Sunday, December 9, 2012
Border Patrol faces little accountability: Shootings by agents are up, but few are held responsible; families and the public rarely learn the outcome of secret, complex investigations
"I'm tired of crying. I'm tired of waiting. I want justice," she said on a recent afternoon, standing outside her humble home on a downtown hillside.
If the pattern holds, she'll be waiting much longer.
Even as the number of shootings by agents increases, the system for holding them accountable remains complicated and opaque, leaving the public in the dark about the status of the cases, an Arizona Daily Star investigation has found. One Arizona case has remained secret and "ongoing" for almost three years.
Questions have sharpened after agents shot people who apparently weren't threatening them at least twice in Arizona over the last two years.
Still, agents get the benefit of the doubt from the public and prosecutors, and are rarely criminally charged. In the few cases when agents have been prosecuted in Arizona, they've won.
That may be because the shootings were justified, but the secrecy of the process means the public may never know.
As questions of accountability grow louder, shootings by Border Patrol agents continue - primarily in Arizona. In the last three years agents have shot at least 22 people nationwide. Nine of those cases have been in Southern Arizona - four in the last two months and two just last week.
Last Sunday, a Border Patrol agent in the Baboquivari Mountains killed an apparent illegal immigrant - 19-year-old Guatemalan Margarito Lopez Morelos - who, the agency said, struggled with an agent. On Tuesday, an agent southwest of Gila Bend shot and wounded a man who, the agency said, brandished a weapon.
Since January 2010, there have been at least six cross-border shootings by agents, including the one that killed Rodríguez-Salazar's son, José Antonio Elena Rodríguez. When killed, he was on a sidewalk across the 36-foot-wide street along the border.
Two people were on the border fence when agents arrived at about 11 p.m. Rocks flew, though police reports leave it unclear who threw them, and at least one agent fired into Mexico.
Elena Rodriguez was hit at least seven times - twice in the head and five times in the back. The walls next to him were pocked with bullet holes.
"What would have happened if a Sonoran police officer had opened fire and shot a 16-year-old walking along the street in Arizona?" asked Kat Rodriguez of the Coalición de Derechos Humanos, a human-rights advocacy group in Tucson. "We all know the response would be very different, and it shouldn't be."
agent ivie's death
Early on Oct. 2, Border Patrol Agent Nicholas Ivie cautiously approached a site east of Bisbee where a ground sensor had gone off. Two fellow agents approached from another direction.
In an apparent accident, Ivie fired at the other agents, striking one, the FBI and Cochise County Sheriff's Department reported. The agent who was struck fired back, killing Ivie.
Amid an outpouring of support for Ivie's family, some found a key aspect of the case troubling: Here was a case where an agent apparently didn't know what he was shooting at.
Border Patrol agents are taught to use deadly force only when they or someone else are threatened with death, agency spokesman Bill Brooks said.. However, officers everywhere must always have "target discrimination" and fire only at the person posing the threat, said Dave Klinger, an associate professor of criminal justice at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.
"If I've got a guy shooting at me, I don't get to send rounds downrange at the general area," said Klinger, who himself shot and killed a man when he was a Los Angeles police officer.
The same rules apply to rock-throwing, Klinger and others said. The closer the thrower, the more likely it poses an imminent threat.
On March 21, 2011, an agent shot and killed 19-year-old Carlos LaMadrid in Douglas. Local police had chased LaMadrid to the border fence, where a Border Patrol vehicle collided with the one LaMadrid was driving, Cochise County sheriff's reports show.
LaMadrid and a passenger began climbing a ladder friends had put against the fence, and at the same time someone atop the fence began throwing rocks at the agent. The agent fired and killed LaMadrid as he climbed the ladder. The rock throwers escaped into Mexico.
Cochise County Attorney Ed Rheinheimer said he has made a decision about whether to prosecute the agent in the LaMadrid case, but he is waiting until federal authorities make their call so as not to influence their decision.
who's in charge?
The FBI, Department of Homeland Security inspector general, the Border Patrol's critical incident team and the Customs and Border Protection Internal Affairs branch all may respond to any shooting by a Border Patrol agent.
The U.S. Attorney's Office oversees the investigation, and local agencies - such as a sheriff's department - may also investigate whether state laws were broken. In Elena Rodriguez's case, the local agency was Sonoran state police, who responded on their side of the border.
Who's in charge, and what happens from there? That's a tougher question. Even Jim Calle, a Tucson attorney whose job is to defend Border Patrol agents involved in shootings or accused of misconduct, can't pinpoint the process.
"I've been doing this for more than a decade, and it's still confusing to me," Calle said. "That's how the federal government operates. They're slow. It's opaque, and they (the investigations) are always difficult."
"There are times when the public never learns about the shooting, never mind the process," he added. "The one thing I am sure of is that every time an agent pulls a trigger, their conduct is critically reviewed, and it is really, really scrubbed hard for all the details to see if they've done anything wrong."
The families of those killed and others find it hard to believe the cases are well-investigated because they can't see it. One of the families stuck in the process is that of Ramses Barron Torres, killed on the Mexican side of the border fence in Nogales, Sonora, by a Border Patrol agent on Jan. 5, 2011.
An FBI spokesman said at the time that Border Patrol agents were trying to arrest drug smugglers when people started throwing rocks at them. Sonoran police said Barron Torres was climbing on the south side of the border fence when shot. It's unclear whether he was a rock thrower.
Now, 23 months later, he FBI says the investigation is ongoing.
Another case has been open even longer: Jorge Solis-Palma was shot on Jan. 4, 2010, after, agents said, he threw rocks at them. The Cochise County Attorney's Office cleared the agent two months later, but the FBI still considers it "an ongoing matter" almost three years later.
In the days after Barron Torres was shot, "there were reporters from here, reporters from over there," his mother, Zelma, said in Spanish. "After a few days, they disappeared. Up till now, I don't know anything."
names are secret
When a Tucson police officer or a Pima County sheriff's deputy shoots and kills somebody, the process is mostly transparent and typically quick.
