeal. One such element is the historical shortage of visas for foreign workers with special skills and advanced degrees. Although demand eased somewhat this year due to the recession, and there are legitimate concerns about abuses in the system, the standing quotas in those categories - amounting to just 85,000 available visas per year - have been severely inadequate in recent years." Dec. 28, 2010

Drug War Collateral Damage: Mexico finds 4 more illegal pipeline taps

Mexico finds 4 more illegal pipeline taps - Bloomberg: "Mexico's state-owned oil company says it has found four more illegal taps drilled into pipelines by fuel thieves. Pemex has suffered more than 614 thefts from pipelines so far this year." Dec. 30, 2010, AP

Drug War Whack-a-mole: Mexico cites breakdown in La Familia cartel

Another "yeah, sure!" La Familia controls the meth market in the U.S. and billions of dollars.

Mexico cites breakdown in La Familia cartel- AP/Las Vegas Sun: "Mexico's federal police say the once-fearsome La Familia drug cartel has been 'completely dismembered' and has broken down into small groups that commit robberies to pay their members.

Federal police official Luis Cardenas Palomino says that the breakdown of the organization was hastened by the Dec. 9 death of cartel leader Nazario Moreno, nicknamed 'The Craziest One'.

He says the remaining groups are 'completely disorganized.' Cardenas made the comments Friday at a news conference announcing the arrest of the leader of one of the remaining groups, a man known as 'The Mustache.'" Dec. 31, 2010

Drug War Collateral Damage: Mexico shootings kill 4 police officers, doctor

The old year ends with the same old violence and collateral damage.

The Associated Press: Mexico shootings kill 4 police officers, doctor: "Gunmen believed to be linked to drug cartels killed four police officers and a doctor in apparently coordinated attacks in and around the northern Mexican city of Monterrey, authorities said Thursday.

Three officers were wounded in Wednesday's attacks, said Jorge Domene, a spokesman for the security council in northern Nuevo Leon state, where Monterrey is located. In one of the attacks, gunmen opened fire on a Monterrey police station, killing a medical doctor who was administering tests to employees at the station and wounding three officers, Domene said.

In two additional, separate attacks carried out within minutes of each other in the Monterrey suburb of Guadalupe, gunmen killed two police officers, a man and a woman.

'Yesterday's events clearly represent acts by organized crime trying to intimidate or reverse the actions that authorities have taken ... to counter the violence that has been unleashed in our state,' Domene told a news conference." Dec. 30, 2010

Whack-a-mole: Police vow to beef up security after attacks in northern Mexico

Oh, yeah, the mole-whackers are going to try harder!

Police vow to beef up security after attacks in northern Mexico - "A day after attacks on two police stations that resulted in the deaths of four police officers in the northern state of Nuevo Leon, a police spokesman vowed Thursday that security will be beefed up in the municipalities and strategies to fight organized crime will be reconsidered.
'We are on permanent alert because the idea and philosophy that we have taken is to continue cleaning up this process of violence in the state,' Jorge Domene Zambrano told reporters.
After a meeting of the security cabinet of Nuevo Leon, which was attended by representatives of the attorney general of the republic, the federal police, the Center of Investigation and National Security and the fourth and seventh military zones, the spokesman noted that crime-fighting strategies were being reviewed." Dec. 31, 2010

An Analysis of the Whack-a-mole drug war: Mexican government’s quest to wipe out drug cartels only spurs more violence

Goodspeed Analysis: Mexican government’s quest to wipe out drug cartels only spurs more violence | Posted | National Post: "With 12,456 drug war-related deaths this year alone, the four-year toll reached 30,197 (as of November). The unrelenting violence now threatens to undermine Mr. Calderon’s war on drugs and his presidency, as it frightens off foreign tourists and drives away foreign investment.

“If the killings continue to increase at the current rate, that total will rise to about 75,000 by the time the government’s term in office ends in December 2012,” said Eduardo Guerrero Gutierrez, a political scientist and security consultant.

In a study for the North American Forum, an annual meeting of government and business representatives from Canada, the United States and Mexico, he says the drug war has splintered the cartels and increased the number of criminal gangs operating in Mexico.

It has also spurred higher levels of violence as they battle the army and each other, and has caused an expansion of organized crime as new gangs invade new territories.

“Violence has increased systematically in the last 3½ years,” Mr. Gutierrez said. “Violence trends announce more and more violence in the near future. Government authorities conceive violence as an unavoidable consequence of the strategy and do not consider it as an indicator of failure.”Dec. 31, 2010

Whack-a-mole & the Weapons Traffic: Another Dubious Record in Mexico’s Drug War

This Cato Institute opinion piece gets it absolutely right - as does Jorge Casta;eda, whom it quotes!

Another Dubious Record in Mexico’s Drug War | Cato @ Liberty: "Mexico ends 2010 with 15,000 illicit drug-related murders for the year—a record for the Calderon administration that began its term four years ago by declaring an all-out war on drug trafficking. Drug war violence skyrocketed since Calderon took office, claiming more than 30,000 lives. Though it is an unwinnable war whose consequences also include the rise of corruption and the weakening of the institutions of civil society, it is being used by drug warriors and skeptics alike to push for pet projects ranging from increased development aid to more military cooperation." Dec. 30, 2010

Collateral Damage - From the front lines in Texas: Escalating drug violence tops local stories

From the front lines of the drug war - or just across the Rio Grande in Brownsville, Texas - a review of how the war is affecting this Texas city. The city is named after the fort established there in 1846 to provoke Mexico into the U.S.'s first war on Mexican soil.

Escalating drug violence tops local stories | escalating, tops, full - Top Story - Brownsville Herald: "But no change was felt more than the escalation of violence in the drug war along the U.S.-Mexico border, a war which finally spilled over into Brownsville.

The drug war was already hurting a local economy still trying to recover from the Great Recession. Bridge traffic was down as tourists became more reluctant to cross the border. It was not long before local residents began crossing only when necessary — nor was it long before more Mexican nationals started to take refuge in the Rio Grande Valley to escape the out-of-control violence on their side of the border." Dec. 30, 2010

Whack-a-mole: Mexican drug traffickers set up new cells in Central America

The mole are multiplying rapidly!

Mexican drug traffickers set up new cells in Central America - "One of the most violent drug gangs in Mexico, Los Zetas, has set up cells in several Central American countries. They’ve recruited local former military agents to their training camps, terrorized undocumented migrants, and lured poor farmers and youth to work as hired hands, just like they’ve done in Mexico, experts say.

The latest sign of how entrenched Los Zetas have become: Alleged members of the group forced radio stations in a Guatemalan province earlier this week to broadcast a threat of “war” against civilians. Their conditions were unclear, but they appeared to be calling on law enforcement to cease targeting traffickers." Dec. 30, 2010

Whack-a-mole: No easy options in Mexico's drug war

From Stratford - a private security analysis firm that is getting a lot of press for its analyses of the Mexican drug war - an interesting, and detailed, analysis of the possible motivations and possibly complicated consequences of the Mexican Congress' recent passing of a law on terrorist acts that could apply to the drug cartels. We would call it a "whack-a-mole harder" law. 

The article also provides a clear analysis of the motivations of the cartels to "do business," and to therefore seek, through corruption, to maintain the support of politicians, police, judges and business people and the general public.

No easy options in Mexico's drug war | STRATFOR | Commentary | Business Spectator: "Mexican lawmakers recently approved reforms to the federal penal code to punish terrorist acts. Significantly, the legislators acknowledged that the definition of terrorism was written in such a way that violent and extortionist acts of cartels could be classified as terrorism.

Fundamental differences between organised criminal and terrorist groups exist, but politically characterising certain cartel acts as terrorism could develop into a more subtle attempt by the Mexican government to dilute public tolerance for cartel activity. If implemented against cartel members, the law could also carry significant implications for US involvement in the drug war. ....

... The unsavoury terrorist label could have more impact than the classification of organised crime that many in Mexico now consider a way of life. Even then, the large number of Mexicans overwhelmed by all facets of the drug war could write off such a classification as a mere public relations move. ...

There are several fundamental differences between terrorist and organised criminal groups that dictate how each will operate when placed under certain constraints. The Mexican populace is by and large fed up with the cartel violence, but the cartels have not resorted to terrorist tactics and civilian targeting on a scale that would risk the degradation of their peripheral networks. ...

The primary objective of an organised criminal group is to utilise its core illicit business (in the case of Mexico, drug trafficking) to make money. To protect that core, some territory is unofficially brought under the group’s control and an extensive peripheral network, typically composed of policemen, bankers, politicians, businessmen and judges, is developed to provide an umbrella of protection within the licit world. In building such a network, popular support is essential. This does not always mean the population will condone an organised crime group’s activities, but the populace could be effectively intimidated — or rewarded — into tolerating its existence. Generally, the better the organised crime syndicate is able to provide public goods (be it protection, jobs or a portion of the trade revenue) the better insulated the group and its activities will be.

