Feb 28, 2011

Whack-a-mole: ICE dive unit in Miami targets drug smuggler ships

Now the drug moles are piggybacking shipments on the hulls of commercial ships. As the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent says in this article, "If you cut off one way for drugs to get in, they will find another way." So why is it that the government keeps trying to stop them?

ICE dive unit in Miami targets drug smuggler ships: "The seven members of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement dive team, formed in 2004 and the only one of its kind in the U.S., were searching for large metal boxes that Latin American cocaine traffickers sometimes weld or clamp onto freighters and even cruise ships to smuggle drugs. The boxes also could be used to hide terrorist bombs or weapons.

ICE agent Dean Lang, assistant chief of the dive team, said the intense law enforcement focus on drug trafficking through Mexico could push some cocaine smuggling operations to U.S. coasts and ports. Miami in the 1980s was a main avenue for cocaine, and U.S. officials don't want a return to the violent "cocaine cowboy" days, when rival drug traffickers battled in South Florida for control.

"If you cut off one way for drugs to get in, they will find another way," Lang said."

Weapons Traffic: Gun Used To Kill U.S. Immigration Agent In Mexico Traced To Texas Man

Gun Used To Kill U.S. Immigration Agent In Mexico Traced To Texas Man: "The gun used to kill U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement Agent Jamie Zapata, 32, in Mexico, has been traced to a Dallas-area man.

U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agents arrested the man and two other suspected gun smugglers in Monday raids in Lancaster, a southern Dallas suburb."

Collateral Damage: Nine killed as gunmen attack bars in Mexican city

Nine killed as gunmen attack bars in Mexican city | Reuters: "At least nine people were killed in three separate attacks on bars in the northern Mexican city of Torreon, the state prosecutors' office said."

Whack-a-mole: President Calderon Criticizes US Coordination in Drug War

Mexico Criticizes US Coordination in Drug War | Americas | English: "Mexican President Felipe Calderon has rejected accusations that a lack of coordination in Mexico is undermining the fight against drug cartels, saying rivalry within U.S. intelligence agencies is to blame.

President Calderon made the comments in an interview published Tuesday in Mexico's El Universal newspaper.

The Mexican leader told the paper the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the Central Intelligence Agency and Immigration and Customs Enforcement do not coordinate with each other on security matters, and said the agencies were rivals.

President Calderon also said U.S. President Barack Obama and his predecessor, George W. Bush, had shown a willingness to help fight Mexico's drug war. But he said cooperation at an institutional level has been notoriously insufficient. He called for the U.S. to cooperate in reducing drug consumption and in putting a stop to the flow of arms to Mexican drug gangs.

In the same interview, Mr. Calderon said leaked diplomatic cables show U.S. diplomats are ignorant about Mexico's security situation and are prone to distort and exaggerate." Feb. 23, 2011

U.S.- Mexico Relations: A Crucial U.S.-Mexico Summit

A look at the issues and dynamics of U.S. - Mexico relations as President Calderon comes to Washington again this week

A Crucial U.S.-Mexico Summit - Council on Foreign Relations: "There is a real possibility that U.S.-Mexico relations could fall into a downward spiral. That would be dire for both nations. Much more than security cooperation hangs in the balance. Mexico is the second largest U.S. export market, the largest source of U.S.-bound migrants, the ancestral home of over thirty million Mexican Americans, and an important partner in multilateral negotiations ranging from world financial markets to climate change. With economies, societies, and communities indelibly intertwined, whether it likes it or not, the United States' future is tied to Mexico's."

Collateral Damage: Mexico's Refugees - A Hidden Cost of the Drugs War

Mexico's Refugees - A Hidden Cost of the Drugs War - NYTimes.com: "In the northern states of Durango, Chihuahua and Tamaulipas, cartels fighting for control of lucrative smuggling routes to the United States have threatened entire towns with ultimatums to flee or be killed.

No official numbers exist, but the Geneva-based Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, or IDMC, estimates 115,000 people have been displaced by Mexico's drug violence.

Another 115,000 or more have fled and slipped into the United States, IDMC says. Some leave and then move back, creating a floating population that is hard to track."

Immigration Crackdown: U.S. Takes Hard Line on Immigrants With Criminal Records

U.S. Takes Hard Line on Immigrants With Criminal Records - NYTimes.com: "

After months of internal wrangling and confusion over an ambitious nationwide program allowing state and local police agencies to identify immigrants with criminal records, Obama administration immigration officials have decided to take a hard line against communities that try to delay or cancel their participation in the program, according to documents made public late Wednesday.

The program, Secure Communities, was initiated in late 2008 and is a centerpiece of the Obama administration’s strategy for enforcing immigration laws. ...

... late last year, the documents show, officials from ICE, as the federal agency is known, reaffirmed its policy that every local jurisdiction in the country would be required to join the program by 2013. The officials developed a plan to isolate and pressure communities that did not want to participate." Feb. 17, 2011

Immigration Crackdown & the Whack-a-mole Drug War: Is More Getting Us Less? Real Solutions for Security our Border

Is More Getting Us Less? Real Solutions for Security our Border | Immigration Policy Center: "Ongoing reports about Mexico’s bloody conflict with organized crime have raised again the question of whether the United States should do more to prevent such violence from “spilling over” into the country. While officials have documented few cases of actual “spill over,” fears of exploding violence in Mexico and concerns about illegal migration are driving a policy debate that is centered on “securing the border.” .... The question is whether such policy actions are effective. ...

Concentrated enforcement at the border has not increased the net effectiveness of counter-drug or immigration-control efforts. Indeed, no matter where you stand on the debate on drugs or unauthorized immigration, nearly everyone agrees on one thing: no specific policy decision to beef up border security in the last 20 to 30 years has significantly reduced the flow of illicit drugs and people into the United States. "

Collateral Damage: From Ciudad Juárez to El Paso, Bridge Spans Many Gaps

An up-close look at some of the people who cross the border on a daily basis. 

From Ciudad Juárez to El Paso, Bridge Spans Many Gaps - NYTimes.com: "The Paso del Norte bridge, which American officials estimate to be the busiest of all cross-border footpaths between Mexico and the United States, used to be just a simple connector between the shopping districts of Ciudad Juárez and El Paso. But these days, it has deeper meaning.

At no time in recent history has the reality gap between the two cities been wider. By some estimates, El Paso is now the safest big city in the United States; Ciudad Juárez is among the most dangerous in the world."

Collateral Damage: Violence in Mexico

Violence in Mexico | Just the Facts: Here’s a rundown of news from Mexico this week. Feb. 25, 2011

Immigration Madness: Vigilante Found Guilty of Murder in Arizona; Could Face Death Penalty

Vigilante Found Guilty of Murder in Arizona; Could Face Death Penalty | Feet in 2 Worlds: "Shawna Forde, the founder of a vigilante border group, could face the death penalty after she was found guilty on Monday of killing 9-year-old Bricenia Flores and her father Raúl Flores in 2009. The jury began deliberations on Tuesday on whether or not to impose capital punishment.

Forde, the 43-year-old leader of Minutemen American Defense (MAD), a splinter faction of the Minutemen – a citizen group that patrols the U.S.-Mexico border looking for undocumented people – had pleaded not guilty to the charges of first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder and home-invasion.

Prosecutors in Pima County accused Forde of being the intellectual author behind the crime, which entailed breaking into the Flores home to steal money. Forde claims to have believed that Raul Flores was involved with drug dealing, and she had planned to use the stolen money to fund her border vigilante group." Feb. 18, 2011

Whack-a-mole: Manufacturing the Drug Threat

A very interesting analysis of the politics of the war on drugs

Transform Drug Policy Foundation Blog: Manufacturing the Drug Threat: "Those who have followed the drugs debate will be only too aware of the way that politicians play on the fears of their citizens in order to maintain the war on drugs, despite the fact that it is their citizens who bear the brunt of its counterproductive effect. The International Relations theory of securitisation describes, better than any framework I’ve seen, how the threat-based process works. Moving to a non-securitised approach is essential to ending the war on drugs.

Securitisation is described as “the move that takes politics beyond the established rules of the game and frames the issue either as a special kind of politics or as above politics” (Buzan et al. 1998: 23). By declaring something a security issue, the speaker entitles himself to enforce and legitimise unusual and extreme measures to fight this threat.

Rita Taureck of the University of Birmingham describes securitisation:

“The main argument of securitisation theory is that security is a speech act, that alone by uttering ‘security’ something is being done. “It is by labelling something a security issue that it becomes one.”(Wæver 2004a,) A securitising actor, by stating that a particular referent object is threatened in its existence, claims a right to extraordinary measures to ensure the referent objects survival. The issue is then moved out of the sphere of normal politics into the realm of emergency politics, where it can be dealt with swiftly and without the normal (democratic) rules and regulations of policy making. For the content of security this means that it has no longer any given meaning but that it can be anything a securitising actor says it is. Security - understood in this way - is a social construction, with the meaning of security dependent on what is done with it.”