Both agencies make it a rule to inform the public of the incident quickly and include the officer's name. The Border Patrol keeps the names of agents involved in shootings secret - to the point that LaMadrid's family got a court order to force the federal government to reveal the name of the agent who shot him so they could serve him with legal papers.
On the local level, two investigations of shootings occur.
In one, the local homicide department looks into whether the officer broke the law. Investigators pass their findings to the county attorney's office for a ruling on whether charges should be filed.
In the other investigation, internal affairs decides whether the officer followed department rules and regulations.
Those cases are typically wrapped up in two to six months, attorney Calle said.
The different ways the two levels of government respond is typical, said Klinger, the University of Missouri professor.
"The further away from the populace the seat of power is, the less accountability there is," he said. "For whatever reason, people haven't been making a big stink about federal use of deadly force."
In Border Patrol shooting cases, the investigation may be in an "ongoing" status long after FBI special agents have completed their work, said James Turgal, special agent in charge of the agency's Phoenix division. That may be because prosecutors from the county to the U.S. Attorney's Office to the Justice Department in Washington, D.C., are considering their options.
"Just because the FBI walks down to the U.S. Attorney's Office and presents a case, it doesn't mean we get an answer the next day," he said.
FBI agents enter Border Patrol shooting cases impartially, Turgal said. But the way some cases proceeded left witnesses with doubt.
On June 7, 2010, Border Patrol agents in San Diego killed Anastasio Hernandez-Rojas as they were expelling him from the country into Tijuana. In a press release, San Diego police said agents had uncuffed Hernandez-Rojas and he became violent, causing an agent to use a taser to subdue him.
But witnesses say, and video recordings of the incident show, Hernandez-Rojas's hands were restrained behind his back and he was lying on the ground, screaming for help, as about a dozen agents stood over him, when he was tased and died. The PBS program "Need to Know" revealed the videotapes and some witness accounts in two shows this year.
On June 7, 2010, a Border Patrol agent shot and killed 15-year-old Sergio Hernández-Guereca in a concrete canal that separates Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, from El Paso. In a news release, the FBI said the agent fired when a group "surrounded the agent and continued to throw rocks at him."
Witness accounts and videos show that the agent was not surrounded and that apparently no more than one person threw a rock at him. Nevertheless, the FBI labeled the incident as an "assault on a federal officer."
In some cases, the aftermath of the shootings does not inspire witnesses' confidence in investigators. In both the San Diego and El Paso cases, witnesses who were crossing border bridges when the shootings occurred said they were hustled away and not questioned.
One American woman who watched the agent shoot Hernández-Guereca said in a deposition that she refused to leave the bridge despite a security guard shouting at her, and she spoke to investigators only after she insisted on calling 911 and later called the FBI.
"No one approached me and said, 'Listen, can you tell us what happened?'" Bobbie James McDow said in a sworn deposition taken as part of a civil lawsuit. "It was basically, 'Get off the bridge, get off the bridge, get out of here.' "
More recently, a Nogales, Ariz., resident whose 911 call started chain of events that led to the killing of Jose Antonio Elena Rodríguez across the border, said no one has interviewed him.
Marco Gonzalez, a radio announcer who lives along the border, called 911 the night of Oct. 10 to tell police that people had jumped the border fence and were moving through his yard and a neighboring street. Soon after, he saw border agents drive by, then heard gunshots.
Neither Nogales police nor Border Patrol agents nor the FBI contacted him.
An agent who shoots somebody is unlikely to face prosecution or even internal discipline.
The Border Patrol declined to say whether the agents in any of the six recent Southern Arizona shooting cases were reprimanded. "Administrative and disciplinary actions of our employees are not made public," agency spokesman Brooks said in an email.
Calle, the Border Patrol union's lawyer, said in shootings it's "exceedingly rare that an agent faces disciplinary consequences for their conduct."
That's partly because most shootings are legally justified, agents and attorneys said. They argue there are more shootings now largely because more border jumpers resist arrest.
Also, they say, agents enjoy an assumption that they're in the right, and they face a higher threshold for prosecution than the average citizen.
"Law enforcement officers are given the benefit of the doubt, not only by juries and American citizens, but inside DAs' and U.S. attorneys' offices," said Johnny Sutton, who was U.S. attorney for the western district of Texas from 2001 to 2009. "You're always loath to prosecute a cop because you understand they're putting their lives on the line every day."
As U.S. attorney, Sutton ruled many shootings by agents justified and denied prosecution, he said, but his office also put two Border Patrol agents in prison. In 2005, agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean shot an unarmed drug trafficker who was running away. Their conviction and sentencing prompted a nationwide outcry led by television personalities. President Bush commuted their sentences on his last day in office.
Beyond the benefit of the doubt officers receive, their jobs make them less likely to be charged in the first place. Prosecutors must consider the likelihood of winning a conviction when taking on a case, and it's simply harder to win a case against a cop.
Cochise County Attorney Rheinheimer brought a second-degree murder case against Border Patrol Agent Nicholas Corbett in 2008, arguing Corbett's January 2007 killing of an illegal immigrant was unjustified and a crime. There were two trials, two hung juries and finally Rheinheimer dropped the case.
The Border Patrol agents union lambasted Rheinheimer for prosecuting, saying "he let undue influence from the Mexican government and the radical special-interest groups taint his decision-making ability."
Longtime Tucson civil-rights activist Isabel Garcia, an attorney, laid the blame for the loss on the public's misconception of the border area as a war zone.
"Even when we get what we should get - full prosecution - it's really hard to break that impunity," she said. "The public is very ignorant. They believe all the ugly stuff, so of course they give the agents full immunity."
If there's a next time, Rheinheimer said, he would factor in his failure to convict Corbett when deciding whether it's worth bringing charges against another agent.
That reality, he said, "is balanced against doing whatever is the right thing to do."