This is a line Stratfor expects Mexican DTOs to be mindful of, but is a situation that bears close watching as the government searches for ways to drive the cartels toward a breaking point." Dec. 31, 2010

Dec 30, 2010

Whack-a-mole: Mexico's Drug War - Brookings Institution

A year-end assessment of the weaknesses in Calderon's execution of his drug war - particularly the problems of impunity in the face of corrupt police and justice systems. However, it does not at all consider whether a war against drugs is the correct strategy.

Mexico's Drug War - Brookings Institution: "It is high time to think carefully about the assumptions, results and implications of President Calderón’s plan to subdue drug trafficking organizations in Mexico. After four years, ambiguous results and ever worsening violence trends, the burden of proof about the soundness of the strategy lays with the President rather than with his critics. It is unclear how the military assault on Mexico’s cartels has helped the government’s efforts to improve law enforcement and reduce the country’s endemic impunity, which are the truly crucial tasks at hand." Dec. 30, 2010

Immigration Reality: Cell Phones Become Tools for Storytelling in the Hands of L.A. Immigrants

Here is a wonderful Happy New Year story:
It is a story about immigrants telling their stories, and the technology program that makes it possible.
"Feet in Two Worlds" is a news blog written by immigrants about immigration and the immigrant experience

Cell Phones Become Tools for Storytelling in the Hands of L.A. Immigrants | Feet in 2 Worlds: "Madelou, as friends like to call her, has been telling stories for the past two years through Mobile Voices (Voces Moviles), an online multimedia platform that allows her to upload video, pictures, text and sound with a few clicks on her cellphone.

The initiative was created by day laborers, household workers, the University of Southern California, Drupal software Programmers and the Institute of Popular Education of Southern California (IDEPSCA). The program provides a virtual space for low-income people, particularly immigrant workers, to share their personal stories or those of others they encounter in their community." Dec. 30, 2010

Collateral Damage: Juarez exodus: Images of citizens fleeing Mexico's most violent city

A British paper looks at the collateral damage in Ciudad Juarez.

Juarez exodus: Images of citizens fleeing Mexico's most violent city | Mail Online: "Thousands of families continue to flee the most violent place in the world outside of declared war zones: Juarez, known as the ‘murder capital’.

The Mexican city, which is located in the north of the Central American country and is close to the U.S. border, once boasted a population of 1.5 million but has been caught in the crossfire of a deadly drug war.

According to business leaders, the exodus is around 110,000 but a municipal group and local university say it is closer to 230,000 – and estimates by social organisations put the figure even higher." Dec. 30, 2010

Collateral Damage: Drug-war patients' treatment costs $4.7M

Here is a new twist on "collateral damage."

Drug-war patients' treatment costs $4.7M - Las Cruces Sun-News: "Since the start of the Juárez drug war three years ago, 200 people wounded in Mexico have been treated at El Paso's county-run hospital at a cost of $4.7 million, according to the latest figures from the University Medical Center of El Paso (UMC). Three-quarters were U.S. citizens. ...

As the bloodshed continues to rage, survivors have continued to seek care in El Paso. Because of federal law, hospitals cannot refuse emergency help to people on U.S. soil regardless of citizenship. UMC is the only Level 1 trauma center within 280 miles. ...

'This particular challenge that UMC has been facing is a direct result of federal drug policy,' El Paso County Judge-elect Veronica Escobar said. 'It is a drug war in Mexico, but that drug war is linked to drug consumption in the United States.' Escobar wants the federal government to offset the cost of helping victims of the Juárez drug war in what she expects to be a financially difficult year ahead for UMC.

Escobar said it is important to remember that the human toll is even costlier. She said, 'What is happening in Mexico is a tragedy all the way around whether you are mexicano or not, whether you have family there or not.'" Dec. 30, 2010, El Paso Times

Colllateral Damage: Mexico plan to save violent border city is lacking

A close look, by the Associated Press Mexico team, at the realities behind Calderon's plan to save Ciudad Juarez, "Todos Somos Juarez."

Mexico plan to save violent border city is lacking - "Todos Somos Juarez (We Are All Juarez) was launched as a joint federal, state and local effort to reduce violence and boost the quality of life with 160 "concrete actions," everything from secure police radios to increasing credit for local businesses to giving middle-schoolers classes on respecting the law.

The ... successes of Todos Somos Juarez  (are) precarious. The program (has been) promoted at every turn by President Felipe Calderon ... as proof that Mexico is fighting a vicious drug war with more than guns and troops. Investments designed to counter the poverty and disenchantment that supply cartels with foot soldiers are injected throughout the city — parks and new high schools in some of the poorest neighborhoods, new hospitals and clinics and more police patrols in commercial districts to stop the extortion that has devastated Juarez’s local economy. ...

Even its critics say there have been successes. Besides five new high schools and a new middle school, the government has given thousands of scholarships to keep students in school and has extended the school day to 5 p.m. in 32 schools, keeping kids off the streets and giving working parents more flexibility. ...

Community members on the Todos Somos Juarez roundtables say the social investments won’t make a difference as long and the crime and impunity continue. Less than 5 percent of crimes in Juarez are investigated. Twenty doctors have been kidnapped since 2008 and three have been murdered just in the last year — one in a car bomb attack and another even after his family paid a ransom to his kidnappers. There have been no arrests in any of the cases." Dec. 29, 2010, AP

Collateral Damage: Armoured car sales jump as drug war batters Mexico | World | News | Toronto Sun

While fear is good for the armoured car business, the collateral damage is ponted out by the final comment, “When the state fails to fulfill a function, ordinary people have to find their own alternatives." 

Armoured car sales jump as drug war batters Mexico Toronto Sun: "Armoured cars and body armor in Mexico are no longer exclusively for government officials, foreign executives and the super rich, as a raging drug war spreads across the country, leading to a spike in orders.

Sales of armoured vehicles rose 20 percent this year, the bloodiest in the government’s four-year fight against the cartels, to 1,900 units, according to the Mexican Armored Car Association. ...

“A couple of years ago (armoured cars) were for wealthy businessmen or the powerful families of Mexico. Today the range of clients has grown because ordinary people now feel the same risks,” said Fernando Echeverri, the head of specialist firm Ballistic, who runs (a) garage outfitting cars (with armour).

Authorities say the vast majority of drug-related violence is not directed at ordinary citizens, but high-profile kidnappings and extortions have rattled middle-class citizens. 

“It’s a growing phenomenon,” said Adalberto Santana, an expert on Latin American drug gangs. “When the state fails to fulfill a function, ordinary people have to find their own alternatives." Dec. 29, 2010, Reuters

Whack-a-mole: Mexico army's failures hamper drug war

The mole whackers have serious problems.

Mexico army's failures hamper drug war - Los Angeles Times: "Four years and 50,000 troops into President Felipe Calderon's drug war, the fighting has exposed severe limitations in the Mexican army's ability to wage unconventional warfare, tarnished its proud reputation and left the U.S. pointedly criticizing the force as 'virtually blind' on the ground. ..

The army often relies on numbers over intelligence and falls back on time-worn tactics, such as highway checkpoints, of limited use against drug traffickers. The shortcomings alarm U.S. officials....(and) have complicated the government's struggle against the narcotics cartels, as the deadliest year of the war by far comes to a close. Dec. 29, 2010

Dec 29, 2010

Immigration Politics: Lamar Smith's misguided view on immigration

An opinion piece by columnist Ruben Navarrette, Jr.

Lamar Smith's misguided view on immigration": "(Congressman Lamar)Smith (new chair of the House Judiciary Committee) doesn't grasp that the immigration issue is about economics and the need to replenish the U.S. labor supply because young people are raised to think of themselves as entitled to avoid stoop labor. He thinks the whole problem can be solved by enforcement alone, even though the professionals who do that work daily - whether it's Border Patrol agents or the brass at Immigration and Customs Enforcement - disagree and insist that there isn't a wall high enough to deter mothers and fathers who are desperate to feed their children. ...

According to the polling firm Latino Decisions, 71 percent of the votes cast by Latinos in the midterm elections went to Democratic candidates. And with recent census data showing that Hispanics drive population growth in Arizona, Nevada, Texas, Florida and other states, the Republican Party could be capsized by a demographic tidal wave." Dec. 29, 2010, San Francisco Chronicle

Immigration Politics: Drop rhetoric to accomplish needed immigration reform

From a south Florida newspaper

Immigration reform: Editorial - Drop rhetoric to accomplish needed immigration reform - South Florida "In early November, just days after wresting control of the U.S. House from Democrats, Republican lawmakers talked promisingly about not reliving past mistakes. On immigration reform, however, those lessons seem to be forgotten.

Comments from key GOP leaders on Capitol Hill these days unfortunately suggest continued gridlock and more same-old, same-old ideas on what Americans have said is a must-do issue.

In fairness, some of the priorities Republicans are targeting are necessary. One of those, expanding an employment verification system, is certainly needed.