Collateral Damage: 28 in Mexico Killed in Attacks

28 in Mexico Killed in Attacks - NYTimes.com: "At least 28 people were killed in attacks over the weekend along Mexico’s border with Texas and on the Pacific Coast, the authorities said Sunday." Feb. 27, 2011

Collateral Damaage: 3 Relatives of Slain Activist Are Killed

In Mexico, 3 Relatives of Slain Activist Are Killed - NYTimes.com: "When Josefina Reyes Salazar was murdered in the border state of Chihuahua last year, not long after she accused the military of playing a role in the killing of her son, protests brought attention to the family’s plight.

But its torment did not end there. On Friday, the police in Chihuahua found the bodies of Ms. Reyes Salazar’s brother, sister and a sister-in-law along a road near Ciudad Juárez, the country’s most violent city.

They had been abducted by armed men on Feb. 7 outside a gas station near Ciudad Juárez, which sits along the border with Texas. A month earlier a house belonging to Ms. Reyes Salazar’s mother had been set ablaze, and last summer, a brother of Ms. Reyes Salazar was killed. 
In all, six members of the family have been killed, one of the more glaring examples of the threat that human rights activists like Ms. Reyes Salazar face in Mexico." Feb. 25, 2011

Whack-a-mole: Drug Raids Across U.S. Net Hundreds Of Suspects

Drug Raids Across U.S. Net Hundreds Of Suspects - NYTimes.com: "

A little more than a week after an American law enforcement agent was shot to death by gunmen suspected of beingdrug traffickers in Mexico, federal authorities struck back Thursday with raids across the United States that rounded up more than 450 people believed to have ties to criminal organizations south of the border.

The authorities said sweeps were conducted in nearly every major American city; involved more than 3,000 federal, state and local law enforcement agents....

the planning for the operation had begun before Mr. Zapata’s shooting, but (a spokesman for the DEA) acknowledged that the United States hoped to show it would not tolerate attacks against its agents. ...

While thousands of Mexican law enforcement agents have been killed in the drug violence that has plagued Mexico since 2007, Mr. Zapata was the first American official to be killed in the line of duty there in more than 25 years. Obama administration officials called the attack a “game-changer,” hinting to Mexico that more needed to be done to quash the cartels." Feb. 24, 2011

Collateral Damage: Suspect Detained in Shooting of U.S. Agent

Mexico - Suspect Detained in Shooting of U.S. Agent - NYTimes.com: "The Mexican Army said Wednesday that it had detained a man suspected in the shooting death of a United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent and the wounding of another on a Mexican highway last week. The detained man was identified as Julián Zapata Espinosa, known as El Piolín, a leader of the Zetas gang in San Luis Potosí. The agents were ambushed and fired on as they drove from San Luis Potosí State to Mexico City. The motive was not clear but speculation has focused on a possible carjacking." Feb. 24, 2011

Globalization: PepsiCo’s Deal With Mexican Farmers Is Good for Business

PepsiCo’s Deal With Mexican Farmers Is Good for Business - NYTimes.com: SAN GABRIEL, Jalisco, Mexico"... some 300 small farmers here no longer sell their corn to middlemen but directly to PepsiCo, which guarantees the price it will pay for their crops upfront. The deal enables the small farmers to secure credit to buy seeds and fertilizers, crop insurance and equipment. ...

PepsiCo’s work with the corn farmers reflects a relatively new approach by corporations trying to maintain a business edge while helping out small communities and farmers. Begun as a pilot project by the foundation affiliated with the company’s Sabritas snack foods division, it is expanding to about 850 farmers to develop a local source of sunflower oil, which the company needs to improve the nutritional quality of its products.

The corn project saved PepsiCo transportation costs because the farms were close to two of its factories, and the use of local farms assured it access to types of corn best suited to its products and processes. “That gives us great leverage because corn prices don’t fluctuate so much, but transportation costs do,” said Pedro Padierna, president of PepsiCo’s operations in Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean.

The social benefits of the corn program are obvious in higher incomes that have improved nutritional and educational standards among the participating farmers"

Collateral Damage: Gunmen in Mexico Knew Victims Were U.S. Customs Agents - NYTimes.com

Gunmen in Mexico Knew Victims Were U.S. Customs Agents - NYTimes.com: "The gunmen who attacked two American law enforcement officials in Mexico on Tuesday, killing one and wounding the other, knew they were firing on foreign officers but proceeded anyway, current and former American officials said Wednesday.

But an important unresolved question is whether the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents were attacked because of their work — more than one Mexican drug gang has expressed interest in killing American officers — or for another reason, like an attempt to steal their dark and presumably armored S.U.V., a vehicle favored by drug gangs." Feb. 16, 2011

Collateral Damage: American Immigration Agent Killed by Gunmen in Mexico

American Immigration Agent Killed by Gunmen in Mexico - NYTimes.com: "Gunmen on a highway in northern Mexico killed an agent with United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement on Tuesday and wounded another, in an attack that signaled the escalating risk for American officials fighting Mexican crime gangs that move drugs and migrants into the United States." Feb. 15, 2011

Feb 13, 2011

Whack-a-mole Drug War - a Mexican Viewpoint: Mexicans Must Face the Truth: We are at War: El Universal, Mexico

Opinion by Jorge Luis Sierra,
El Unversal
translated by 'World Meets Us'

Mexicans Must Face the Truth: We are at War: El Universal, Mexico: "violence in Mexico is approaching the level of a war, as described by the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and its associated protocols.

The first criterion of an armed conflict under international humanitarian law is that the country in question achieves a minimum threshold of armed hostilities involving military rather than police forces. Mexico has surpassed this threshold of intensity and fulfills this first criterion of an armed conflict.

Another criterion is the number of casualties. International regulations distinguish armed conflict from lesser forms of violence like rioting or banditry, because the first are characterized by casualties that exceed 1,000 combat deaths per year. In Mexico, we have had more than 34,000 in four years, placing our country in a state of large-scale armed conflict."

Feb 10, 2011

On vacation

Editor Reed Brundage will be on vacation until February 28.

Immigration Politics - Utah: Sandstrom unveils changes to immigration bill

Another politicians backs off in the face of reality.

Sandstrom unveils changes to immigration bill | The Salt Lake Tribune: "Rep. Stephen Sandstrom unveiled the latest changes to his enforcement-only immigration bill Thursday — the most significant of which gives local police discretion whether to run legal status checks on people detained for minor offenses.

The change came about after local governments balked at the fiscal note on HB70, which estimated the cost of enforcing it at between $5.3 million and $11.3 million. The Orem Republican said by giving police the choice of running legal status checks on those pulled over for Class B or C misdemeanors, it will “significantly lower” the fiscal note."

Immigration Politics - Colorado: Immigration Enforcement Bill Dies in Colorado

Rhetoric runs up against reality. It's called money.

Immigration Enforcement Bill Dies in Colorado - Fox News Latino: "Colorado lawmaker Republican Rep. Randy Baumgardner, main sponsor of the an Arizona-style bill on illegal immigration, will back off the measure because of the cost to taxpayers if it is challenged in court he said on Wednesday.

Baumgardner plans to ask fellow lawmakers to effectively kill the bill."

Mexico drug war an 'insurgency'? US official's gaffe sparks US-Mexico row.

Mexico drug war an 'insurgency'? US official's gaffe sparks US-Mexico row. - CSMonitor.com: "Leaking secret US documents, it seems, is not the only way to peer behind the polished veneer of official diplomatic statements and scripted press conferences.

Another way is simply to keep an ear open for off-the-cuff remarks, such as those made this week by US Undersecretary of the Army Joseph Westphal. Mr. Westphal likened Mexico's drug war to an "insurgency" and suggested the US might need to send troops to Mexico and to prevent organized crime groups from taking over the country.

Mexico has condemned the remarks, which Westphal has retracted and apologized for, but they echo September comments from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who also compared Mexico's trafficking-threat to an "insurgency." President Obama immediately backed away from Mrs. Clinton's comparison then, just as Westphal immediately labeled his own words."

¡Viva Mexico!: The many faces of Mexico

BBC News - World News America - The many faces of Mexico: "With a population of more than 110 million people, Mexico is a country teeming with both culture and tradition. But how do you capture that rich heritage and bring it to the world?
In this First Person account, photographer Ariel Carolomagno explains how he is using the nation's diverse faces to do just that."

Weapons Traffic: Mexico's Gun Supply and the 90 Percent Myth

Mexico's Gun Supply and the 90 Percent Myth | STRATFOR: "This argument pertaining to guns (coming from the U.S.) has been adopted by many politicians and government officials in the United States in recent years. It has now become quite common to hear U.S. officials confidently assert that 90 percent of the weapons used by the Mexican drug cartels come from the United States.

However, a close examination of the dynamics of the cartel wars in Mexico — and of how the oft-echoed 90 percent number was reached — clearly demonstrates that the number is more political rhetoric than empirical fact."