Thursday, December 6, 2012
Aaron Anaya was on patrol Sunday evening when he stopped along the international border, then loaded up several bundles of marijuana that had been dropped over the fence from Mexico, according to the complaint filed this week in federal court in Arizona.
Agents assigned to the Southwest Border Corruption Task Force had been conducting aerial surveillance in the area between Yuma and Wellton, about 185 miles southwest of Phoenix, when they spotted Anaya stop along the fence and retrieve the bundles, the complaint states. It does not say whether Anaya was the target of the initial surveillance or merely observed during the overall operation.
Authorities say the task force continued to track Anaya for several hours as he appeared to return to normal patrol duties.
The complaint says the agent was later arrested with nearly 147 pounds of marijuana found in three black duffel bags in his Border Patrol vehicle.
He is charged with possession with intent to distribute marijuana and carrying a firearm - his service weapons - while committing the crime.
Asked if he was willing to speak to investigators, Anaya responded with an expletive, then said, "You guys got me on video," before asking for an attorney, according to the complaint.
Anaya's federal public defender didn't immediately return a telephone message Tuesday. His telephone number wasn't listed. Union representatives for the Border Patrol's Yuma sector didn't respond to emails.
The FBI, which was part of the task force, declined to discuss the case.
Yuma Sector Chief Border Patrol Agent Stephen S. Martin said the agency will fully cooperate with investigators.
"While I am sorely disappointed by the alleged conduct of one of our own, I appreciate the efforts by our law enforcement partners and our own agents to uncover those that violate their oath of office, and hold them accountable for their actions," Martin said in a statement Tuesday.
It was the latest in a series of shootings by border agents in Arizona - the second this week, the fourth since Oct. 2 and at least the ninth since January 2010.
In this case, U.S. Customs and Border Protection reported, Yuma Sector agents responded to possible bandit activity near a checkpoint on Arizona 85.
The agents came across two armed men about 14 miles southwest of Gila Bend, and at least one of the agents fired, hitting one of the armed men, the agency said in a news release.
That man was flown to a Phoenix hospital and is in stable condition; the other man, a Mexican national illegally in the country, was arrested. Agents found a handgun and an assault rifle at the scene, the news release said.
The FBI is investigating.
On Sunday at midday, an agent working in the southern Baboquivari Mountains on the Tohono O'odham Nation shot and killed a man whom the agency described as getting into an altercation with the agent.
Neither Mexican consular officials nor the Pima County Medical Examiner's Office knew the identities of either man shot in this week's incidents.
Matt Chandler, spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security, said the Department of Defense has agreed to a one-year extension of the agreement to provide - and pay for - soldiers to help. The mission had been scheduled to end at the end of the year.
The soldiers, first deployed in 2010, have been in support roles. Many of those stationed in Arizona have been part of "entry identification teams," posted along the border to report illegal crossings to the Border Patrol.
This extended mission is smaller, involving just 300 soldiers along the border compared with the 1,200 who were first authorized as spotters and to help in Border Patrol and Customs Enforcement offices. But the effort to find border crossers this time continues to shift from the ground to the air.
"The National Guard's aerial support, which includes both rotary and fixed-wing aircraft, significantly enhances our ability to detect and deter illegal activity at the border," Chandler said. He said that is the kind of support needed by Border Patrol agents on the ground.
This shift also means lower costs.
The original deployment cost $140 million. A Department of Defense spokesman said the price tag for the current mission going forward will be $60 million.
Chandler said having soldiers as eyes and ears is paying off. He said that since March this support has resulted in Border Patrol apprehending nearly 20,000 people crossing the Southwest border illegally and seizing more than 100,000 pounds of marijuana.
The move met with approval from Gov. Jan Brewer, who has been openly critical of efforts by the Obama administration to secure the border. Gubernatorial press aide Matthew Benson called it "a step in the right direction."
"Until you get properly staffed up with Border Patrol, it's important that we keep a National Guard presence along the border," he said.
The most recent figures from Customs and Border Protection show there are about 21,400 Border Patrol officers, with close to 18,500 of them on the Southwest border. That compares with fewer than 10,000 nationwide in 2001.
Benson said he cannot say how many agents would be enough. But he said the decision to extend the program a full year, versus in three-month commitments, shows that the administration recognizes the need.
Friday, October 19, 2012
Deputies converged on the Sonoran Concrete Company just south of where 67th, Northern and Grand avenues intersect at 4:30 a.m. They wrapped up by 8 a.m.
Investigations believe more than 20 employees used fake or stolen IDs to get hired, according to Maricopa County Sheriff's Office spokesman Jeff Sprong.
Although video from the scene showed investigators talking to several people, it's not yet known how many were taken into custody.
Sonoran Concrete Company employs about 75 people, Sprong said.
"Illegal immigration continues to be a serious problem here in Arizona and the United States, especially those here illegally stealing people's identity," Sheriff Joe Arpaio said after his last ID theft raid nearly a month ago. "These individuals indirectly open up employee opportunities for businesses and help increase employment for those in the country legally."
Thursday morning's operation was the 68th of its kind.
Not including this latest raid, a total of 647 suspects have been arrested during the operations, 460 of which were apprehended for identity theft. All of the suspects arrested for identity theft were eventually found to have been in the country illegally.
Details about Thursday morning's operation will be updated as they become available.
Tuesday, October 16, 2012
PHOENIX -- The family of a teenager shot and killed in an incident at the border last week says they will file a lawsuit alleging excessive force.
According to Nogales Mayor Ramon Guzman Munoz, Jose Rodriguez, 16, died in "a hail of bullets." He said the teen was hit seven times. Another Mexican official said Rodriguez, pictured above in a photo taken several years ago, was shot in the back.
It happened Wednesday after the Border Patrol received reports of suspected drug smugglers. Agents reportedly saw two people abandon a load of drugs and dart back across the border into Mexico.
Those people then began throwing rocks at the agents, ignoring orders to stop.
That's when an agent opened fire.
Police found Rodriguez' body on a sidewalk near the border barrier.