But too much of the rhetoric is taking on the feel of political campaign slogans, and not leadership. For example, criticism of the Obama administration's correct decision to focus on seizing criminal illegal immigrants is counterproductive." Dec. 29, 2010

Immigration Reality: Legal immigration can take decades

A look at how the current legal immigration system prevents immigration.

Legal immigration can take decades | ScrippsNews: "Many Americans believe the country's laws allow for orderly immigration, and wonder why some jump the line instead of doing it legally. Long waits suggest one explanation.

For instance, some Mexicans arriving legally now first applied 18 years ago, according to the State Department. The U.S. legally admits about 90,000 Mexicans annually, while another 300,000 to 500,000 come illegally....

"Do we have law breakers, or do we have broken laws? I'd say that most immigration attorneys would say that we have broken laws," said attorney Roger Tsai, president of the Utah chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association." Dec.. 28, 2010

Mole Whacker of the Year: Felipe Calderón

Time Magazine names the President of Mexico as "Person Who Mattered"

Felipe Calderón - Person of the Year 2010 - TIME: "Highs: Calderón, one of Washigton's most important allies in Latin America, got to address the U.S. Congress in May and quite rightly used the occasion to lay out America's sizeable share of the blame — especially its incorrigible drug use and assault weapons sales — for Mexico's bloody war against narco-cartels.

Lows: (AMB editor's comment: many) "

Dec. 29, 2010

Weapons Traffic: In Mexico, only one gun store but no dearth of violence

A look into Mexico's only gun store, run by the army on a base in Mexico City, and the contrast of that with the reality of the huge quantity of arms obtained by the cartels, many from the U.S.'s uncontrolled market just across the border.  

In Mexico, only one gun store but no dearth of violence: "Mexico has some of the toughest gun-control laws in the world, a matter of pride for the nation's citizens. Yet Mexico is awash in weapons.

President Felipe Calderon reported this month that Mexican forces have captured more than 93,000 weapons in four years. Mexican authorities insist that 90 percent of those weapons have been smuggled from the United States. The U.S. and Mexican governments have worked together to trace 73,000 seized weapons, but both refuse to release the results of the traces.

More than 6,600 federally licensed firearm dealers operate on the U.S. side of the border. At least 14 million guns are thought to have been sold in the United States last year, according to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. But no one knows the exact number." Dec. 29, 2010, Washington Post

Collateral Damage: In Mexico, Indiscriminate Violence Shatters Lives : NPR

NPR continues its series on the "collateral damage" being wreaked by the drug war on individual lives in Ciudad Juarez.

In Mexico, Indiscriminate Violence Shatters Lives : NPR: Second of two parts

"Jaime Aragon met his wife, Maria Luisa, at a restaurant he used to own. She walked in with wavy, jet black hair, pretty eyes and a radiant smile. Aragon was smitten. They shared a passion for cooking and loved Mexican country star Vicente Fernandez. A few months after they met, the couple married on Valentine's Day." Dec. 29, 2010

Dec 28, 2010

Immigration Crackdown-the Reality: Justice denied: Deporting jailed immigrants sets criminal suspects free

Another part of the Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch investigative series on the real effects of the deportation crackdown

Justice denied: Deporting jailed immigrants sets criminal suspects free | The Columbus Dispatch: "Federal immigration agents regularly sweep illegal immigrants out of Ohio jails and deport them. But immigration agents and local prosecutors are not talking to one another before that decision is made.

A yearlong Dispatch investigation found that, as a result, illegal immigrants accused of serious crimes, including drug and sex-related offenses, can use deportation to avoid criminal prosecution.

When they are sent home, they are free to plan their next uninvited trip to the United States." Dec. 26, 2010

Immigration Crackdown - the Reality: Enforcement and deportation costs skyrocket

The Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch is doing a very thorough investigative reporting series on the reality of the government's immigration crackdown. The paper calls the series, "Deportation Nation."

Enforcement and deportation costs skyrocket | The Columbus Dispatch: "It would cost each U.S. taxpayer about $500 to deport all 11.1 million immigrants estimated to be living here without permission.

On average, each deportation cost taxpayers more than $6,000 in 2010, according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement budget numbers.

The amount Americans spend annually to detain and deport immigrants increased by more than 100 percent since 2005, to $2.55 billion in 2010. During the same period, the number of people deported more than doubled, to more than 390,000. ...

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the federal agency responsible for enforcing immigration laws, has been referring re-entry cases to prosecutors in the hope that the prospect of prison time will send illegal immigrants a message: Don't come back.

Prosecuting and imprisoning illegal immigrants takes up much of the federal court system's time.

Almost half the cases prosecuted in federal courts during the first 11months of 2010 were immigration-related, according to Syracuse University's Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, or TRAC, which gathers and analyzes data from public agencies.

Federal courts heard more cases that involved illegally entering the country, a misdemeanor punishable by up to 180 days in jail for the first offense, than for any other crime, including drug offenses.

In February, Judge Sam Sparks of U.S. District Court in Austin, Texas, questioned prosecutors about the value of prosecuting people with no "significant criminal history" for immigration-law violations. His docket, like many others in federal courts across the country, was awash in immigration-related cases.

The cost of prosecuting immigrants with no criminal history other than re-entering the country, rather than deporting them again, "is simply mind-boggling," Sparks wrote."The U.S. Attorney's policy of prosecuting all aliens presents a cost to the American taxpayer at this time that is neither meritorious nor reasonable."" Dec. 28, 2010

Immigration Politics: NY congressman Pete King, next chair of Homeland Security Committee, says he'll push for more arrests of illegal aliens

When the Department of Homeland Security was created in response to the 9/11/2001 terroist attacks, it merged national security with immigration. "Illegal immigrants," people entering the U.S. without visas in order to find work, became linked to alien criminal terroists. With the new Republican majority in the House of Representatives, Congressman King, among many others, plans to "crackdown" more on these "alien criminals."

LI congressman Pete King, next chair of Homeland Security Committee, says he'll push for more arrests of illegal aliens - "Rep. Peter King, who next week becomes chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, says he will push legislation to tighten border security and arrest more illegal aliens -- challenging what he considers to be President Obama's lax immigration policies.

'The Obama administration continues to display an obvious lack of urgency when it comes to gaining operational control of the border, which is absolutely critical,' King (R-LI) said. (AMB editor note: The fact that the Obama administration has deported record numbers of "illegals" and spent more money on the border, including increasing the number of Border Patrol agents to record levels, apparently counts for nothing in Republican eyes.)

He said Obama has 'done little' in the past two years to keep out illegal immigrants and the country needs a new strategy 'that incorporates the necessary staffing, fencing and technology to do the job.

King's immigration proposals will include an aggressive crackdown on private companies that hire illegal aliens and increased federal support for local police to help arrest illegal immigrants." Dec. 28, 2010

Immigration Politics & Legislation: More States Seeking to Follow Arizona's Push for Tougher Immigration Rules

More States Seeking to Follow Arizona's Push for Tougher Immigration Rules - Bloomberg: "About 300 immigration-related bills were introduced in statehouses in 2005, said Ann Morse, who directs the Immigrant Policy Project for the National Conference of State Legislatures. In each of the last two years, the figure reached about 1,500, she said.

In 2011, state legislators could push the number higher. “Every indication I get is, they’re not done,” Morse said.

Republican gains in state legislatures will drive some of the proposals. In November’s elections, the party won enough seats to take control of 20 additional (lower or upper) statehouse chambers. With these pickups, Republicans now control the legislative branch in 25 states, up from 14, according to the Denver, Colorado-based NCSL.

In some states, newly-elected Republican governors want to press ahead with more stringent immigration laws." Dec. 27, 2010

Legalization: Editorial on the Drug war: Make it medical

Hurrah for the Providence (Rhode Island) Journal!

Editorial: Drug war: Make it medical | Editorials | | The Providence Journal: "There’s only one way to stop this monstrous commerce, which, in addition to costing many lives, corrupts law enforcement on both sides of the border. That is to treat illicit drugs like the legal drugs known as alcohol and nicotine. ...

.... it would be naïve to believe that chopping off the heads of the beastly cartels would stop the bloodshed. The U.S. is a rich and avid consumer of illegal narcotics — and decades of a “war against drugs” has hardly made a dent in the demand. (The U.S. is also the main source of guns in the drug war in Mexico.) Despite the dangers, there’s simply too much money in the drug trade for criminals to abandon it, particularly in a poor country. Law-enforcement officials now fear that the arrested kingpins’ underlings will embark on a struggle to take over the leadership, and that will unleash new spasms of violence. ...

The way to end the drug trade is to take the massive profit out of it by legalizing these illicit substances. Drugs can be regulated and taxed like alcohol and cigarettes. ...

Let’s end the hypocritical and self-destructive drug war and treat misuse of cocaine, heroin and marijuana as we treat misuse of the socially privileged drug alcohol — as a medical problem. While the private-prison industry may like it, for society, in Mexico and the U.S., the drug war is a disaster." Dec. 28, 2010

Collateral Damage: Mexican Teens In Different Worlds Share Tragic Fate

A close, sad look at the personal lives and deaths of two Mexican teenagers who lived on opposite sides of the border.