Immigration Politics: As lawmakers look at E-Verify, businesses fear expansion of immigration program

As lawmakers look at E-Verify, businesses fear expansion of immigration program: "The E-Verify program has long been championed by Rep. Elton Gallegly (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee's immigration panel, which will hold a hearing on it Thursday.

Many business owners believe that Gallegly and other House Republicans want to make E-Verify, currently a voluntary program for companies, mandatory. Critics of such a move, many of them farmers, warn that it could destabilize the agricultural economy, which is heavily dependent on undocumented immigrants, and jeopardize millions of jobs held by American citizens that are upstream and downstream of farm labor." Washington Post

Immigration Politics - Tennessee: Haslam plans broad-based immigration legislation

Haslam plans broad-based immigration legislation | Chattanooga Times Free Press: "NASHVILLE -- Gov. Bill Haslam said Wednesday he is working with Republican legislative leaders to develop a broad-based bill dealing with illegal immigration.

One piece would be an Arizona-style law allowing state and local police to enforce federal immigration laws.

Another would require the written portion of driver's license exams be given in English unless the person is in the U.S. legally through a work or student visa.

The law would require businesses to use the federal E-Verify program in hiring and make the state ensure illegal immigrants cannot access a number of state services."

Immigration Politics - Utah: Illegal immigration | Editorial

Illegal immigration | The Salt Lake Tribune: "It turns out that dragooning local police officers into the business of checking everyone’s citizenship when they are stopped for something else could cost local governments in Utah a lot of money. Between $5.3 million and $11.3 million in the first year, according to the Legislative Fiscal Analyst.

That shouldn’t be surprising. It takes time and costs money to detain people and verify information. Still, it apparently brought up short the supporters of Rep. Stephen Sandstrom’s bill to ramp up enforcement of immigration laws by local authorities. ... 

So aside from xenophobia, fear of the other, terror of terrorism and unfocused anger about high unemployment, Utahns should ask themselves why anyone should give Sandstrom’s bill any attention."

Immigration Politics - Indiana: Senate panel passes bill to crack down on illegal immigration

Senate panel passes bill to crack down on illegal immigration | The Indianapolis Star | indystar.com: "a Senate committee late Wednesday approved a bill that would require state and local police to enforce federal immigration laws.

Those who back Senate Bill 590, which is modeled on a controversial Arizona law, argued that the federal government has failed to do its job, leaving the nation vulnerable to terrorists and criminals and forcing states to spend millions of tax dollars to educate illegal immigrants and provide them with health care and other services."

Whack-a-mole: U.S. turns up the heat on Colombian drug gangs

Those moles are everywhere!

U.S. turns up the heat on Colombian drug gangs | Reuters: "U.S. authorities are increasing efforts to crack down on criminal gangs in Colombia that are running cocaine to Mexican drug kingpins who are at war with Mexico's security forces."

Feb 9, 2011

Collateral Damage: Mexico's Drug War Keeps Tourists From Monarchs

Mexico's Drug War Keeps Tourists From Monarchs : NPR: "This is the time of year when millions of monarch butterflies gather in several forests in (Michoacan) in central Mexico. Local officials have tried to market the Monarch butterflies migration as a tourist attraction but their winter reserve happens to be in a state hard hit by Mexico's drug war."

Immigration Politics and the Border Crackdown: US border spiraling out of control? Hardly, top border official says.

US border spiraling out of control? Hardly, top border official says. - CSMonitor.com: "The Obama administration is going on the offensive to counter public perception that the Southwest border is out of control.

By several important measures, the US-Mexico border is becoming significantly more secure, not less, said US Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Alan Bersin at a news conference here Tuesday.

Border patrol arrests dropped from 616,000 to 212,000 between 2000 and 2010, and the number of border patrol agents on the Southwest frontier– 20,700 – is more than double what it was in 2004, he said. Moreover, Phoenix, San Diego, and El Paso, Texas, are among the safest cities in the country, he added.

The event marked an attempt to recast the narrative that dominates discussions about the border here, where fears about rampant illegal immigration and Mexico's drug war spilling into the US loom large....

On Tuesday, Mr. Bersin was essentially trying to offer the Obama administration's version of setting the record straight – a difficult proposition, experts say.

“Impressions are often not founded in fact, so I’m not sure that just with facts the federal government can make change,” says David Shirk, director of the Trans-Border Institute at the University of San Diego. “I think it’s going to come down to changing the discourse on all sides of this debate.”"

Whack-a-mole: Mexico's Drug Cartels: Musical Chairs or Atomization?

*** An interesting analysis of possible the results of President Calderon's drug war taking out some major capos in the last year. The moles are either getting younger - or there are more of them. 

WPR Article | Mexico's Drug Cartels: Musical Chairs or Atomization?: "The past 12 months in Mexico have been marked by a more significant upsurge of previously unknown groups than at any point in recent history. Among the new gangs: the Resistance, the New Generation Jalisco Cartel, the Independent Cartel of Acapulco and the Pacific South Cartel.

And while these bands were virtually unknown on a national scale a year ago, they are already capable of serious mayhem.

There are two possible explanations for the rise of the new blood: In the first, they represent the replacement of fallen heavyweights, essentially the younger generation rising up to replace the older. ...

Alternatively, the increased turmoil may indicate the opening of a very different stage for Mexico's drug trade. .... the emergence of newer, smaller gangs, especially if it were to continue in months and years to come, offers evidence of the possible atomization of the Mexican drug trade. That would not be a new round of musical chairs, but rather a brand new game." World Politics Review

Whack-a-mole: Mexican drug war draws Guatemalan army back to jungles where it fought civil war

Mexican drug war draws Guatemalan army back to jungles where it fought civil war: "IN COBAN, GUATEMALA The once-fearsome Guatemalan army has returned to the jungles where it battled Marxist guerrillas a generation ago, this time to hunt shadowy Mexican drug traffickers fighting for control of strategic smuggling routes to the United States.

So serious is the perceived threat to national security that Guatemalan President Alvaro Colom has extended "a state of siege" and martial law in his country's Alta Verapaz province, where authorities say the soldiers are beating back an invasion by the Mexican cartel known as the Zetas." Washington Post

Collateral Damage: Brutal drug war spreads to Mexico's second city

Brutal drug war spreads to Mexico's second city - World news - Americas - msnbc.com: "Cartel hitmen are killing rivals and terrifying residents across Mexico's second city Guadalajara as it prepares to host the Pan American Games in a deepening of the country's drugs war.

Gunmen firing automatic weapons torched vehicles and blockaded roads in the once-peaceful city this month, the most brazen act so far and an echo of the violence ravaging Mexico's northern border.
Guadalajara is the capital of the western state of Jalisco, home to Mexico's mariachi music and tequila, and was for long spared the beheadings and drive-by shootings tainting other areas of the country."

Immigration Madness: Alabama senator says 'empty clip' remark not violent

As for the use of war metaphors, see our page A Disastrous Metaphor: Waging Domestic War

Alabama senator says 'empty clip' remark not violent: "An Alabama legislator said it's time to 'empty the clip' when addressing illegal immigration, but he says he wasn't advocating violence.

Others found his remarks frightening after a deadly Arizona rampage.

Sen. Scott Beason said Tuesday he used the phrase in a weekend speech to the Cullman County Republican Club, but not in the sense of firing all the ammunition in a weapon. He said he meant that it will take a wide array of government action to solve illegal immigration and other problems."

Immigration Politcs: Indiana lawmakers to debate Arizona-like immigration reform

Illegal Immigration: Indiana lawmakers to debate Arizona-like immigration reform - fox59.com: "The immigration debate will take center stage Wednesday morning at the Statehouse. Lawmakers will hear a proposal to create an Arizona-style crackdown on illegal immigration here in Indiana.

The concept of the bill includes police asking for proof of citizenship or immigration if they have reasonable suspicion a person is here illegally, official state documents would be issued in English only and any employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants would face serious punishment."

Immigration Politics: Virginia House passes several bills fighting illegal immigration

Virginia House passes several bills fighting illegal immigration: "Virginia's House of Delegates gave final approval Tuesday to a package of bills designed to crack down on illegal immigration, including a measure based on Prince William County's policy that would require all state and local law enforcement officials to inquire of the immigration status of any person they arrest." Washington Post

Immigration Politics: Bill Denying Birthright Citizenship in Arizona Will Come to a Vote Next Week

Since this politician expects to lose the vote, this appears to be pure politcal grandstanding.

Bill Denying Birthright Citizenship in Arizona Will Come to a Committee Vote Next Week - Fox News Latino: "An Arizona bill that would put a stop to automatic U.S. citizenship for children of illegal immigrants could come to a committee vote next week, according to an Arizona lawmaker intent on pushing the legislation forward, even if it the measure is defeated.

Republican Sen. Ron Gould said Tuesday he called off a previously expected vote by the Senate Judiciary Committee because he believed the bill would have lost. Gould, of Lake Havasu City, now says he plans to seek a vote Monday so voters will know which lawmakers support and oppose the measure."