While a Mexican official told The Associated Press the teen was shot by the Border Patrol agent, the Border Patrol has said only that shots were fired that night. The agency has not identified the agent who fired and is not commenting pending the outcome of the investigation.
Rodriguez' family has not said exactly when they will file suit.
Border agents are generally allowed to use lethal force against rock throwers, and there are several ongoing investigations into similar shootings in Arizona and Texas.
‘What would happen if an American teenager threw rocks at a Mexican agent and the Mexican agent shot the American? This is the question we always ask Americans.’
The number of unaccompanied migrant children in U.S. detention centers grew nearly 50%, from 6,854 in fiscal 2011 to more than 10,000 in the nine-month period ended June 30, according to federal statistics cited in the report, titled "Forced From Home: The Lost Boys and Girls of Central America." With three months left in the latest reporting period, the fiscal 2012 figures are expected to rise further.
Most of the growth came from three countries: El Salvador, with 68% more unaccompanied minors; Guatemala, with 72% more; and Honduras, with the number more than doubling, from 1,201 to 2,477. The number of Mexican children crossing the border alone fell in the same period.
In interviews conducted with 151 children in federal holding facilities, nearly 80% told researchers that violence was the main reason they set out for the U.S. by themselves, traveling with paid guides on buses or chancing the desert trek as stowaways on top of trains.
One 16-year-old from Honduras told the report's authors that he was threatened with physical violence after refusing to be recruited by a gang. He could no longer attend school safely, so he came to the U.S. to continue his studies.
The children travel on their own because their parents are already in the U.S., because they are fleeing domestic violence or because the family cannot undertake the journey together, said advocates who work with them.
"What they said is, 'If I stayed, I definitely would die.' They knew it would be a dangerous journey, but at least there's a chance," said Michelle Brane, director of the Women's Refugee Commission's detention and asylum program.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection, along with the Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Refugee Resettlement, were criticized in the report for operating substandard detention facilities. Officials from the two agencies were unavailable for comment.
The Federation for American Immigration Reform, an anti-immigration group, blamed the influx of Central American children on a new federal program granting a two-year reprieve from deportation to some young immigrants.
"The Obama administration has made it very clear — if you get your kids to the U.S. and keep them here for a while, they can stay," said Ira Mehlman, a spokesman for the group. "That's the unmistakable message he's sent around the world. Not surprisingly, you have parents who say, 'Let's do that.'"
Other countries are responsible for ensuring the safety of their own citizens, Mehlman added. Asylum should be reserved for a select few cases, or "the potential is you could have billions of people qualifying for political asylum in the U.S."
Most of the young border-crossers will end up going back to the countries they fled, immigrant advocates said.
The children have no right to a court-appointed attorney in asylum proceedings. Even with legal counsel, cases based on the threat of gang violence have proved difficult to win. Most successful cases have involved children who have lost their parents because of abandonment, abuse or neglect, said Judy London, directing attorney of the Immigrants' Rights Project at the pro bono law firm Public Counsel.
"It's all dependent on getting an experienced lawyer," London said. "The vast majority aren't going to get the legal representation they need, or they're going to get it too late."
Emergency "surge" shelters to house young migrants arriving without parents have been built, said the report.
The report likened conditions in the surge facilities, opened after October 2011 by the Office of Refugee Resettlement, to those in an emergency hurricane shelter. The children received basic medical care, four hours of school and some recreation but not the full slate of education and case management offered in regular detention centers.
Because the new centers sprung up so quickly, they often neglected to provide the "Know Your Rights" legal orientations that are standard in detention facilities, leaving the children clueless about their options, the report said.
The massive increase also resulted in detainees spending longer periods in temporary holding cells, nicknamed "freezers" operated by Customs and Border Protection. The children described the cells' conditions to the report's authors as having inadequate food and water and lights on 24 hours a day, and lacking blankets in frigid temperatures, showers and enough room to lie down.
Wednesday, August 29, 2012
Monday, August 27, 2012
In the 10 months through July 31, remains of 161 suspected illegal immigrants have been found in Southern Arizona from New Mexico to the Yuma County line.
That puts this year's death toll on pace to end up at about the annual average for the last decade - 197 - even though that period includes years when there were three to four times as many attempted crossings.
That means the rate of border deaths so far this year - the number of deaths per 100,000 apprehensions - is at about the record high set last year, 154. Illegally crossing the border into Arizona is riskier than it's ever been.
Experts point to a few factors keeping the death rate up.
With the border harder to cross, "smugglers will guide illegal aliens through more remote, harsh terrain to avoid detection by law enforcement, which increases risk of death," U.S. Border Patrol spokesman Brent Cagen said in a written response to questions.
Another possible factor: Central Americans seem to be a growing proportion of those crossing the border illegally. They may arrive at the U.S. border already in greater distress than Mexicans who are just leaving their home country, said Geoff Boyce, spokesman for No More Deaths, a group that patrols areas southwest of Tucson to help migrants.
Also, not every set of remains may be from a recently deceased person.
Joe Adams and his crew have found at least two sets of remains in the last couple of months. Adams, a St. Louis private investigator who leads a border-watch team in the area south of Three Points, reported a woman's decomposing body in early May.
Mariana Chaverri Piña had died in the previous few days. But they also found the bones of at least one person in July, and it was unclear how long that body had been there.
"In 2011, nearly half of all discoveries of deceased individuals were those of skeletal remains," wrote Cagen of the Border Patrol.
frantic phone call
Just last week, a family in Waukegan, Ill., was urgently calling authorities in Arizona, begging them to search for their lost loved one. It's a phenomenon that happens here all summer as the heat takes crossers down.
Jaime Pasillas, 42, a father of four American-citizen children, had returned to Mexico earlier this summer to renew a 10-year visa, his family said through announcements from the League of United Latin American Citizens. But his renewal was rejected, and he decided to return illegally.
On July 30, Pasillas called his family to tell them he was crossing from Sonora into Arizona with a "coyote," or smuggler, and would arrive in three to five days, but then they heard nothing. On Aug. 9, family members spoke with the last person known to have seen Pasillas alive.