Mexican Teens In Different Worlds Share Tragic Fate : NPR
Dec. 28, 2010

Collateral Damage: No police in Mexico town after last officer kidnapped

No police in Mexico town after last officer kidnapped - BBC News - : "The Mexican border town of Guadalupe has been left with no police force after the last officer was kidnapped.

Erika Gandara's house was set on fire by unidentified gunmen before she was abducted last week, according to the state prosecutor's office.

All her colleagues had resigned or were killed in the region's drug war." Dec. 28, 2010

Dec 27, 2010

Collateral Damage: Family of Dead Activist Flees to U.S.

Mexico - Family of Dead Activist Flees to U.S. - "The relatives of an activist who was shot dead outside the Chihuahua state government’s office have fled to the United States, state officials said Monday. Marisela Escobedo was killed on Dec. 16 as she mounted a vigil demanding the arrest of the man who confessed to killing her daughter Rubí. The suspect, Sergio Barraza, was freed by a court in April. The decision was later reversed by a higher court, but by then he had vanished. Graciela Ortiz González, the state secretary for government, said Monday that family members had crossed the international bridge to El Paso, Texas, despite state offers of protection. " Dec. 27, 2010

Immigration Reality: Don't Jump to Conclusions About the Census

A look at the initial census data from the Brookings Institute

Don't Jump to Conclusions About the Census - Brookings Institution: "If we regard simple population change as an indicator of political power, the buildup in red states is indeed significant. However, early next year, the Census Bureau will release counts of the population by race and ethnicity. That number will show shifts of the population that official estimates have pointed to all along: The diversifying of the population is more extensive in areas of fast population growth.

Many of the states that have gained in their head count have gained non-white minorities, especially Hispanics. Estimates already show that four states that gained seats -- Texas, Florida, Arizona and Georgia -- are highly ranked in the Top 10 states for growth in the Hispanic population during this decade.

Moreover, more than half the population growth in those states alone came from increases in the Latino population. These additions were a result of net immigration and births in those states. While the large increase in Hispanics in these high-growth states includes some immigrant newcomers ineligible to vote, eligible Latinos tend to vote Democratic in most of the states that gained seats. That may change by 2012, but much will happen between now and then.

Putting this into further perspective, the U.S. population grew by 9.7% between 2000 and 2010, slower than any decade since the Great Depression in the 1930s. With the Great Recession taking hold at the end of the 2000s, slowing immigration and birth rates, it is possible that slower growth will continue, at least for the short term. Thus, the sizeable increase in minority populations comes at a time when the overall population is growing more slowly.

Thus the sweeping demographic changes going on in our nation are much more significant than just shifts in where people live. We are becoming more diverse, and, as many analysts have noted, we will be a white-minority nation in about 30 years. So simply looking at geography may not yield correct results when we're talking about how new populations may behave and particularly how they may vote.

We're in for a much more interesting and challenging time than many people may believe." Dec. 21, 2010

Immigration Crackdown- the Reality: Deported illegal immigrants return repeatedly

This article, from the Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch, starts off focusing on previously deported illegal immigrants who have criminal records and still return to the U.S. However, it then goes on to portray the more complicated reality of other deportees who come back only to find work.

Deported illegal immigrants return repeatedly | The Columbus Dispatch: "A Dispatch investigation revealed that it is common for deported immigrants to return to the United States despite the threat of felony charges."

Immigration Politics: Florida State senator files immigration bill

The Florida legislature considers getting in on the anti-immigrant act

State senator files immigration bill: "State Sen. Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton, filed a bill that would bring an Arizona-style law to Florida. Unlike in Arizona, the bill would only allow authorities to question suspected illegal immigrants if they've broken the law.

Critics of the bill call it intrusive nonetheless, especially in a state where illegal immigration may not be that big of an issue.

Florida is hundreds of miles away from the Mexican border and most of its large Cuban population enjoys asylum." Dec. 27, 2010, Channel 13

Immigration Politics: Virginia General Assembly to take up tougher immigration bills

With the imminent return of state legislatures to their sessions, proposals to enact state immigration enforcement laws in the new year start to come to the fore.

Va. General Assembly to take up tougher immigration bills | Washington Examiner: "Del. Christopher Peace, R-Henrico, recently filed a bill that would bar illegal immigrants from attending Virginia's public colleges and universities. And Del. Dave Albo, R-Fairfax, introduced legislation requiring local social service agencies to verify the legal status of those applying for public assistance and giving the governor the power to withholding funding for agencies that don't comply.

The bill is one of several immigration measures filed by Albo, who advocated tougher restrictions on public services to illegal immigrants in the past. Another proposal mirrors a controversial law in Arizona requiring police to check the legal status of anyone "taken into custody."

The issue of illegal immigration reared its head repeatedly in the Old Dominion this year, in part because the state's new attorney general, Ken Cuccinelli, has focused much of his attention on it. Dec. 26, 2010 

Immigration politics: President Obama's push for reform appears dead

The LA Times writes an obituary for immigration reform and lays out the coming Republican objectives to increase the immigration crackdown.

Immigration overhaul: President Obama's push for reform appears dead - "When New York Republican Peter T. King takes over the House Homeland Security Committee in January, he plans to propose legislation to reverse what he calls an 'obvious lack of urgency' by the Obama administration to secure the border.

Among other initiatives, King wants to see the Homeland Security Department expand a program that enlists the help of local police departments in arresting suspected illegal immigrants. (AMB editor's note: There are two such programs. Secure Communities transfers fingerprints of arrestees - that are already sent from local police, via their state police, to the FBI - from the FBI (in the Justice Department) to the Homeland Security Department to identify possible undocumented immigrants. The 287 program enables local police to become deputies of  Immigration and Customs Enforcement, (ICE), part of the Homeland Security Department, and detain suspected undocumented immigrants for ICE.)

Texas Republican Lamar Smith, who will have oversight over deportations and arrests when he takes the gavel as chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, was an author of 1996 legislation increasing penalties against illegal immigrants.

Called the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act and signed into law by President Clinton, the bill limited the discretion of U.S. immigration judges and increased the time that immigrants could be detained while awaiting a hearing.

As his first order of business, Smith plans to hold hearings about workplace enforcement and expanding the employee identification program, E-Verify, which is set to expire in 2012." Dec. 27, 2010

Whack-a-mole: Mexican request for U.S. help in drug war detailed

More Wikileaks: Those moles are damn hard to whack!

Mexican request for U.S. help in drug war detailed: "MEXICO CITY - The leader of the Mexican military told U.S. authorities last year that the head of the Sinaloa drug cartel moves among 10 to 15 known locations but that capturing Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzman was 'difficult' because the most wanted man in Mexico surrounds himself with hundreds of armed men and a sophisticated web of snitches, according to a leaked diplomatic cable.

Mexico's defense secretary, Gen. Guillermo Galvan, told Adm. Dennis C. Blair, then the Obama administration's director of national intelligence, that the Mexican army was implementing plans to capture Guzman but that 'Chapo commands the support of a large network of informers and has security circles of up to 300 men that make launching capture operations difficult,' according to a report sent by U.S. Ambassador Carlos Pascual on Oct 26, 2009, and released by WikiLeaks to news organizations.

Guzman is the boss of Mexico's dominant trafficking organization and an almost legendary drug lord here - the subject of books and songs, a billionaire mastermind who escaped from a Mexican federal prison, reportedly in a laundry basket." Dec. 27, 2010

Dec 26, 2010

Immigration Politics: In Congress, A Harder Line On Illegal Immigrants

Another overview, from NPR, of what is coming with the new Congress

In Congress, A Harder Line On Illegal Immigrants : NPR: "In a matter of weeks, Congress will go from trying to help young, illegal immigrants become legal to debating whether children born to parents who are in the country illegally should continue to enjoy automatic U.S. citizenship.

Such a hardened approach — and the rhetoric certain to accompany it — should resonate with the GOP faithful who helped swing the House in Republicans' favor. But it also could further hurt the GOP in its endeavor to grab a large enough share of the growing Latino vote to win the White House and the Senate majority in 2012." Dec. 26, 2010

Immigration Reality: 2501 Migrants: A Journey, Oaxaca Documentary

Once again, art presents the human reality of events . This time it is the consequences for a small town in Oaxaca that are wrought by migration of 2501 of its inhabitants to the United States.

2501 Migrants: A Journey, Oaxaca Documentary produced by Yolanda Cruz Reviewed by Ruth Gened: "Artist/sculptor Alejandro Santiago Ramírez calls his native pueblo of Teococuilco, Oaxaca, a “virtual ghost town.”

The southern Mexico village has long been known for its tribal diversity and eclectic indigenous people. Now it’s the platform for Ramírez’ six-year vision illustrating the void left by hundreds of its natives who headed to el norte searching for a better life.