Globalization: Mexican Farmers Oppose Latin America Trade Deals

Latin American Herald Tribune - Mexican Farmers Oppose Latin America Trade Deals: "The main associations representing Mexican farmers, ranchers and local agricultural officials expressed their “total rejection” on Tuesday of proposed trade pacts with Brazil, Colombia and Peru.

“The Mexican agro-food industry” opposes the trade deals, the groups said in statement published in the press.

The government has expressed its willingness to discuss a possible “free-trade” treaty with Peru, a similar pact with Brazil and the expansion of the existing agreement with Colombia."

Immigration Politics:Whispers of Immigration Reform on Capitol Hill

Whispers of Immigration Reform on Capitol Hill | Feet in 2 Worlds · Immigration news · Immigration reform · Immigrant communities: "Lindsey Graham is back on the immigration reform wagon, according to Politico. The Republican senator from South Carolina has reportedly made up with New York Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer, after Graham soured the relationship by walking out on talks last spring.

Their talks are in their “infant stages,” but the senators are reportedly reaching out to a bipartisan group, including Republican Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, who voted to end debate on the DREAM Act in December."

Immigration Reality: Illegal Immigrant Students Worry After Dream Act Loss

Illegal Immigrant Students Worry After Dream Act Loss - NYTimes.com: "(It was) heady times for thousands of immigrant students who declared their illegal status during a nationwide campaign for a bill in Congress (the DREAM Act) that would have put them on a path to legal residence. In December that bill, known as the Dream Act, passed the House, then failed in the Senate.

That leaves students ... who might have benefited from the bill — an estimated 1.2 million nationwide — in a legal twilight."

Collateral Damage: Mexico's wealthiest city struggles with new violence

 AFP: Mexico's wealthiest city struggles with new violence: "Inhabitants of Mexico's wealthiest city of Monterrey once feared Mexico City for its notorious crime, but some have now moved there to escape an explosion of violence at home.

Grenade attacks on police, bystanders killed in shootouts, and 'narcoblockades' -- when drug gang members steal cars to block roads -- shook the industrial hub and its northern state of Nuevo Leon last year, where total murders rose 300 percent to 828, with more than 500 blamed on drug violence.
Violence hit new levels this January, when 20 police were killed."

Mexican politics: Strange bedfellows in Mexico's election season - latimes.com

Switching political sides has a long history in Mexico.

Mexico elections: Strange bedfellows in Mexico's election season - latimes.com: "In another case of topsy-turvy political allegiances in Mexico, the conservative party of President Felipe Calderon on Monday appeared to have won the governorship of the state of Baja California Sur with a candidate who once was a former foe from the main leftist party.

Marcos Covarrubias, who defected from the leftist party and ran as a candidate of the right-wing National Action Party, or PAN, won by six percentage points over his nearest competitor, according to preliminary results of Sunday's balloting, with votes from all polling places tallied."

Whack-a-mole and Collateral Damage: Trans-Border Institute Releases Report on Drug Violence in Mexico « Justice in Mexico

Trans-Border Institute Releases Report on Drug Violence in Mexico « Justice in Mexico: "Drawing on new data released by the Mexican government, the Trans-Border Institute issued a report today on drug violence in Mexico. The report, titled Drug Violence in Mexico: Data and Analysis Through 2010, was authored by Viridiana Ríos and David Shirk and builds on a previous study released one year earlier. The new study reviews available data and analyzes the factors that contributed to extreme levels of violence in Mexico through 2010, the worst year on record."

Whack-a-mole and Crackdown on Migrants: U.S., Mexico police unite to fight border crime

U.S., Mexico police unite to fight border crime: "Top Homeland Security officials said Tuesday that a little-known coalition of U.S. and Mexican police agencies has played a major part in cracking down on smuggling and illegal immigration along the Arizona-Mexico border.

The joint operation between the U.S. Border Patrol, Mexican federal police and about 60 U.S. state, federal, tribal and local police agencies has had a dramatic success in making drug seizures and arresting undocumented immigrants, said Alan Bersin, director of Customs and Border Protection.

Since the Alliance to Combat Transnational Threats launched quietly in September 2009 with coordinated training, intelligence-sharing and patrols, the program has resulted in the arrest of 270,000 illegal border crossers, the seizure of 1.6 million pounds of marijuana and the recovery of $13 million in cash in the border's Tucson Sector." Arizona Republic

Collateral Damage: Struggles of Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, Breed New Kind of Family

 Struggles of Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, Breed New Kind of Family - NYTimes.com: "CIUDAD JUÁREZ, Mexico — Telma Pedro Córdoba could have left this blood- and bullet-marked city when she lost her husband to a drive-by shooting in 2009, or when an injury kept her mother from factory work, or when gunmen killed a neighbor in front of a friend’s 3-year-old son a few months ago.

Instead, she has stayed. Her tiny one-bedroom home ... is shared with her mother, grandmother, sister, younger brother and two children. In local slang, unlike their neighbors whose abandoned homes are now stripped of even windows, they have become a “familia anclada,” a family anchored to Ciudad Juárez.

Not long ago, the phrase hardly existed here in this city of overnight truck drivers and baby-faced factory workers from afar. But over the past several years, the forces of drug violence and recession have reshaped both the city’s character — from loose and busy to tight-knit and cautious — and its demographics."

Immigration Reality: Mexico army rescues 44 kidnapped CentAm migrants

Mexico army rescues 44 kidnapped CentAm migrants: "Mexico's Defense Department says soldiers rescued 44 Guatemalan migrants who had been locked up by kidnappers in a house in the northern city of Reynosa." AP/Washington Post

Collateral Damage: Mexico Must Implement Justice System Reforms

Monika Kalra Varma: Mexico Must Implement Justice System Reforms: "The United States' costly aid efforts will be greatly hampered unless the Calderón administration follows through with its international commitments to protect and promote human rights and the rule of law. Secretary Clinton's statements are encouraging, but Merida's human rights requirements must now be actively enforced. Ensuring that President Calderón removes all cases of human rights abuses against civilians from military jurisdiction is a necessary first step. No amount of money will make Mexico safe until institutional structures are in place to guarantee that there is civilian control over the military and that abuses of process and power are properly investigated and sanctioned." Huffington Post

Collatetral Damage: 3 relatives of murdered Mexico activist disappear

 3 relatives of murdered Mexico activist disappear: "CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico -- Mexican authorities say they are investigating the disappearance of three relatives of a human-rights activist who was assassinated last year in the Juarez valley along the U.S. border with Texas.

Chihuahua state prosecutors spokesman Arturo Sandoval says the office received a complaint that three people related to Josefina Reyes were forced from their car Monday southeast of the border city of Ciudad Juarez." AP/Washington Post

Weapons Traffic: House Democrats upset with delay on gun proposal along southern border - TheHill.com

House Democrats upset with delay on gun proposal along southern border - TheHill.com: "House Democrats are upset with the White House for delaying new reporting requirements for firearm dealers along the Mexico border.

Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.) is spearheading an effort to require border-state gun dealers to report bulk purchases of assault weapons made over short windows of time — an emergency measure requested by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) in December. "

Immigration Crackdown: E-Verify Strengths, Weaknesses, and Proposals for Reform

A report by the Migration Policy Institute on the federal electronic employee verification system.

E-Verify Strengths, Weaknesses, and Proposals for Reform

Whack-a-mole: The Mexican Drug War and the Thirty Years’ War

*** A very different and interesting point of view on the Mexican cartels as mercenary armies

Bellum » The Mexican Drug War and the Thirty Years’ War: " During the Thirty Years’ War, generals ... raised armies in the thousands of men. (The majority) were mercenaries .... Sometimes these armies switched sides wholesale as their generals were lured away by greater pay. They sustained themselves by seizing towns and villages, collecting “contributions” from the residents.

Today, the cartels down in Mexico operate in a similar manner. ... 

Needless to say, the analogy only goes so far. The Mexican government is not the degenerate Holy Roman Empire of the 17th-century. But the model fits better than seeing the Mexican conflict as a criminal enterprise. What appears to be happening is competition between armies of mercenaries that operate the way any army would operate."

Whack-a-mole: Mexico criticizes US defence official for calling drug war 'insurgency,' gets apology

A mole whacker gets his hand slapped. Having spoken the prohibited word, "insurgency," he now has to say it is "not" an insurgency.

The Canadian Press: Mexico criticizes US defence official for calling drug war 'insurgency,' gets apology: "The Mexican government has condemned comments by U.S. Undersecretary of the Army Joseph Westphal that characterize drug gang violence in Mexico as a 'form of insurgency.' Westphal has retracted and apologized for his remarks."

Collateral Damage: US teen killed in Juárez puts spotlight on Mexico's unsolved murders

US teen killed in Juárez puts spotlight on Mexico's unsolved murders - CSMonitor.com: "At least one US citizen was among three teenagers fatally shot this weekend in the violent border city of Juárez, Mexican authorities confirmed today, in the latest case of Americans caught up in Mexico's drug war.