The picture he painted was painful: Pasillas' feet were wounded in the crossing, and he was lagging behind the group. On Aug. 6, the guides left Pasillas in the desert around Santa Rosa in the northern Tohono O'odham Nation, with a gallon of water. The high temperature that day in Ajo and Tucson was 106 degrees.
Family members came to Southern Arizona to try to help find him, and Julie Contreras of LULAC urged tribal authorities and the Border Patrol to search. The patrol did prepare to launch a search early Aug. 13, but then they found out the O'odham police had found a body three days before.
While final identification has not occurred, the family has identified Pasillas by a tattoo. Now they are working to get his body returned to Waukegan.
At border, in distress
Some crossers are arriving at the border already in medical distress.
Tucson-based Humane Borders is setting up water stations in Mexico, in cooperation with Mexican authorities, because some migrants have walked so far before even crossing the border into the U.S.
"Many people that are trying to cross are going to points extremely far east or west of the main crossing areas while still on Mexican soil," said Bob Feinman, a board member of Humane Borders. "By foot these can be a couple or three days."
Indeed, agents in the Border Patrol's Tucson Sector are on pace to carry out about 13 percent more rescues this year than last, when they recorded 500.
No More Deaths members, who work in the broad area around Arivaca, have seen the same trend, Boyce said. Migrants walk west from Nogales for a day or two to get into the better-hidden canyons and washes before cutting north into the United States.
"By the time people get to where we're going to see them in our work," he said, "it adds that much more strain and environmental exposure."
Rate of death rises
The number of people trying to cross the border into Southern Arizona illegally has been plummeting, but the number of people dying in the process is not. The reason: It's more risky to cross. This chart shows the number of bodies found in the Tucson Sector per 100,000 Border Patrol apprehensions. While apprehensions aren't a direct measure of crossings, other measures have also shown migration is extremely low.
Year Number of deaths per 100,000 apprehensions
* Through July 31
Tuesday, November 22, 2011
The Send Equipment for National Defense Act, sponsored by Texas Representative Ted Poe, would "require that 10 percent of certain equipment returned from Iraq—like Humvees, night-vision equipment and unmanned aerial surveillance craft—be made available to state and local agencies for border-security operations."
Poe denies that this would militarize the border, as reported by the New York Times; but John Cook, mayor of the border city of El Paso, strongly disagrees, suggesting that only "a whole lot of ignorance" could inspire the plan. Cook points out that "moving war zone equipment to the border would send the wrong signal to Mexico and potentially damage the robust symbiotic economic relationship between the two countries."
This comes at the same time that Miller-McCune warns that "armed police drones"—or weaponized UAVs—might soon be flying through a sky near you. While Miller-McCune focuses specifically on the sheriff of Montgomery County, Texas, it's worth pointing out that so-called Leptron Avengers—"battery-operated helicopters designed to take high-resolution video and photos and that can be equipped with night-vision cameras or thermal-imaging equipment"—have also been requested by the Texas city of Arlington, perhaps making Texas—alongside such places as Syria, North Korea, and China—the go-to site today for witnessing civilian adaptations of military surveillance technology.
[Image: The ShadowHawk unmanned police helicopter by Vanguard Defense Industries, via Miller-McCune].
The current version of this equipment, called the ShadowHawk, "won’t carry weapons," we're told, but "the drone’s manufacturer, Vanguard Defense Industries, boasts that it’s strong enough to carry a shotgun or even a grenade launcher." The firm itself adds that the "ShadowHawk can maintain aerial surveillance of an area (i.e. house, vehicle, person, etc.) at 700 feet without being heard or seen unlike full sized aircraft. Imagine the advantage provided to an entry team in the following scenarios: high risk warrant, hostage rescue, domestic violence, etc."
Mechanized urban surveillance is hardly news. Indeed, the currently existing network of CCTV cameras already installed in cities all over the world is equally "unmanned," in an exactly comparable sense; they are fixed-point drones. One could thus make an argument that the ShadowHawk is simply a camera with wings: you have a camera outside CVS or Tesco, ergo you have a camera in the sky above the city. It's easy to see how "mission creep," as Miller-McCune calls it, could occur.
Or compare this, for instance, to plans aflight in the UK, where police "are planning to use unmanned spy drones, controversially deployed in Afghanistan, for the 'routine' monitoring of antisocial motorists, protesters, agricultural thieves and fly-tippers, in a significant expansion of covert state surveillance." This will take the form of unmanned airships hovering over the English capital, as if simulating the barrage balloons of World War II.
[Image: Barrage balloons above London, courtesy of Wikipedia].
The drones "are programmed to take off and land on their own, stay airborne for up to 15 hours and reach heights of 20,000ft, making them invisible from the ground," and they will be launched "in time for the 2012 Olympics." (An Afghanistan-based version of this program is described as follows: "This fall, there’ll be a new supercomputer in Afghanistan. It’ll be floating 20,000 feet above the warzone, aboard a giant spy blimp that watches and listens to everything for miles around.")
[Images: From an October 2009 presentation by Major General Blair Hansen to the U.S. Strategic Command and Defense Intelligence Agency].
Briefly, I'm reminded of the opening scene from Christopher Dickey's book Securing the City, in which a helicopter that falls somewhere between aerial war machine and advanced Hollywood film equipment is breathlessly unveiled: "The winter air is cold and the light hard-edged as the unmarked New York City Police Department helicopter meanders through the winds above the five boroughs," we read.
It is a state-of-the-art crime-fighting, terror-busting, order-keeping techno toy, with its enormous lens that can magnify any scene on the streets almost one thousand times, then double that digitally; that can watch a crime in progress from miles away, can look in windows, can sense the body heat of people on rooftops or running along sidewalks, can track beepers slipped under cars, can do so very many things that the man in the helmet watching the screens and moving the images with the joystick in his lap, NYPD Detective David Zschau, is often a little bit at a loss for words. "It really is an amazing tool," he keeps saying.This technology—whose unlimited vision seems so mind-boggling as to cause aphasia in those who encounter it—should inspire as much moral and political discomfort as an unmanned version of the same helicopter; in other words, we shouldn't lose sight of the fact that this very kind of spy equipment already exists and has already been deployed. That is, the unnerving implication that we are being watched from above by undetectable robots should not let us forget that being watched from above by human pilots is just as invasive.