In the visually-stunning documentary 2501 Migrants: A Journey, UCLA filmmaker and Oaxaca native Yolanda Cruz chronicles Ramírez as he and 30 indigenous workers repopulate the pueblo with life-size clay sculptures of migrants who left their village, which lies two hours north of the state capital, behind.

“I wanted to honor the migrants and the communities they left to show what we lose when we leave, but now the film is becoming more and more of an inspirational piece for a lot of immigrants and artists,” says Cruz.

Through her film, Cruz crafts a careful balance between using art as a medium of aesthetic expression, while also addressing political and economic issues affecting not only Oaxaca but all of Mexico."

Whack-a-mole: WikiLeaks sheds light on U.S.-Mexican relations

Another look at the most recent Wikileaks on U.S.-Mexico relations that puts the leaks in the larger context of U.S. assessments of the drug war.

WikiLeaks sheds light on U.S.-Mexican relations - "A series of 2009 diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks discloses discussions between the United States and Mexico concerning the militarization of the war on the drug cartels there.

The dispatches, dating from late 2009, show that “a state of exception” — roughly a state of emergency that would bend civilian rights in light of military operations --for certain areas came up in discussions between the U.S. government and Mexican Secretary of Defense Gen. Guillermo Galvan Galvan.

One cable attributes to Mexico’s defense secretary the suggestion of invoking “Article 29” of Mexico’s Constitution to give more solid ground for military intervention in the cartel fight." Dec. 25, 2010. The Times-Herald is a newspaper in suburban Philadelphia, PA. The author is Jose de la Isla, from Houston, TX, who writes a weekly commentary for Hispanic Link News Service.

Whack-a-mole: Mexican army sees 7-10 year role in drug war, mistrusts other agencies: Leaked cable

More Wikileaks on how desperate the mole whackers are getting.

Mexican army sees 7-10 year role in drug war, mistrusts other agencies: Leaked cable - The Globe and Mail/AP: "A leaked U.S. diplomatic cable published Saturday depicts the leader of Mexico's army “lamenting” its lengthy role in the anti-drug offensive, but expecting it to last between seven and 10 more years.

The cable says Mexican Defense Secretary Gen. Guillermo Galvan Galvan mistrusts other Mexican law enforcement agencies and prefers to work separately, because corrupt officials had leaked information in the past.

The copy of the Oct. 26, 2009 cable describes a meeting between Mexico's top soldier and former U.S. national intelligence director Dennis Blair.

Mexico's Defense Department “runs the risk of losing public prestige and being criticized on human rights issues as its mandate is extended,” the cable quotes the general as saying, “but he (Galvan Galvan) nevertheless expects the military to maintain its current role for the next 7 to 10 years. Mr. Galvan did suggest that increased U.S. intelligence assistance could shorten that time frame.”

The cable published Saturday by The New York Times also quotes the general as saying that Mexico's army “would be willing to accept any training the U.S. (government) can offer,”" Dec. 26, 2010, AP

Collateral Damage: Christmas weekend violence kills 13 in Mexico

Our Christmas message: Whether the murdered are narcos or innocents, every death is "collateral damage."  Every death results from the United States framing its answer to the issue of drugs in terms of "good" versus "evil" that then has to be fought in a holy war. Every death is a destruction of the creative potential of life. Every death damages both Mexican society and the humanity of all of us.

Christmas weekend violence kills 13 in Mexico-AFP: : "CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico — The Christmas holiday weekend failed to stem the violence in Mexico's murder capital Ciudad Juarez, where drug-related shootings have killed 13 people over two days, officials said Saturday." Dec. 25, 2010

Dec 25, 2010

Whack-a-mole: WikiLeaks Archive - Cables Show D.E.A.’s Global Reach

The mole whackers of the DEA range world-wide and out of control. This makes the war on drugs even worse than we thought, but it follows from the logic of a U.S. driven, U.N. sanctioned world war on drugs. 

WikiLeaks Archive - Cables Show D.E.A.’s Global Reach - "The Drug Enforcement Administration has been transformed into a global intelligence organization with a reach that extends far beyond narcotics, and an eavesdropping operation so expansive it has to fend off foreign politicians who want to use it against their political enemies, according to secret diplomatic cables.

In far greater detail than previously seen, the cables, from the cache obtained by WikiLeaks and made available to some news organizations, offer glimpses of drug agents balancing diplomacy and law enforcement in places where it can be hard to tell the politicians from the traffickers, and where drug rings are themselves mini-states whose wealth and violence permit them to run roughshod over struggling governments." Dec. 25, 2010

Immigration Legislation: Arizona immigration law cases continue

Arizona immigration law cases continue: "Seven lawsuits were filed in federal court challenging the constitutionality of Senate Bill 1070. Most of them argued that immigration regulation is the jurisdiction of the federal government and not the state, and that SB 1070 could lead to racial profiling and violate individuals' constitutional rights.

The court has issued various rulings in recent weeks. Here's an update on where the cases are in the legal process:" Dec. 24, 2010, Arizona Republic

Whack-a-mole and legalization: Ideas for dealing with the Mexican drug cartels

A New Mexico journalist proposes two options for addressing the drug war: more militarization and drug legalization. He seems to conclude that the first has many down sides (he cites Iraq, Afganistan and previous U.S. military interventions in Latin America), but he doesn't go far enough with legalization, limiting it to marijuana. But it is good to know that there are people in New Mexico discussing the issue. 

Ideas for dealing with the Mexican drug cartels | "To address the growing problem of Mexican drug cartels, the United States has to seriously consider two ideas policymakers in Washington don’t want to touch.

Neither is popular in Washington, and I’m not endorsing either – but I am urging serious consideration of both.

The United States must consider legalizing, regulating and taxing some drugs that are currently illegal. And it must consider offering military aid to Mexico’s president."

Colllateral Damage: The Children of Juarez, Parts 4 & 5

Interviews with the youth of Ciudad Juarez and some teachers and other adults who try to care for them.

The Children of Juarez, Parts 4 & 5 - - JUAN WILLIAMS:: "Alejandro Marmolejo, 17, a senior, describes the “real war” being fought in Juarez as the “war here between families and gangs” over young people like him. Does a teenager – he is jabbing his chest as he speaks – go for family values and education or gang values and violence." Dec. 24, 2010

Collateral Damage: Mexico Drug War | Year in Photos

Here is the damage, in graphic pictures.

Mexico Drug War | Year in Photos, Global Post, Dec. 25, 2010

Dec 24, 2010

Immigration Politics: Lamar Smith avoids hard line on immigration

Another "vamos a ver," we'll see.

Lamar Smith avoids hard line on immigration - Carrie Budoff Brown - "If conservatives expected Republican Rep. Lamar Smith to champion the most controversial anti-immigration measures when he takes control of the House Judiciary Committee next month, they’re in for a surprise.

After weeks of speculation that he would pursue a scorched-earth immigration agenda, Smith detailed his to-do list for the first time in an interview with POLITICO — and it’s an early but important signal that the new House Republican majority plans to attack the issue of immigration through the prism of jobs, rather than red meat for the base." Dec. 23, 2010

Immigration Reality and Politics: The defeat of the Dream Act and our lost decade on immigration reform

Roberto Suro, a professor of journalism and public policy at the University of Southern California, looks at the immigration facts and the political failure to resolve them. He then presents some policy proposals for trying to address the issues.

The defeat of the Dream Act and our lost decade on immigration reform: "The United States is in the midst of a wave of immigration as substantial as any ever experienced. Millions of people from abroad have settled here peacefully and prosperously, a boon to the nation. Nonetheless, frustration with policy sours the mood. More than a quarter of the foreign-born are here without authorization. Meanwhile, getting here legally can be a long, costly wrangle. And communities feel that they have little say over sudden changes in their populations.

People know that their world is being transformed, yet Washington has not enacted a major overhaul of immigration law since 1965. To move forward, we need at least three fundamental changes in the way the issue is handled." Dec. 23, 2010, Washington Post

Collateral Damage: Family Ties and Holiday Shopping Bring Bustle (and Long Waits) to Border Crossing

A portrait of another small, but human, impact of the drug war on cross-border life.

Family Ties and Holiday Shopping Bring Bustle (and Long Waits) to Border Crossing - "The sun was close to setting on the southern stretch of I-35 in Laredo on Saturday when Higinio Alfredo Navarrette’s thoughts turned to his two daughters, wife and mother in San Luis Potosí, Mexico, about 450 miles away. His white Ford pickup, loaded with a washer, a TV and toys for Christmas, stood motionless less than a mile before the international boundary marking the entrance into Mexico.

After waiting in line for hours to get home for the holidays, it looked as if he might have to travel at night on one of Mexico’s deadliest roads, a common hijacking point for drug cartel operatives. ....

Mr. Navarrette is a microcosm of the holiday season on the border, an area where the local economy is as affected by security and cartel-related violence as by the nationwide economic slowdown. Caught in the crush of holiday travelers trying to get through the heightened security were paisanos like himself, living in the United States and returning home for Christmas, as well as Mexicans who had come across for quick shopping trips and were heading back into Mexico." Dec. 23, 2010

Collateral Damage: Drug war part of campus life

A picture of life in a college that literally sits next to the border.