... Despite reports that two of the teenagers were Americans, Chihuahua state prosecutors' spokesman Carlos Gonzalez says only 15-year-old Juan Carlos Echeverri was a US citizen. He and 16-year-old Carlos Mario Gonzalez Bermudez both lived in Juárez and at various times commuted to El Paso to attend the all-boys Catholic Cathedral High School. The third teenager was Cesar Yalin Miramontes Jimenez, 17.

Feb 8, 2011

Emergency Alert: Relatives of Murdered Activist Kidnapped in Valle de Juárez

Relatives of Josefina Reyes, a prominent anti-militarization activist in Valle de Juárez who was assassinated last were kidnapped Feb. 7. Members of peace and justice organizations in the region have issued statements saying they fear for their lives and are calling on everyone to distribute the following report and write letters to the authorities demanding the safe release of Malena Reyes, Elías Reyes--brother and sister of Josefina--and Luisa Ornelas Soto, Elias' wife.

The following is a translation of the alert:

"Today in the town of Reforma in the municipality of Guadalupe, Valle de Juárez, Malena Reyes, Elías Reyes and his wife were taken from their pick-up truck and kidnapped and we fear for their lives.

Malena and Elías are siblings of the activist Josefina Reyes who was threatened for her activities against militarization and later assassinated in Valle de Juárez (see "Background" below). Ruben Reyes, another brother of Josefina, was also assassinated several months ago. It should be noted that the town where the kidnapping took place is located in a zone controlled by the Mexican military.

We must be alert to see what we can do to make sure they are rescued alive. For now, it is urgent to get the word out, denounce the kidnapping and demand of the authorities the immediate appearance of Malena, Elias and his wife alive.

Please distribute this message." 


The recent forced disappearances take place in the context of threats and attacks against the Reyes family since several years ago when human rights defender, Josefina Reyes, became an outspoken critic of the state of impunity in Chihuahua and military abuses. She was assassinated on January 3, 2010. On August 18, 2010 her brother, Ruben Reyes, was also assassinated. Both cases remain unsolved.

Josefina was recognized for her brave work in condemning military abuses and impunity following the abduction of her son by army forces and the assassination of another son in the context of the Mexican military's Operation Chihuahua ordered by President Felipe Calderon. She was among the first to speak out against gender-based crimes against women in the drug war and militarization of the region, and called for the immediate withdrawal of the army. 

Following her assassination, human rights and anti-militarization organizations received anonymous calls warning them not to attend the funeral and homage. Most of them risked their lives by going anyway, where they carried on Josefina's struggle against the army presence under Calderon's US-supported drug war (see video). 

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint program of the World Organization Against Torture and the International Federation of Human Rights, warned at the time  that it feared that the assassination was motivated by Reyes' protests of military abuses and that more violence could follow. The organization reported that Reyes' house had been raided three times by the army before the assassination.

The CIP Americas Program joins numerous human rights organizations in demanding the safe release of the three individuals abducted. We also demand full investigations into the assassination of Josefina Reyes, her brother and other human rights defenders murdered or missing in Mexico in the course of their work.

Please write to the following addresses to demand that all efforts be made for the safe return of Malena Reyes, Elías Reyes and Luisa Ornelas and that these cases and others be fully investigated and prosecuted.
Write to:

President Felipe de Jesús Calderón Hinojosa, Residencia Oficial de los Pinos, Casa Miguel Alemán, Col. San Miguel Chapultepec, C.P. 11850, México DF. Tel.: + 52 55 27891100 FAX: + 52 55 52772376; + 52 55 27891113. E-mail: felipe.calderon@presidencia.gob.mx

Lic. Arturo Chávez Chávez, Procurador General de la República, Procuraduría General de la República, Av. Paseo de la Reforma nº 211-213, Col. Cuauhtémoc, Del. Cuauhtémoc, México D.F., C.P. 06500, México . Fax: +52 55 5346 0908. Email: ofproc@pgr.gob.mx

• Dr. Raúl Plascencia Villanueva, Presidente de la Comisión Nacional de Derechos Humanos. Fax: + 52 55 36680767 E-mail: correo@cndh.org.mx

• Comisión de Derechos Humanos del Estado de Chihuahua, Fax: +52 614 410 0828

• Permanent Mission of Mexico of the United Nations in Geneva 16, Avenue du Budé. 1202, Geneva, Case postale 433. FAX: + 41 22 748 07 08 E-mail: mission.mexico@ties.itu.int 

immigration Politics - Montana: lawmaker challenges citizenship of U.S.-born babies

Heights lawmaker challenges citizenship of U.S.-born babies: "A Billings Heights lawmaker would deny state citizenship to U.S.-born babies of illegal immigrants under a bill introduced Monday in Helena.
Republican Rep. James Knox said his bill is step toward reforming U.S. immigration laws by denying state citizenship and all included privileges to U.S.-born babies of illegal immigrants."

Whack-a-mole: Army official suggests U.S. troops might be needed in Mexico

Army official suggests U.S. troops might be needed in Mexico | The Salt Lake Tribune: "Fretting over a scenario in which armed U.S. soldiers could be called to the border — or even over it — to hold back lawlessness and violence, Undersecretary of the Army Joseph Westphal invoked a contentious word to describe Mexico’s problem with drug cartels:

He called it an “insurgency.”

...in response to a student’s question about strategic blind spots in U.S. foreign policy, Westphal (said), “One of them in particular for me is Latin America and in particular Mexico,” he said. “As all of you know, there is a form of insurgency in Mexico with the drug cartels that’s right on our border.”

“This isn’t just about drugs and about illegal immigrants,” he said. “This is about, potentially, a takeover of a government by individuals who are corrupt.”

Westfall — who said he was expressing a personal opinion, but one he had shared with the White House — said he didn’t want to ever see a situation in which “armed and fighting” American soldiers are sent to combat an insurgency “on our border, in violation of our Constitution, or to have to send them across the border.”"

Feb 7, 2011

Collateral Damage: 17 killed in Mexico drug violence

AFP: 17 killed in Mexico drug violence: "At least 17 people were killed in drug-related violence in northern Mexico this weekend, nine of them in restive Ciudad Juarez, the state attorney general's office said."

Immigration Madness: Trial of anti-illegal immigration activist accused in killings spotlights tense climate along border

Trial of anti-illegal immigration activist accused in killings spotlights tense climate along border: "... 9-year-old Brisenia Flores and her father, Raul, were shot to death in their home, .... Their attackers were allegedly affiliated with an militia group opposed to illegal immigration that was conducting raids to steal money.

The Flores case is now being tried in Tucson, and immigrant rights activists contend that it deserves more attention. The reason why: The raid was allegedly organized by Shawna Forde, 43, head of a fringe border patrol group called Minutemen American Defense." Washington Post

Whack-a-mole: Mexico’s Drug Trafficking Organizations: Source and Scope of the Rising Violence

Here, for the 112th Congress, is the Congressional Research Service's analysis of the drug war in Mexico, provided to Congress. It is pretty much a recounting of facts about the cartels, the violence and the drug war strategy with no discussion of other options. It notes criticisms of Mexico's capacity to achieve success, given its weaknesses in police and justice institutions and draws the conclusion quoted below.  

Mexico’s Drug Trafficking Organizations: Source and Scope of the Rising Violence

"It may take years or decades to build effective, efficient legal institutions in Mexico that resist threats and bribery. Yet policy analysts believe these institutions are necessary before the DTOs can be reduced from a national security threat to a law and order problem."

Mexican Politics: Ruling Mexican party wins Baja California Sur vote

Ruling Mexican party wins Baja California Sur vote: "The conservative party of President Felipe Calderon has defeated Mexico's leading leftist party for the governorship of Baja California Sur state.

A preliminary count of the ballots released Monday shows National Action Party candidate Marcos Covarrubias won 40 percent of the vote, compared to 33 percent for Ricardo Barroso of the Institutional Revolutionary Party. Luis Amando Diaz of the leftist Democratic Revolution Party had 21 percent."

Whack-a-mole: Virtual Warfare Escalates on U.S.-Mexico Border

A disturbing story

Virtual Warfare Escalates on U.S.-Mexico Border - IPS ipsnews.net: "In the quiet desert community of Nomirage, located just 20 kilometres east of San Diego, the sounds of impending war creep over the silent landscape.

Armed with a 100-million-dollar budget and over 1,000 acres of desert space, Brandon Webb, ex-Navy Seal and chief executive officer of the San Diego-based firm Wind Zero Inc., is forging ahead with plans for a law-enforcement and military-training facility, which, once completed, will be capable of firing a whopping 57,000 bullets on an average day.

According to Bill Conroy, a correspondent at Narco News specialising in U.S.-Mexico border issues, the Imperial County Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 in favour of the proposed garrison in late December, despite strong opposition from community groups."

Whack-a-mole drug war: Security developments in Mexico, Jan 31-Feb 6 - AlertNet

FACTBOX-Security developments in Mexico, Jan 31-Feb 6 - AlertNet: "Following are selected incidents that took place during the past week in Mexico's escalating war on powerful drug cartels." Reuters

Globalization: Mexico, cradle of corn finds its noble grain under assault

Mexico, cradle of corn, finds its noble grain under assault - MiamiHerald.com: "Yank the husks off ears of corn grown in the mountains of southern Mexico, and you may find kernels that are red, yellow, white, blue, black or even variegated.