In any case, the ShadowHawk, described above, can also be put to use in fire and rescue situations, able to track down "heat sources and cut through the smoke and haze with it’s Forward Looking Infrared (FLIR) or SWIR"—short wave infrared—cameras. Indeed, the company points out that "the vast capabilities of the ShadowHawk are ideal for mitigating and handling disasters whether natural or manmade. From locating victims, serving as an airborne communications relay point or conducting damage assessment, the ShadowHawk will significantly expand response capabilities." In light of this, it is foolish to reject, universally and in principle, the very idea of unmanned systems operating in non-military environments; but it's equally foolish to welcome them without a simultaneous demand for strong regulation and oversight.
To be honest, though, it seems only a matter of time before armed police drones are a reality in the United States, and it would thus be great to see a long discussion of the legality—or, at the very least, the societal implications—of such equipment, before we are faced with a scenario none of us adequately understand. For instance, is there a law course somewhere examining the rights and implications of autonomous urban police technologies? Combine this with a look at repurposed military hardware used in patrolling national borders, and the syllabus from such a course would be well worth exploring in detail.
(In addition to the London example, cited above, another rebuke to the moral self-congratulation of the Miller-McCune piece comes from Northern Ireland, where the use of unmanned aerial systems in urban policing might soon take the form of "mini drones" used "to combat crime and the dissident republican threat"—in other words, autonomous police drones are by no means limited to cities in the United States).
Monday, November 21, 2011
Un-occupy Our Lands!
Indigenous Peoples Gathering in Resistance to Corporate & State Terrorism
Tues. Nov. 29, 6PM – 9:30PM
At Serena Padilla Residence
Onk Akimel O’odham Nation (Salt River)
9312 E. Thomas Rd. Scottsdale, AZ 85256
This is an opportunity to share, connect, and build solidarity.
Dinner will be provided. Please bring your own chairs.
Camping for Indigenous participants available.
Please RSVP with firstname.lastname@example.org.
Allies and supporters welcome.
My name is Serena Padilla. I live in Occupied Onk Akimel Jeved, now known as the Salt River Pima Maricopa Indian Community.
I am in support of an Indigenous convergence before and during the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) conference, scheduled for November 30-December 2, in hopes to share, connect and build solidarity amongst all the Indigenous Nations that are affected by ALEC.
At this time, I am opening my grounds to accommodate all Indigenous participants coming to our territory due to the ALEC Conference. I am opening my grounds for camping and access to my outside kitchen.
I hope this gathering will strengthen our connections as Indigenous Peoples, now and for the future generations to come.
More information: www.azresistsalec.wordpress.com
Energy/Mining Companies & ALEC: http://azresistsalec.wordpress.com/2011/10/26/energymining-companies-and-alec/
Wednesday, November 2, 2011
Deputies converged on the business at 29th Street and Broadway Road at about 7 a.m.
Prisma Graphic employs more than 130 people, according to information on its website. Deputies were looking for 17 people. Ten were arrested -- six during the raid, four later. According to the company president, Simon Beltran, the remaining people have not worked there for about a year.
Beltran said he and his early team leaders were stunned to find deputies surrounding the company's two buildings when they arrived at work, but did everything they could to cooperate.
MCSO reportedly received two separate tips that some of the company's employees are undocumented immigrants who used false or stolen identification to get their jobs. One of those tips specifically mentioned an employee using the Social Security Number of a 14-year-old girl.
According to information provided by one of the tipsters, some of those employees were seen printing out Wells Fargo credit-card information, government hunting tags and Health Net information. MCSO investigators did not find any evidence during the during the operation at Prisma Graphic to corroborate that.
The sheriff said his deputies had developed information about 17 specific people before they ever step foot inside Prisma Graphic.
"We don't racial profile," Arpaio said. "We already know when we come in here who we're going to arrest."
According to MCSO, two of the suspects tried to run but were caught by deputies stationed at the back door.
Arpaio said investigators will keep looking for those other suspects who are no longer employed by Prisma Graphic. He said it's only a matter of time before deputies track them down and take them into custody.
Prisma Graphic CEO Robert Anderson said Wednesday that the six people who were detained on company property were hired prior to 2008, which is when the Legal Arizona Workers Act went into effect, requiring employers to participate in E-Verify. Under the Legal Arizona Workers Act, employers did not have to use E-Verify to substantiate the legal status of people who were already on the payroll.
According to Anderson, the company did its best to verify the immigration status of new employees at the time, requiring them to fill out an employment application, Form I-9 (Employee Eligibility Verification) and provide proper documentation.
Arpaio and his deputies have conducted 54 similar raids in the past few years, the most recent being at C&M Homes, a Mesa construction company, in early October.
"They don't seem to care, these businesses that keep hiring illegal aliens with false ID," Arpaio said at the time. I'm going to keep cracking down. ... I think they should do more, be more vigilant."
Identity theft is a Class 4 felony.
Prisma Graphic opened as a boutique printing shop in Phoenix more than 30 years ago. According to the company's website, the privately-held business had just 30 employees and $1 million in sales in 2000. It has since grown and is now headquartered in an 82,000-square-foot facility, has more than quadrupled its staff and posts $24 million in annual sales.
Sunday, August 14, 2011
The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is a massive non-profit body that brings corporations and legislators together to draft "model" legislation. For example, AZ Senator Russell Pearce and Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the nation's largest private prison firm, have been members for years. ALEC finalized the model legislation which became, almost word for word, Arizona's SB1070, aka "Support Our Law Enforcement." It's the latest in the historical pattern of colonization, slave codes, convict leasing, and the drug war, that CREATES crimes and therefore criminals, for profit.