Drug war part of campus life - San Antonio Express-News: "BROWNSVILLE — When the rattle of gunfire and pop of grenades woke Rene Cardona from his dorm bed at the University of Texas at Brownsville/Texas Southmost College, he brushed it off as another drug war battle across the Rio Grande in Matamoros, Mexico — a short distance away but in another country." Dec. 23, 2010

Whack-a-mole: 27,000 arrested in Mexico drug war in 2010

This is the week of year-end statistics. This brief announcement gives no explanation for the 10,000 person difference between the number of arrests given in the first paragraph and in a later one. Anyway, the important statistic is the missing one - how many were convicted. The conviction rate in Mexico has been about 2%. With the higher arrest figure, this would mean about 500 were convicted of crimes. We will watch for further information about this.

AFP: 27,000 arrested in Mexico drug war in 2010: "Security forces have this year arrested over 27,000 suspected drug gang members, as part of Mexico's ongoing bloody military-led crackdown on cartel operations, officials said.

In total, some 17,200 gang members have been arrested in 2010, according to a joint statement issued by the secretaries of defense, interior and federal prosecutors.

No details were given on how many convictions were brought post-arrest." Dec. 24, 2010

Dec 23, 2010

Immigration Reality: Hispanics Lead Population Growth in South and West, Leading to Congressional Seats

A somewhat more detailed look at what the increase in Hispanic population may mean politically. 

Hispanics Lead Population Growth in South and West, Leading to Congressional Seats | Feet in 2 Worlds · Immigration news · : "The first round of 2010 Census data was released this week, and it shows that the country added about 27 million residents over the past decade. Over 13 million of them are new immigrants, which means that immigration significantly drove population change. This is particularly evident in the southern and western states which gained Congressional seats through the process of apportionment. Notably, Texas will get four new seats in the House for the next decade, due to a 20.6 percent population growth—in which Hispanics accounted for more than 60 percent. Hispanics are also responsible for approximately half the growth in Florida, Nevada and Arizona. But a larger Hispanic population won’t translate into more political representation for them right away, because many Hispanics are too young or are not yet citizens who can vote." Dec. 23, 2010

Immigration Reality: The GOP's census dilemma: Embrace immigration or gerrymander

The demographic handwriting is on the wall. And you can bet that Republicans will gerrymander congressional districts like mad. 

Edward Schumacher-Matos - The GOP's census dilemma: Embrace immigration or gerrymander: "Some Republicans are crowing over the 2010 Census, but any red-state gains they make will depend on two big ifs: whether the party undergoes a virtual religious conversion and supports immigrants, or it gerrymanders like mad.

Most news reports this week on the new population figures understated the size of the immigrant impact. If you add their American-born children, immigrants accounted for fully three-fourths of the nation's population growth over the past decade, (AMB editor's emphasis) and not the slightly less than half that was widely reported, based on counting the foreign-born only in the Census Bureau's parallel 2009 American Community Survey." Dec. 23, 2010

Whack-a-mole: To Root Out Dirty Police, Mexico Sends In a General

This story, while focusing on a mole whacker police chief who is a former army general, paints a detailed picture of how local Mexcian police forces are rife with corruption.

To Root Out Dirty Police, Mexico Sends In a General - "Retired Gen. Villa is the 61-year-old police chief in Torreon, an industrial city in Mexico's violent northern badlands—a central drug-running route currently being fought over by two of Mexico's biggest cartels.

Since taking over as the city's top police officer in January, Mr. Villa has battled not only the city's drug lords, but also his own police force, which was on the payroll of a powerful cartel." Dec. 23, 2010

Collateral Damage: No Mas: Mexico Students Unite to Stop Drug War

¡No más! No more!

No Mas: Mexico Students Unite to Stop Drug War - ABC News: "Spurred on by an October 29 shooting by federal police of a 19-year-old classmate during a peaceful street protest, some 20 students at the Autonomous University of Juarez have formed Asociación Estudiantil Juarense (the Student Association of Juarez).

'Our first goal is to bring justice to José Darío Álvarez [who survived the shooting after emergency surgery], but our second mission is to end the corruption of police and military in the city,' a 19-year-old student representative who we will call 'Javier' told" Dec. 23, 2010

Legalization: Pat Robertson: supporter of legalized pot?

Stange bedfellow, but the libertarian argument is for the government to get out of people's lives. 

Pat Robertson: supporter of legalized pot?: "The 700 Club, a Christian talk show program hosted by staunch conservative Pat Robertson, is not the place you'd expect to find sympathy for the marijuana-legalization movement. But that's exactly what happened this week when Robertson started talking about the need for more faith-based prison rehabilitation.

'I'm not exactly for the use of drugs, don't get me wrong, but I just believe that criminalizing marijuana, criminalizing the possession of a few ounces of pot, that kinda thing it's just, it's costing us a fortune and it's ruining young people,' Robertson said. 'Young people go into prisons, they go in as youths and come out as hardened criminals. That's not a good thing.'" Dec. 23, 2010, Washington Post blog

Whack-a-mole: The Mexican Drug War: A Nation Descends into Violence

From the English edition of the German magazine, Der Spiegel, a detailed over-view of the real political and social crisis presented to Mexico by the drug cartels.

The Mexican Drug War: A Nation Descends into Violence - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News - International: "Could the legalization of drugs be the answer, as some experts suggest? Or maybe more border controls? Would a new national police force and a reform of the government solve the problem? Or is it best to simply leave the cartels alone, which for years was the government's policy?

These are the questions that Mexico is asking itself in 2010, the 200th anniversary of the beginning of its war of independence. The filmmaker Luis Estrada has given his native country a bitter film for its anniversary: 'El Infierno' (Hell). It is the portrait of a world consisting of nothing but narcos, whores and corruption.

'We have a national problem, and it's called impunity,' says Estrada, a soft-spoken man with glasses and a gray beard. 'People who break the law aren't punished. That's why many believe that honesty doesn't pay. We Mexicans are in hell, that's for sure. I just don't know which pit of hell it is at the moment.'" Dec. 23, 2010

Whack-a-mole: Gunbattles can't win drug war; Mexico must bolster rule of law

A clear look at the problems in Mexico - government corruption and lack of a functioning justice system - that undermine the rule of law, and thus make impossible any success in eliminating the drug cartels:

Viewpoints: Gunbattles can't win drug war; Mexico must bolster rule of law - Sacramento Opinion - Sacramento Editorial | Sacramento Bee: "It is clear that Calderón cannot win his drug war through gunbattles alone. A regional effort to provide economic support to further boost legitimate opportunities in Mexico must accompany sustained legal reform efforts. If change does not come soon, the only people who will be left in Mexico will be gunmen and victims." Dec. 23, 2010, James Cooper is law professor and director of international legal studies at California Western School of Law in San Diego.

Whack-a-mole: Officials: Drug bust is local victory in a continuing drug war

Reality seeps through in the comments of the writer and the U.S. Attorney. The drug war "victory" is "at least for now," and Indianapolis "is a more peaceful place today than it was yesterday." Bu we won't talk about tomorrow?

Officials: Drug bust is local victory in a continuing drug war | The Indianapolis Star | "Federal and local authorities said Wednesday that a large drug bust will dismantle one line of drug trade between Chicago and Indianapolis and reduce drug trafficking in Marion County -- at least for now.

A nearly six-month investigation netted 109 pounds of cocaine with an estimated value of about $1.5 million. Thirty-three people, some of them illegal immigrants from Honduras and Mexico, face charges in the scheme. Eight face federal drug charges; several also face deportation, officials said.

"With these individuals no longer on the streets, it's fair to say that Indianapolis is a more peaceful place today than it was yesterday," U.S. Attorney Joe Hogsett said at a news conference Wednesday." Dec. 23, 2010

Dec 22, 2010

Legalization: Ending the Drug War: 8 Top Stories of 2010

Tony Newman, the director of media relations at the Drug Policy Alliance, looks at the progress made in 2010 towards legalization.

Ending the Drug War: 8 Top Stories of 2010: "The debate around failed marijuana prohibition and the larger drug war arrived in a big way in 2010. Below are some of the most significant stories from 2010 and the reasons why I'm encouraged that we can start finding an exit strategy from America's longest running war." Dec. 22, 2010

MexicoBlog Editorial: Holding Mexico Hostage

President Felipe Calderon, in a recent interview, said that if it were not for his war against the drug cartels, his government - and all of Mexico - "would be held hostage by criminal groups." We rather suspect that, as he enters the last two years of his term, he is speaking for himself. We suspect that, by this comment, he is revealing that he is actually feeling that both he and his government are being "held hostage" by a battle he has not been able to "win" and to which he sees no sign of an ending, certainly not in the next eighteen months before the next presidential election.