It's only one measure of the diversity of the 60 or so native varieties of corn in Mexico. Another is the unusual adaptation of some varieties to drought, high heat, altitude or strong winds. Plant specialists describe the native varieties of corn in Mexico as a genetic trove that might prove valuable should extreme weather associated with global warming get out of hand. Corn, one of the most widely grown grains in the world, is a key component of the global food supply.

But experts say Mexico's native varieties are themselves under peril - from economics and genetic contamination - potentially depriving humans of a crucial resource.

"With climate change," said Aldo Gonzalez, an indigenous Zapotec engineer with long, flowing black hair who's at the forefront of protecting native varieties, "new diseases could occur, and the only place in the world where we can look for existing varieties that might be resistant is in Mexico. These varieties of corn might at some point save humanity."

Corn is not only a crucial crop in Mexico but also a symbol in a nation that's the birthplace of the grain. Maize likely originated from a grasslike, tasseled plant, teosinte, in southern Mexico. Scientists say humans domesticated corn 7,000 to 10,000 years ago."

Collateral Damage: Police find remains of 5 men, 13 others killed in northern Mexico

Police find remains of 5 men, 13 others killed in northern Mexico - CNN.com

Feb 6, 2011

Immigration Reality vs. Politics: Case for reform: New studies explain why state-based immigration laws aren't the answer | Editorial

This Houston Chronicle editorial lays out the realities - as documented by the 2010 census and other recent studies - of Hispanic immigrants (illegal as well as legal) being an integral part of the U.S. population, economy and politics and, thus, not something to be dealt with by punitive state laws motivated by distorting fears and demagoguery.

Case for reform: New studies explain why state-based immigration laws aren't the answer | Editorial | Chron.com - Houston Chronicle "National immigration legislation, held hostage by contentious partisan politics for the past decade, seems farther than ever from enactment. Yet new Census figures and studies by several nonprofit groups indicate it is the necessary alternative to piecemeal local and state initiatives."

Feb 5, 2011

¡Viva Mexico!: Agave Sweetens Economic Prospects of Indigenous Women

Indigenous Otomi women run a green business.

MEXICO: Agave Sweetens Economic Prospects of Indigenous Women - IPS ipsnews.net: "Hortencia Rómulo is one of the founders of the cooperative Milpa de Maguey Tierno de la Mujer, made up of 22 women and one man who harvest this spiny-leaved (maguey agave) plant in the community of San Andrés Daboxtha from a 73-hectare field, located about 120 kilometres northeast of Mexico City.

The pulque agave products have become the leading source of revenue for the Otomí indigenous peoples in the central Mexican state of Hidalgo,"

Feb 4, 2011

Collateral Damage: UN Panel Says Kids Getting Hurt in Mexico’s War on Drugs

Latin American Herald Tribune - UN Panel Says Kids Getting Hurt in Mexico’s War on Drugs: "The U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child expressed “great concern” Friday over the 1,000 minors killed over the past four years in connection with the Mexican military’s war on drug cartels and organized crime.

In a report on Mexico, which took into account a presentation from the Mexican government, the committee also denounced violations of children’s rights and a “lack of investigation of crimes perpetrated by military personnel.”

The members of the committee – part of the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights – also expressed concern that Mexico could not provide information on the use of minors by non-governmental armed groups.

According to the report, Mexico has “not undertaken measures to prevent the recruitment of children by non-state groups,” including paramilitary groups, organized crime groups and security companies."

Collateral Damage: Mexico reporter's US asylum case pushed to 2012

Mexico reporter's US asylum case pushed to 2012 | Seattle Times Newspaper: "A high-profile U.S. asylum case for a journalist from Mexico who fled across the border after saying he received death threats due to his critical coverage of the Mexican military during the bloody drug war has been delayed for 15 months, his attorney said Friday.

Emilio Gutierrez Soto spent about seven hours pleading his case to Immigration Judge Robert Hough in El Paso last month, but the hearing ended without all the evidence being presented. It had been set to resume Friday, but Gutierrez's lawyer, Carlos Spector, asked that it be rescheduled since he had been called to testify as an expert witness in another case in federal court.

Spector said through his staff that the hearing won't (sic.: will) now be allowed to continue until May 9, 2012. No reason was given for such a lengthy delay, though Spector's office believes it could be that U.S. authorities hope Mexico's brutal cycle of drug violence will have calmed somewhat by then."

Weapons Traffic: A.T.F. Proposal on Reporting Border Gun Sales Is Denied

A.T.F. Proposal on Reporting Border Gun Sales Is Denied - NYTimes.com: "The Obama administration on Friday rejected a request for an emergency rule requiring gun dealers along the Mexican border to report bulk sales of assault rifles, a proposal intended to make it harder for drug cartels to smuggle weapons.

The White House told the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives that gunrunning to Mexico was a continuing problem, rather than the kind of fast-moving emergency that justified an exception to the normal process for reviewing proposed regulations.

Still, the administration said, the time elapsed since the bureau published its request for the emergency rule on Dec. 17 would count toward the 60-day public comment period required by normal procedures. That means the bureau might still be able to impose the rule by late March."

Immigration Crackdown: Report: U.S. Immigration Enforcement Program Leading to Deportation of Low Level Offenders

Here is a more detailed look at the report issued this week by the Migration Policy Institute on the 287(g) program. It outlines how the program is implemented in three different ways and that local officials, not federal ones, decided which way to implement it. It is used in some jurisdictions, mostly in the southeast U.S., as a broad dragnet to find all undocumented immigrants, or it is used to target those with significant criminal records, which is the federal government's expressed goal. The feds (Immigraton and Customs Enforcement, ICE) let the local police decide which way they use their deputy powers. 

Report: U.S. Immigration Enforcement Program Leading to Deportation of Low Level Offenders | Feet in 2 Worlds: "A federal program that is supposed to target serious criminals often leads to the deportation of low level offenders, according to a report issued by the Migration Policy Institute (MPI) this week.

The 287(g) program lets local and state officers detain immigrants who are arrested for non-immigration offenses and transfer them to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). According to the agency’s web site, “ICE has 287(g) agreements with 71 law enforcement agencies in 25 states.”

The authors of the report discovered that despite public statements by the Obama administration that the program is primarily targeted at identifying and removing people the federal government has identified as its top enforcement priorities – those who represent security threats, have committed serious crimes, or have accumulated multiple immigration violations – about half of 287(g) activity involves mainly undocumented immigrants arrested for misdemeanors or traffic offenses."

Whack-a-mole: Mexican prisons failing to keep drug traffickers on the inside

Mexican prisons failing to keep drug traffickers on the inside: "NUEVO LAREDO, MEXICO - Just as Mexican authorities are struggling to put drug traffickers in prison, Mexican prisons are struggling to keep them there. ...

The rash of escapes comes as the Mexican government and its American advisers are engaged in a vast overhaul of the country's federal penal system. But those reforms have done little to improve security inMexico's much larger state-level prison system.

In all, about 350 inmates escaped from prisons there in 2010, according to Mexican media tallies, and only one has been recaptured. ...  

Prison experts say a big reason for the security breakdown is that the federal government launched its offensive against the drug mafias before it developed a penal system capable of incarcerating their members." Washington Post

Whack-a-mole: Is Mexico at war? Conflict prompts linguistic debate

Is Mexico at war? Conflict prompts linguistic debate - MiamiHerald.com: "As gangsters demonstrate an ample repertoire of fighting skills, it is little wonder that four years into President Felipe Calderon's battle against organized crime, many Mexicans aren't sure what to call the turmoil in their country. Is Mexico at war? Does it face a criminal insurgency? Or is it locked in sustained gangland violence? ...

The linguistic debate came further to the fore when a German think tank, the Heidelberg Institute for International Conflict Research, issued its 19th annual rankings of worldwide conflict last month, elevating the status of the conflict in Mexico from "crisis" to "war," putting it alongside Afghanistan, Sudan, Iraq and Somalia.

"Clashes, especially between security forces and drug gang members, rose dramatically in comparison to past years, adding up to several hundred incidents all over the country," the institute said, explaining that it believed Mexico's conflict had "escalated to a full scale war.

"It is a generalized combat against powerful criminals. It's not exactly a war, because that would imply there are two armies," said Jorge Chabat, an expert on security issues at the Center for Research and Teaching on Economics. ... "With a war, you either win or lose. And with this one, how are we going to win it?" he asked. 

... "Drug trafficking organizations in Mexico have gone way beyond organized crime, and should be considered as hybrids between a mafia, insurgency, and terrorist group based solely on the tactics they're using," said Sylvia Longmire, an analyst and frequent writer on Mexico's internal conflict.