With British Petroleum (BP) and the Koch brothers as some of their funders, ALEC has pushed for Three Strikes and Mandatory Minimum sentencing, as well as the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act. More than 200 of ALEC's model bills became actual laws throughout the country over the past year.
We're a group of people in occupied Indigenous lands, now called Arizona, who demand the end of SB1070 and 287g, the criminalization—and then the incarceration—of migrants, and the militarization of the border. We oppose private prisons, detention centers, and security companies, not simply because they are private, but because we are sickened by profiteering on human misery. ALEC desires "free markets" and "limited government," which means they use the state to support profit-making, the continuance of colonization, and neo-liberal policies (NAFTA, CANAMEX, etc.) that draw lines, make laws, and build freeways and prisons to exploit labor and the earth.
Whether maintained by the state or corporations, we're against all systems of control. We are for freedom of movement for all people.
ALEC should know there are a million better things to do with their time than plotting mass incarceration. But there’s nowhere we’d rather be than confronting their meeting. We're calling for four days of action here in occupied Onk Akimel O’odham lands from November 29th - December 3rd, 2011, with an emphasis for action on November 30th (N30!). We encourage a creative diversity of tactics on N30, the 12th anniversary of the Seattle uprising against the WTO. No matter the acronym, ALEC is no different than all the other gangs of businessmen, politicians, and bureaucrats that we’ve been resisting for over 500 years.
In solidarity with everyone locked up and locked down in AZ, and all O’odham, Yaqui, Lipan Apache separated by the border, and anyone dispossessed by the wealthy and powerful…
see also: azresistsalec.wordpress.com
Monday, August 8, 2011
DOWNLOAD AT: http://shiningsoulmusic.bandcamp.com/
"The militarization of the U.S./Mexico border
has led only to cultural and environmental destruction
of the indigenous peoples whose land is on or near
the border, such as the O'odham, Yaqui
and Lipan Apache Nations.
Border Militarization brings death and terror
to indigenous peoples from other parts
of the continent migrating to this land.
The immigration struggle is also
an Indigenous struggle. '
Tuesday, August 2, 2011
ALEC has been making the news a lot recently, with NPR pieces[pt.1, pt.2] about how, in meetings with private prison corporations, they wrote the infamous SB1070, the anti-immigrant law that anarchists and others have been fighting against in Arizona.
Leaked documents from inside ALEC prompted an interview segment on Democracy Now! The documents show that ALEC, in partnership with it's corporate members, actually wrote many pro-corporate laws that have since gone into effect, including free trade agreements that were a main focus of the anti-globalization movement many anarchists participated in after the WTO protests in Seattle in 1999.
And on the Huffington Post, an article explains how ALEC is carrying forward the ideological program of deregulation and privatization pushed by Milton Friedman. This simplistic, fundamentalist capitalist ideology has had many negative local effects, as was mentioned in a recent article on this blog.
Now, anarchists have no illusions about the fact that big business owns and runs the government, but at least corporate power usually fears public anger that arises from the blatant merger of State and corporate power enough to put on a political puppet show for us! Mostly, the way elites legitimize the unequal and unjust system that they preside over to the rest of us is to make sure that it at least has the appearance of people, through elected politicians, getting to decide democratically what happens in our country. ALEC doesn't bother with that populist song and dance, they facilitate the outright penning of legislation by corporations themselves becoming law. So we end up with things like Immigration Policy, brought to you by Corrections Corporation of America! etc...
While ALEC's dealings aren't a meaningful divergence from the normal machinations of power, it is easier for people to see that the system's a sham, and easier for them to finger the true culprits, when corporations are writing their own legislation. This is why the anti-ALEC organizing to confront those economic power structures is worth supporting.
Of course, there will surely be those in the protest calling for the political charade to be played out fully once again, for the kabuki theater to re-close the curtains that shields us from what's happening backstage, so we can once again be whisked away to fairyland, where democracy exists and people power is in charge, and we can return to our peaceful slumber, dreaming the American Dream.
But, there will be also be people protesting who know returning to the democratic facade is not going to solve any of our problems, and that confronting the corporations behind the curtain of our "democracy" is the first step to destroying their control of our lives and communities.
In that spirit, anarchists should come out to the locally-organized ALEC protests in New Orleans (August 5th, 2pm, 500 Poydras St.). Come out not to demand stricter adherence to lobbying laws, more transparency, or less corruption. Come out to demand an end to the power of corporations, and their use of State violence to increase their wealth, and thereby control over our economy, society, and lives. Come out to say that it doesn't matter whether that power is hidden behind the veil of democracy, or is blatantly transparent, as it is with ALEC, that either way it has to be dismantled. Anarchists should come with flags, in black, or with banners and signs to show our united stance, to show that we are not in favor of a return to the democratic political farce, but organizing for an end to capitalist control.
Not only should anarchists participate in the protest on August 5th, but we should organize other actions to confront the corporations who are members of ALEC during the conference, from August 1st-6th. ALEC's members include oil companies responsible for ruining the Gulf and Wetlands, big banks who own hundreds of foreclosed homes in our city while people sleep on the streets, and private prison companies directly profiting from tough on crime laws, the creation of a racist, militarized police state, and booming incarceration rates, which Louisiana leads the nation in. Let's get creative and use their conference to catalyze our own actions to take back our city from these profiteers of human suffering!
Friday, July 29, 2011
It has been encouraging to see the awareness about the role of private prison companies in influencing criminalization of people grow and grow in the last year. SB 1070 and the relationship between various legislators like Russell Pearce and private prison companies like CCA and Geo Group within the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), and between governor Jan Brewer and CCA, has been exposed recently. People had already started to address the connection between Wells Fargo and private prison-run detention centers that hold thousands of migrants in other parts of the country and a tiny bit here in AZ. Now there are country-wide campaigns popping off against private prisons companies and against ALEC.