Regardless of Calderon's - and his party's (PAN) self-imposed political plight - the president's countrymen and women are quite convinced that they already are hostages to the drug war being waged all around them. Not only are they hostages to the cartels. They are hostages to Calderon's unilateral decision to initiate and continue to pursue his war against the cartels. Just last week, the city of Morelia, the capital of Michoacán, was held hostage for two days by La Familia, as the cartel blockaded all the main roads into and out of the city. Our Michoacán friends now feel that they cannot freely travel to visit family for Christmas. Monterrrey has frequently been held hostage by similar blockades. Friends in Cuernavaca, scene of a number of drug-related murders, are preparing to move out of the country to escape the siege. Then there are Ciudad Juarez, Reynosa, Nueva Leon, Tijuana, Matamoros, Ciudad Mier and all the other cities and towns along the U.S. border that are beseiged and held hostage by this war.

But beyond and beneath this immediate, daily hostage taking, Mexicans are held hostage by the United States government. The prohibitionist drug laws of the giant of the north and its war mentality keep them in a captivity from which they can do nothing to escape. The U.S. prohibitionist mentality avoids addressing the domestic issue of drug consumption, externalizing and projecting it onto the supply side of the drug market, first Columbia and, in the last several years, Mexico. No change of Mexican strategy, policy or presidents can liberate the people of Mexico from being held hostage by the United States. Only the U.S. can free them by giving up its failed domestic war on drugs and the prohibitionist laws that underpin it. Only the establishment of  regulated, legal sale and use of these drugs will free the people of Mexico from being "held hostage."

Collateral Damage: Family's triple tragedy highlights Mexico impunity

Family's triple tragedy highlights Mexico impunity: "A daughter is found dismembered. Her mother is shot dead trying to bring the killer to justice. Two days later, a brother-in-law's body is dumped on the street after his lumber business is torched.

No one is under arrest for any of the crimes, and there is little hope the cases will be solved. The tragedies befalling an extended family in Ciudad Juarez lay bare the lawlessness that plagues not only Mexico's most violent city, but the entire country.

The case of Marisela Escobedo Ortiz, slain last week as she demanded justice for her dead daughter outside the Chihuahua state governor's office, has gripped the country." Dec. 21, 2010, Washington Post

Whack-a-mole: 41 Guards arrested over prison escape in Mexico

It's a problem when the mole whackers are helping the moles. 

41 Guards arrested over prison escape in Mexico - Fox News Latino: "Forty-one guards at the prison in Nuevo Laredo, a border city in the northeastern Mexican state of Tamaulipas, have been arrested in connection with the escape last week of 151 inmates, officials said." Dec. 21, 2010

Mexican Politics: International court rules against Mexican army

International court rules against Mexican army - "Mexico has been hit by another international human rights judgment against its army.

In a long-awaited decision, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruled against Mexico and in favor of two peasant ecologists who had long claimed they were illegally detained and tortured by Mexican soldiers working at the behest of powerful logging companies.

It is the third such case to go against Mexico this year and was applauded by human rights organizations, which called for the government to submit military abuses to civilian justice." Dec. 22, 2010

Whack-a-mole: 25 indicted in drug ring that stretched from Mexico to South Jersey

Those moles sure know how to deliver the goods.

25 indicted in drug ring that stretched from Mexico to South Jersey | Philadelphia Inquirer | 12/22/2010: "Twenty-five people were indicted Tuesday on charges stemming from their alleged roles in a crystal methamphetamine, marijuana, and weapons pipeline to several South Jersey counties, the Camden County Prosecutor's Office announced.

The pipeline ran from the Mexican state of Jalisco to the border town of McAllen, Texas, into Ohio and then to Camden and Atlantic Counties, the Prosecutor's Office said. The network shipped marijuana in packages through private couriers or the U.S. Postal Service to recipients in Camden, Voorhees, Lindenwold, Hammonton, Waterford, and Winslow, officials said." Dec. 20, 2010

Collateral Damage: Mass Abduction Is Claimed

Mexico - Mass Abduction Is Claimed - "About 50 Central American migrants were kidnapped on Thursday when armed men stopped the cargo train they were riding in southern Mexico and abducted all of the women aboard, El Salvador said Tuesday. The Mexican Interior Ministry said it found no evidence of a disappearance; the Salvadoran Foreign Ministry cited interviews conducted by consular staff in Mexico. It was unclear what might have happened to the men on the train, though El Salvador said many of the immigrants had been robbed and beaten." Dec. 22, 2010

Dec 21, 2010

Whack-a-mole: Mexico was in danger of being held hostage: Felipe Calderon

The mole whacker in-chief of Mexico gives his point of view. A number of Mexicans friends of this editor pretty much feel that they are being "held hostage," both by the cartels and by President Calderon and his government. 

President Felipe Calderón warned that if he had not acted against crime from the start of his term in 2006, the government today would probably be an absolute hostage to crime.

"There was a problem of the growing existence and impunity of criminal groups in 2006 , which was about to burst, and it did burst. And that would have generated violence with or without government intervention, with the difference that if we had not intervened probably the government right now would be entirely, either subject to, or would be held hostage by criminal groups" he said in an interview with Ezra Shabot on MVS radio.

He rejected the idea held by those who say that it would have been a better idea not to take action against crime and thus the wave of murders would not have occured, the sum of which already exceeds 30 000 deaths.

“These 30 thousand people are not victims of society; they are victims of criminals. These are deaths caused by criminals, who are to be fought. And it seems to me that if we don’t fight, there will be many more," he said. "The fallacy is thinking that nothing is going to happen. This is a kind of solution which has already completely failed. For example, this conflict explains the terrible carnage in Juarez, between the cartel of Carrillo Leyva and that of el Chapo.
" Now this is what I see. Violence is not the product of government intervention. In contrast, government intervention occurs because of rising levels of violence in Ciudad Juárez. It's the reverse.

"Or the confrontation between the Zetas and the Gulf. It is a confrontation of criminals who can’t fit together. Of course, for sure, the government intervention weakens them, we generated a terrible internal instability, and that, precisely, will also generate conflict. All these factors are correlated," added Calderon in the radio interview.

"Perhaps - without making gratuitous accusations, not that I may not have any legal or judicial basis about this point, that is, the truth - but I don’t want to get into that now. But if it is a fact that what has happened in some states is a movie, then it is the movie we would have seen at the national level if we had not intervened," he added.

(AMB Editor's note: Calderon is apparently referring here to - and possibly wishing he could do something “legal” or “judicial” about - the Mexican movie, El Infierno, released this autumn, which portrays Mexico, inflamed by the drug war, as “Hell.” Fortunately, Mexican presidents aren’t what they used to be, virtually omnipotent and able to punish anyone that offended them.)

Collateral Damage: The Children of Juarez

This story, the first of a five-part series, describes what we already know, that it is terrible for youth, journalists and everyone else in Ciudad Juarez. What is of value, we hope, is that it is on Fox News. We will be checking on the remaining installments.

The Children of Juarez - JUAN WILLIAMS: : "The stories of young lives trapped in the deadly mix of guns, drugs and fear stayed with me. In interviews Mexican politicians and police remind me that most of the killers and those being killed are kids – teenagers. One Mexican politician said simply there is a lot of “young blood on the floor.” He said this in passing without any emotion or emphasis. But the words stayed with me. The idea upset me." Dec. 21, 2010

U.S. Politics and Immigration: New Census Data Shows Democrats Must Focus on Immigration

Politics meets demographic reality

New Census Data Shows Democrats Must Focus on Immigration - ( "After a brutal election year, Democrats are bracing for further injury, as the U.S. Census releases its big-count summary of how many citizens live in the country, and where they live. By all accounts, internal migration trends over the past decade will benefit GOP-leaning states while depriving onetime powerhouses such as New York of Democratic power in Washington. Ultra-blue Massachusetts is likely to lose a seat in Congress, while southern and western states like Arizona and Texas are expected to make pickups. That’s almost certain to increase Republican numbers in the House, making it tougher for Democrats in 2012 to reclaim the chamber they lost in this year’s elections.

Still, the demographics aren’t all positive for the GOP, and if the Democrats pay attention to issues such as immigration reform, long-term trends could end up boosting the Democrats. Latinos are the fastest-growing minority group in the country, and they are changing the political complexion of states like Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, and Nevada--all states that went from being fairly reliably Republican to swing states, and which may, in the next decade or two, become reliably Democratic. Even Texas may come into play for the wounded Democrats in future elections." Dec. 21, 2010

Immigration Politics: Facing long odds, Obama vows immigration push

And just how does the President think he will accomplish this "push?"

Facing long odds, Obama vows immigration push "President Barack Obama told Congressional Hispanic Caucus members Tuesday that he’ll renew his push for comprehensive immigration reform in 2011 — even though such an effort would face even longer odds in a Congress where Republicans control the House.

Obama made the pledge afterthe defeat last weekend of a more narrowly tailored reform measure, which cleared the Democratic House by a slim margin but failed in the Senate on Saturday." Dec.. 21, 2010

Immigration Politics: After Dream Act Setback, Weighing a Next Move

A look at the Texas politics of immigration. It ain't lookin' good.