"You definitely have a war on your hands because the cartels - while not wanting to take direct control of the state apparatus - want to control it enough through intimidation of state institutions to allow them to operate as a parallel society," she said

Immigration Reality: The Earnings and Social Security Contributions of Documented and Undocumented Mexican Immigrants

The Earnings and Social Security Contributions of Documented and Undocumented Mexican Immigrants - Brookings Institution: "Using information supplied by immigrants interviewed by the Mexican Migration Project (MMP) we analyze the social security coverage of jobs held by legal and other-than-legal Mexican immigrants who work in the United States. Our analysis suggests that about half the Mexican-born migrants residing in the United States who are wage earners and heads of household earn their incomes in jobs that are not covered by social security. Since workers in uncovered jobs tend to earn below-average wages, their earnings account for less than half the wages earned by Mexican immigrants. Evidence from the MMP survey shows that social security coverage is higher among Mexican immigrants who are authorized to live in the United States than it is among undocumented Mexican immigrants."

Weapons Traffic: Most Arizona Residents Actually Want Stricter Gun Control Laws -- Rate Higher Than the National Average

Most Arizona Residents Actually Want Stricter Gun Control Laws -- Rate Higher Than the National Average | AlterNet: "Public Polling Policy has found that the majority of Arizonans want stricter gun laws -- though the numbers are predictably partisan:

Overall, 55% [of Arizonans] are in favor of more stringent gun control legislation, with 38% opposed. It rises to majority support based on 81% of Democrats and a 48-43 margin with independents. Republicans, however, are a mirror image of the overall electorate, opposing by a 55-36 margin."

Immigration Politics - Washington state: Lawmakers consider immigration, licenses issue

Lawmakers consider immigration, licenses issue: "Lawmakers in Washington state - one of two states in the country that still let illegal immigrants obtain driver's licenses - are moving forward with bills that would ask for proof of legal residency.

About half a dozen bills have been introduced in the current session to attempt changes to driver's license requirements. Lawmakers held a hearing on one of the bills Thursday - the first time that has happened in years."

Feb 3, 2011

Weapons Traffic: Gov. Jan Brewer defends Arizona gun laws | The State Column

Gov. Jan Brewer defends Arizona gun laws | The State Column: "Arizona governor Jan Brewer took to the defensive on Wednesday, defending the state’s gun laws after an undercover investigation backed by New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg revealed major lapses in the state’s gun laws.

“We believe our laws are fair and just in the state of Arizona,” Ms. Brewer said Monday, according to theArizona Daily Sun.

Ms. Brewer, who admitted that she had not seen Mr. Bloomberg’s video evidence, defended her state in the simplest of manners, saying “I am a strong proponent of the Second Amendment,” and “the Legislature and I decide.” the laws.

The comments follow an undercover investigation by a team hired by Mr. Bloomberg. The New York mayor’s investigation revealed a number of loopholes in Arizona’s gun laws, many of which were easily exploited at gun shows. ... 

Last year Ms. Brewer signed legislation making Arizona only the third state in the nation to let anyone carry a concealed weapon without a state permit, training and a background check. The legislation sparked protests from a number of opponents. Ms. Brewer defended the measure at the time."

Collateral Damage: Assassination of Public Safety Official in Mexico | STRATFOR

Dispatch: Assassination of Public Safety Official in Mexico | STRATFOR: "At STRATFOR we’ve noticed a recent uptick in cartel violence in Nuevo Laredo. Yesterday on February 2, at around midnight, the director for citizen security, Manuel Farfan Carriola, was assassinated on his route from the office to home. Also killed were four bodyguards and numerous police officers were also shot and wounded.

Unfortunately for those of you who have been following the STRATFOR analysis on cartels in Mexico, this should come as no surprise. The cartels are very skilled at carrying out these kinds of attacks. They learn of routes and schedules through corruption and compromise. They also are very detailed in their ability to execute the plan on the street. They utilize multiple vehicles, they block intersections, they at times can also muster corrupt cops to help them with the attacks. They use taxicabs for surveillance platforms and they wait for the target to come into the kill zone and have a complete command and control over how the operation goes down. And in essence, the VIP’s protective detail are stuck with their inability to escape. Our intelligence indicates that the most likely perpetrator of this attack, last night, was the Zeta organization.

It also tracks with our analysis from a tactical perspective on how the Zetas carry out assassinations. As we’ve seen with previous attacks by the Zetas, their operations are very complex and very violent and, in essence, they have absolutely no problem targeting senior public safety officials and police chiefs. The symbolism of attacking and killing a very senior public safety official resonates not only through the Mexican government, but U.S. law enforcement and inside the beltway in Washington, D.C. It raises serious protective security concerns on the ability of the Mexican government to be able to adequately protect public officials.

Read more: Dispatch: Assassination of Public Safety Official in Mexico | STRATFOR "

Democracy in Latin America: Miles Traveled and Miles to Go - Brookings Institution

A detailed look at public opinion in Latin America regarding democracy, its basis, value and stability. We have excerpted only a couple of the analysis' observations. 

Democracy in Latin America: Miles Traveled and Miles to Go - Brookings Institution: "Just a few weeks ago, the Latin American Public Opinion Project (LAPOP), based at Vanderbilt University, released the Americas Barometer 2010. Published every two years since 2002, LAPOP’s survey is the most comprehensive effort to probe political, economic and social attitudes throughout the Western Hemisphere....

First, for all the democratic progress, the survey detects that only 29% of the population in the Americas is in the comfort zone where stable democracies thrive, i.e. a situation defined by high levels of support for the political system and high levels of political tolerance. Conversely, a far from insignificant 22% of the population manifests the combination of low support for the system and low political tolerance that makes democracies live dangerously. The rest of the population is somewhere in the middle, displaying deficits in either of the two dimensions. What this means is that approximately 200 million people in the Americas are hostile to the democratic institutions they have or to the basic mores that make them function properly.

Even this very serious finding may not convey the whole extent of the problem. For it is indeed very likely that the opinions of the latter group are far more intensely held than those of the former group. At the very least these numbers suggest the existence of a goldmine for the demagogues and populists that are an unfortunate part of the political landscape in societies defined by high inequality and outrageous levels of violence, such as those in Latin America. ...

What this survey seems to be saying is that citizens in Latin America support the political system and feel represented by it to the extent that they perceive that the president and the government deliver tangible benefits to them.

This is risky. When parties and congresses are endowed with greater legitimacy, democratic systems have an extra layer of protection against the reversals of fortune of governments and presidents. The citizens’ demand for representation and accountability as well as their expectations about the functioning of the political system are shared by a broader range of political actors, in a way that makes the system more resilient to the faults and shortcomings of any one of them. This is obviously better for the sake of democratic stability."

Immigration Reality: Central America Raises Its Voice in Defence of Its Migrants

Central America Raises Its Voice in Defence of Its Migrants - IPS ipsnews.net: "Spiralling violence against Central American migrants in Mexico has prompted legal reforms, diplomatic actions, and the creation of new mechanisms to protect citizens in this region.

'There has been an upsurge in violence against undocumented foreigners (in Mexico), starting with the massacre of 72 migrants in August in (the northeastern state of) Tamaulipas,' which triggered a series of steps taken in Central America, Flora Reynosa, in charge of migrants' rights in the Guatemalan human rights ombudsman's office, told IPS.

For example, Guatemala is pushing for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for the tens of thousands of undocumented Guatemalans who are in the United States, while it is coordinating, with other countries of Central America and Mexico, investigations into the Tamaulipas massacre and other cases, Reynosa said."

Immigration Reality: Migrants – Victims of Crime, Not Criminals

MEXICO: Migrants – Victims of Crime, Not Criminals - IPS ipsnews.net: "Although Central American migrants continue to face all kinds of abuses and even death on their way north through Mexico to the U.S. border, experts and activists have begun to see a slight change in approach to the issue.

'The changes consist of a new attitude towards Mexico in Central America, which has prompted the Mexican government to react,' Leticia Calderón, a professor at the public 'Doctor José María Luís Mora' Research Institute, told IPS. 'In addition, local authorities are reacting to the new demands.'

Increasing numbers of kidnappings and murders of migrants, mainly from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, as they make their way across Mexico have spurred human rights defenders and academics to step up pressure on the authorities to take measures to guarantee respect for the rights of undocumented migrants and to clamp down on the organised crime groups involved in such activities."

Collateral Damage: Fasting for Life in Land of Death

The story of some citizens of Ciudad Juarez speaking up against the violence and of the reactions of other Juarences. 

MEXICO: Fasting for Life in Land of Death - IPS ipsnews.net: "last weekend, dozens of demonstrators from different social organisations occupied the area around the monument to progressive reformer Benito Juárez (1858-1972), the country's first president of Indian descent, who gave his name to this border city.

In their overnight protest demanding a change in public security strategies, the activists marked both the Jan. 30 assassination of India's Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948) and the first anniversary of the Jan. 31, 2010 shooting of 15 youths, mainly high school students, at a birthday party in Villas de Salvárcar, a working-class neighbourhood on the southeast side of the city."