However, as horrible as the conditions in private prisons are (and they do tend to be several times worse than state-run facilities), and as obvious as it is that SB 1070 passed with great influence on the part of those who stand to make millions off of putting people in cages, I would hate to see the focus be solely on this most recent phenomenon. An anti-private prison campaign can easily fall into the same traps as the "go after the real criminals" message, as though there's nothing wrong with the "criminal" "justice" system. As though the criminalization of people who cross a man-made line is not similar to the criminalization of so many of the people in prisons today and historically. We should also consider the limitations of previous nation-wide anti-private prison campaigns like the one that targeted Sodexho in the early 2000's. A focus only on the privatization of prisons can only divert energy from addressing the prison system in general; the various reasons people end up in jail or prison, and the ways in which the system will never and is not meant to address the real ills of our society.
I put together the following video to provide a complex yet still simplistic (limited by time and resources) history of criminalization of people for the benefit of the few. Please share it with anyone you think would be interested. This video is a follow up from several of my blog entries including No Borders or Prison Walls and What came first: the Racism or the Profit Motive? On Private Prisons' push for SB1070
Please also view the 2nd part. It all ties together, and there's some good commentary towards the end.
Thursday, June 23, 2011
##################### CHINGA LA MIGRA BULLETIN #1 6/23/2011 ####################
We are releasing hundreds of private intelligence bulletins, training manuals, personal email correspondence, names, phone numbers, addresses and passwords belonging to Arizona law enforcement. We are targeting AZDPS specifically because we are against SB1070 and the racial profiling anti-immigrant police state that is Arizona.
The documents classified as "law enforcement sensitive", "not for public distribution", and "for official use only" are primarily related to border patrol and counter-terrorism operations and describe the use of informants to infiltrate various gangs, cartels, motorcycle clubs, Nazi groups, and protest movements.
Every week we plan on releasing more classified documents and embarassing personal details of military and law enforcement in an effort not just to reveal their racist and corrupt nature but to purposefully sabotage their efforts to terrorize communities fighting an unjust "war on drugs".
Hackers of the world are uniting and taking direct action against our common oppressors - the government, corporations, police, and militaries of the world. See you again real soon! ;D
LulzSec releases ‘classified’ data of ‘racist’ Arizona law enforcementhttp://www.rawstory.com/rs/2011/06/23/lulzsec-releases-classified-data-of-racist-arizona-law-enforcement/
The group of rogue and jocular hackers known as Lulz Security - or LulzSec - released data Thursday night it claims belongs to Arizona law enforcement in a campaign dubbed "Operation Chinga La Migra."
"We are releasing hundreds of private intelligence bulletins, training manuals, personal email correspondence, names, phone numbers, addresses and passwords belonging to Arizona law enforcement," the group said on their website.
LulzSec is targeting the state's law enforcement because they are against SB1070, Arizona's controversial immigration enforcement law.
They called Arizona a "racial profiling anti-immigrant police state."
"We're trying to track down whoever did it and secure our system," Steve Harrison, a spokesman for the Arizona Department of Public Safety, told the Phoenix New Times. "Right now we think they got into our computers through our e-mail."
The Maricopa County Sheriff's Office said it was not aware of the cyber attack until LulzSec tweeted Sheriff Joe Arpaio's Twitter account.
"The media has been giving me a lot of heat lately but nothing compared to tent city!" Arpaio tweeted Thursday. LulzSec responded, "Media? Heat? You? Chinga La Migra!"
LulzSec announced Tuesday that it would team up with hacker activist group Anonymous, as the manhunt for people involved with both groups continues. LulzSec has also claimed responsibility for the Sony hack that compromised millions of peoples' personal information, as well as several government hacks. The group burst onto the public radar with a well-publicized hack of PBS NewsHour's website in early June.
The group has quickly become an Internet sensation, with over a quarter of a million Twitter followers and numerous LulzSec-inspired songs on YouTube.
"Every week we plan on releasing more classified documents and embarrassing personal details of military and law enforcement in an effort not just to reveal their racist and corrupt nature but to purposefully sabotage their efforts to terrorize communities fighting an unjust war on drugs," LulzSec announced.
The package of data was uploaded to the file-sharing website The Pirate Bay.
"Hackers of the world are uniting and taking direct action against our common oppressors - the government, corporations, police, and militaries of the world."
Updated June 23, 2011 at 9:16pm EST.
Sunday, April 24, 2011
According to the NIJC, the individuals who filed complaints all came to the United States to escape persecution in their native countries, and have since faced continued abuse in the immigration system.
The NIJC is asking the Department of Homeland Security to investigate the treatment of LGBT people in DHS custody, craft policies to address violations and oversee implementation.
According to the NIJC’s complaint (PDF), some of the people held are legal residents who were previously convicted of a crime -– in some cases, just a misdemeanor; others are felons who were transferred to ICE custody after longer prison sentences; and others were undocumented aliens or people who have overstayed their visas.
All are, or were, held based on civil and not criminal offenses, reports the NIJC.
The alleged abuses against LGBT individuals include denial of medical care, discrimination and sexual assault.
In one case, according to the NIJC complaint, Steve, a gay Peruvian asylum seeker, was held in solitary confinement for six weeks “on the sole basis that he is HIV-positive.”
“Officers frequently prohibited Steve from leaving his cell to get his HIV medication,” the report alleges. “Steve was traumatized when he sought medical treatment and an officer refused to remove the shackles from his feet, waist, and hands despite pleas from his doctor.”
The report describes sexual assaults by fellow inmates followed by repeated denials for transfer from the victim as well as a transgender inmate being denied her hormone treatment, despite her use of hormones for ten years prior to detainment.
“The administration should take immediate steps to apply the protections of the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA), which would provide protections and remedies for individuals who are victims of sexual assault, to all immigration detention facilities,” the group said.
Heartland Alliance has established a letter campaign to President Barack Obama and DHS. (You can add your signature to the letter here.)
NIJC, based in Chicago, provides direct legal services to and advocates for immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers through policy reform, impact litigation, and public education.