After Dream Act Setback, Weighing a Next Move - "About 37 percent of Texas residents are of Hispanic origin, and the state has a long history of welcoming newcomers who work hard and obey the law. So the state would seem likely to support a bill to grant citizenship to thousands of foreign-born college students.

Yet the two Republican Senators from Texas, Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn, both voted to block the bill, known as the Dream Act, from coming up for a vote on Saturday.

The question now is whether the failure of the Dream Act will create a backlash among Hispanic voters against the Republicans in power. The risk for Republicans like Ms. Hutchison is that in trying to appeal to the conservative base, they will anger Hispanics, who are regarded as the sleeping giant of Texas politics." Dec. 20, 2010

Collateral Damage: Mexico Crime Activist's Relative Also Found Dead

The damage just keeps on happening.

Mexico Crime Activist's Relative Also Found Dead - "Mexican authorities say a relative of an anti-crime crusader gunned down last week as she tried to seek justice for her slain daughter also has been found dead.

The Chihuahua state attorney general's office says the body of Manuel Monge Amparan was identified Sunday after being dumped on a street in Ciudad Juarez, across from El Paso, Texas.

The body was found Saturday after Monge's lumber business was set on fire, prosecutors said. Monge was the brother of Jose Monge, whose partner, Marisela Escobedo Ortiz, was shot to death Thursday outside the offices of Chihuahua Gov. Cesar Duarte. The activist had said she wouldn't move until investigators showed progress in bringing her 17-year-old daughter's killer to justice." Dec. 20, 2010

Collateral Damage: El Paso and the Juárez exodus: Are Mexican entrepreneurs and their businesses here to stay?

"There’s no doubt that El Paso, on the north side of the Rio Grande, has reaped economic benefits because of the growing instability in Juárez just to the south. As members of La Red (a newly formed and rapidly growing Mexican businessmens' group in El Paso, of whom seventy percent are U.S. citizens) and other Juarenses move here to escape the violence, they open new businesses, purchase homes and contribute to the city’s coffers.

... the long-term impact remains to be seen. While the influx of Mexican entrepreneurs has added to El Paso’s culinary variety and nightlife scene, no one knows how long they will stay, or how long the crisis in Juárez will continue. 

Bob Cook, president of the El Paso Regional Economic Development Corporation, says that in the overall equation the harm caused by the violence in Juárez and the recession have outweighed the benefits of the migration of Juarenses into the city.

"(There is) another reason why we need Juárez to be healthy,” Cook says. “The Mexican nationals that have disposable income are more important to El Paso’s economy than the small number of Mexican businesses opening.”

Experts also warn that growing violence and instability in Juárez could eventually cause severe damage to the manufacturing industry that still provides much of the region’s economic strength." Dec. 21, 2010, El Pasa Inc., a website focused on El Paso business news.

Whack-a-mole: A New Approach is needed in Anti-crime Fight in Mexico

This is a detailed critique - from a military point of view - of how poorly the Mexican and U.S. governments' are implementing their whack-a-mole drug war strategy to defeat the cartels.  It does not question the goal of defeating the cartels.

A New Approach is needed in Anti-crime Fight in Mexico: "'The people of the United States like to believe that political will and good intentions can solve most human dilemmas,' wrote historian T. R. Fehrenbach. 'They often find it hard to understand Mexicans, who know better. Yet both heritages are vital parts of the American whole, and together they will forge its future.'[4]

The implications of northern Mexico's geopolitics offer this resounding lesson for confronting border instability: if the United States and Mexico do not hang together, then forces far more powerful than fretful diplomatic cables will eventually hang them separately." Dec. 20, 2010, Mexidata. David Danelo is a Senior Fellow in Foreign Policy Reasearch Institute’s Program on National Security,

Dec 20, 2010

U.S-Mexico Relations: Mexican diplomat calls for calm

A Mexican diplomat to the U.S. gives the official perspective on U.S.-Mexico relations.

Mexican diplomat calls for calm - :: "Take a deep breath, relax and look at the facts.
Those are the words of Ambassador Carlos Felix Corona, consul general of Mexico in San Francisco, offers to Americans anxious about violence on the U.S.-Mexican border, immigration and cross-border commerce.

Felix spoke last week at the World Affairs Council of the Monterey Bay Area's annual meeting in Carmel Valley to offer his thoughts on these volatile issues." Dec. 20, 2010

Weapons Traffic: Feds want reporting for high-powered rifle sales

Any bets on who wins this one, the AFT or the boys with the guns (NRA)?

The Associated Press: Feds want reporting for high-powered rifle sales: "The federal agency that monitors gun sales wants weapons dealers near the Mexican border to start reporting multiple sales of high-powered rifles, according to a notice published in the Federal Register.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has asked the White House budget office to approve an emergency request requiring border-area gun dealers to report the sales of two or more rifles to the same customer within a five-day period.

The emergency request, published Friday in the Federal Register, is likely to face stiff opposition from gun rights advocates, including the National Rifle Association. ATF wants the Office of Budget Management to approve the request by Jan. 5." Dec. 20, 2010

Collateral Damage: Drug group may have set off oil blast that killed 28 in central Mexico

Drug group may have set off oil blast that killed 28 in central Mexico | La Plaza | Los Angeles Times: "A powerful pre-dawn pipeline explosion in a central Mexican state left at least 28 people dead on Sunday. The chief suspected cause of the blast is an illegal tap, possibly by the drug group the Zetas, as cartels increasingly attempt to steal crude and gas from state-owned oil lines." Dec. 20, 2010

Immigration Politics: Immigration Vote Leaves Obama Policy in Disarray

News Analysis - Immigration Vote Leaves Obama Policy in Disarray - "The vote by the Senate on Saturday to block a bill to grant legal status to hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrant students was a painful setback to an emerging movement of immigrants and also appeared to leave the immigration policy of the Obama administration, which has supported the bill and the movement, in disarray. ...

Part of the administration’s strategy has been to ramp up border and workplace enforcement to attract Republican votes for the overhaul. The vote on Saturday made it clear that strategy has not succeeded so far.

Mr. Obama will now face growing pressure from immigrant and Latino groups to temper the crackdown and perhaps find ways to use executive powers to bring some illegal immigrants out of the shadows. 
" Dec. 18, 2010

Immigration Madness: Utah immigration foe sees no racism in law

Keep an eye on that "not." As for the "rule of law," in the history of the U.S., much of the immigration law has been racially motivated. (See our page, History of U.S. Immigration Laws)

Utah immigration foe sees no racism in law - "SALT LAKE CITY, Dec. 19 (UPI) -- A group some consider extremist helped a Utah legislator draft an immigration crackdown bill, the lawmaker confirms.

Rep. Stephen Sandstrom told The Salt Lake Tribune he had met with Michael Hethmon, general counsel of the Immigration Reform Law Institute, which is the legal arm of the Federation for American Immigration Reform. FAIR was branded as a 'hate group' by the Southern Poverty Law Center because of quotes from its founder, John Tanton.

Sandstrom said he had never heard of Tanton and never heard any racist words from Hethmon. 'I have to look at my own personal motivations, and I think they're good and sound and they're based on rule of law. They're not in any way racist in any way shape or form,' Sandstrom said." (editor's emphasis) Dec. 19, 2010

Immigration Politics: Students look to 2012 after immigration bill fails

Students look to 2012 after immigration bill fails: "LOS ANGELES -- Emboldened by months of phone calls to lawmakers, hunger strikes and sit-ins, a group of college students and graduates in Los Angeles say they plan to take their fight for immigrant rights to the states and the 2012 election after Senate Republicans blocked a key piece of legislation. ...

Few said the legislation, many called the Dream Act, had a chance in the next two years with Republicans taking control of the House of Representatives and a shrinking Democratic majority in the Senate. But they said that wouldn't derail the networks they had set up across the country to support illegal immigrant students and help them reveal their status and learn to live unafraid." Dec. 19, 2010, AP/Washington Post

Collateral Damage: Border travelers describe drug war's impact

A description, at a human levelof life lived along the border .

Border travelers describe drug war's impact | "Some people are traveling less across the border, while others have quit altogether. But there are still many residents in the Rio Grande Valley who share a deep and personal connection with the country, and it is those who are taking the alleged risks and venturing into Mexico — despite repeated warnings from governmental agencies urging them to do otherwise." Dec. 20, 2010, McAllen, Texas (across the Rio Grande from Reynosa, Mexico)

Dec 19, 2010

Collateral Damage: For dangerous work, Mexican police officers get low pay and little respect

A look at the situation of local police in Mexico

For dangerous work, Mexican police officers get low pay and little respect - World AP - "Arturo Valenzuela, a gastroenterologist who sits on a municipal citizens' security panel, said more was at stake than saving the lives of police officers.

'When an officer dies, when he is killed, part of the rule of law dies with him. Whether he is good or bad, part of the state's legal authority crumbles,' Valenzuela said. 'We need to boost them up, train them and support them, even if it is only moral support.'" Dec. 19, 2010