Collateral Damage: Gang gunbattles, street blockades in Guadalajara, other Mexican cities

Gang gunbattles, street blockades in Mexico: "Suspected drug cartel gunmen hurled grenades, burned vehicles and blocked streets in a rapid series of attacks in (Guadalajara) Mexico's second-largest city, authorities said Wednesday.

The seven attacks within two hours late Tuesday appear to have been coordinated, and were staged by drug gangs, possibly in retaliation for the arrests of their members...

Other attacks took place Tuesday and Wednesday in the northern cities of Zacatecas and Monterrey, Mexico's third-largest city, resulting in several deaths."

Collateral Damage: Cocaine consumption in Mexico has doubled in the past six years

The Mexican Secretary of Health acknowledges that cocaine and other drug use has increased since the beginning of Mexico's war on drugs. He claims it would have grown more if it were not for the war. How that follows is unclear at best.

La Jornada en Internet: "El consumo de cocaína en México se duplicó en los últimos seis años, y el de otras drogas ilegales también aumentó, entre ellas la mariguana, dijo hoy el secretario de Salud de México, José Ángel Cordova Villalobos.

... Córdova Villalobos reconoció que el consumo de drogas ilegales ha aumentado en los últimos años a pesar de la dura batalla que ejecuta el gobierno del presidente Felipe Calderón para erradicar a las bandas de narcotraficantes.

Sin embargo, subrayó que las cifras se podrían disparar en caso de no combatir el tráfico de estupefacientes."

Globalization: As U.S. corn flows south, Mexicans stop farming

A detailed, well written look at how NAFTA helped empty the Mexican countryside of its men and send them to the U.S.

Free trade: As U.S. corn flows south, Mexicans stop farming | McClatchy: "'The men have gone to the United States,' explained Abel Santiago Duran, a 56-year-old municipal agent, as he surveyed this empty village in Oaxaca state.

The countryside wasn't supposed to hollow out in this way when the North American Free Trade Agreement linked Mexico, Canada and the U.S. in 1994. Mexico, hoping its factories would absorb displaced farmers, said it would 'export goods, not people.'

But in hindsight, the agricultural elements of the pact were brutal on Mexico's corn farmers. A flood of U.S. corn imports, combined with subsidies that favor agribusiness, are blamed for the loss of 2 million farm jobs in Mexico. The trade pact worsened illegal migration, some experts say, particularly in areas where small farmers barely eke out a living."

Collateral Damage: Mexico kidnaps apparently leave 25 kids on streets

The Associated Press: Mexico kidnaps apparently leave 25 kids on streets: "An official says that there is evidence that the parents of 25 children found abandoned in a northern Mexican border city were kidnapped."

Collateral Damage: Drugs in Mexico: A gruesome paradox

Drugs in Mexico: A gruesome paradox | The Economist: "... although 97% of the country still sees only 30% of all the violence, that 30% represents a much larger number in gross terms than it did four years ago. The (attached) map illustrates the paradox that violence in Mexico has spread extensively, while remaining highly concentrated."

Laura's Blog: Napolitano in Texas: Tough Talk, Little Coherence

On Monday, Jan. 31,  I crossed the border to hear Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano speak at the University of Texas/El Paso. I wanted to see what she had to say after spending the weekend in a two-day fast commemorating a year since the massacre of 18 mostly young people in Villas de Salvarcar, Ciudad Juárez.

I expected a clash of realities. The Obama administration has unconditionally adopted the Calderon government position that together they are winning the drug war and all that´s needed is to stay the course. Both governments avidly support militarization, of the border and of Mexico, as the means to confront organized crime. Both governments write off human rights concerns and the bloodshed that the war on drugs has caused as a necessary cost.

Even so, I wasn't prepared for Napolitano's outright contradictions and utter lack of compassion for the tragedies being played out on both sides of the border. Not once did she mention human rights, the rise in hate crimes and discriminatory laws and practices against latinos, violations taking place in detention centers, families pulled apart, or the deaths in Mexico as a result of the U.S.-supported drug war--despite the fact that hundreds of people demonstrated that same weekend on the Ciudad Juarez-El Paso border calling for an end the violence.

Instead, she dished out praise for the Southwest Border Initiative and some tough talk to Mexico. "I say to the cartels: Do not even think about bringing your violence and tactics across the border. You will be met by an overwhelming response. And we are going to continue to work with our partners in Mexico to dismantle and defeat you, and that message extends to anyone considering coming across that border illegally whether a smuggler, a human trafficker or an unlawful immigrant seeking work."

 Again, immigrants--many of whom leave Mexico because of the disastrous economic and employment situation created by policies like NAFTA--were lumped in with drug and human traffickers. Although Napolitano stated support for comprehensive immigration reform, she praised record deportations and announced that detention facilities would be greatly expanded as the Secure Communities program swept more immigrants into its net and into the lucrative private centers.

The Secretary interpreted the surge in organized crime violence in Mexico as "seeking to undermine the rule of law, especially in Northern Mexico" with no recognition that the surge correlates directly to the launch of the disastrous drug war model by the Calderon administration. There was no indication whatsoever of the responsibility that the United States has in causing and perpetuating this violence against Mexican citizens through the Merida Initiative, of the pain of El Paso residents whose families live the horrors of the drug war's laboratory, nor of the deep-rooted problems of impunity and corruption on both sides of the border that have created the crisis for cities like Ciudad Juarez.

Nor did she address the U.S. role in consumption, corruption and domestic drug trafficking. She mentioned efforts at controlling the flow of guns, but noted that laws leave little room for successful prosecution even when it's known where cartel guns come from. At the same time as her talk, the ATF announced a cutback in funds for the  gun-runner program.

Napolitano created a huge contradiction when she at once emphasized that the border communities are among the safest in the country--a fact backed up by statistics and that goes back decades-- and in the same breath stated that  "We must guard against spillover effects." The rundown of security build-up on the border made no sense in the context of the low levels of violence and yet she promised to dedicate even more resources to beefing up border security. Absent was any suggestion that instead of spending the $600 million on SWBI and additional $150 million on Operation Stonegarden, perhaps the nation could better attend to the high levels of poverty: in El Paso one out of every four residents lives in poverty and the mayor recently stated that three of every ten children go to bed hungry.

What kind of security is that?

More Collateral Damage or Legalization: Gulf Cartel spreads death from Baltimore to Mexico

Gulf Cartel spreads death from Baltimore to Mexico - columnist Jay Hancock - baltimoresun.com: "You've probably heard news about 'drug wars' or 'drug-related violence' in Mexico. It's a vastly underplayed story in the United States. It is tearing Mexico apart, and the Gulf Cartel is at the center of the evil. Members of the Gulf Cartel and the Zetas cartel are fighting it out for supremacy, killing each other, police and innocent bystanders by hundreds. ...

This is what your drug habit and your outlawing of drugs does, America. Your money finances the killing. Your refusal to set up a legal competitor to the cartels keeps them in business. Your war on drugs to stop them has failed. Legalize cocaine and heroin -- dispense it to addicts from government-controlled clinics -- and the Gulf Cartel and its rivals go out of business."

Legalization: Time to end this senseless drug war

This column is originally from the Miami Herald and reprinted in a paper in southern Illinois.

Legalization: Time to end this senseless drug war - Opinion - bnd.com: "``Prohibition creates crime and violence in our society that need not exist, except for the policy of prohibition itself,'' said Kyle Vogt, of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition.

``We tried this with alcohol, and we had gangsters, just like Mexico does. And when we replaced Prohibition with a system of regulation and control, we got rid of the gangsters. You don't see Coors and Budweiser doing drive-by shootings or planting car bombs to increase their market share.''"

Collateral Damage: Police Chief killed in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas

The director of security (police chief) of the city of Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas - across the Rio Grande from Laredo, Texas - was murdered last night, along with his personal secretary and four bodyguards. He was a former army general. Army generals are being employed as police chiefs in a number of cities along the border, most famously in Tijuana, near San Diego, California.

Matan a director de Seguridad en Tamaulipas - El Universal - México: "A la media noche de este miércoles se reportó el asesinato a balazos del director de Seguridad Pública de Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, el general Manuel Farfán, así como a cuatro de sus escoltas y a su secretario particular."

Feb 2, 2011

Immigration Crackdown: Immigration Prosecutions Climb With Record Deportations: Study

Immigration Prosecutions Climb With Record Deportations: Study: "As politicians call for more immigration enforcement and border security, a report released Wednesday found that the Obama administration is already focusing its efforts on immigration at the expense of other federal law-enforcement efforts.

... the government deported almost 393,000 people in 2010, at a cost of about $5 billion -- nearly 100,000 more people than the George W. Bush administration deported in 2007. ...

Although illegal immigration levels fell due to slackened job growth, immigration prosecutions steadily climbed in recent years after immigration reform efforts failed in Congress. Felony immigration prosecutions along the border with Mexico grew by 77 percent between 2007 -- the year Bush's efforts to pass immigration reform were defeated -- and 2010, according to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University. Over the same period, non-felony immigration prosecutions along the border surged by 259 percent."