Friday, October 19, 2012

68th anti-immigrant workplace raid in Maricopa County

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Maricopa County sheriff's deputies served a search warrant on a Glendale business Thursday morning in yet another raid to catch people who allegedly used false identification to get their jobs.

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

Family of teen killed in border shooting alleges excessive force, will sue

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.

U.S. Border Patrol Fires at Rock Throwers in Mexico, and Three Have Died

 Shortly before midnight on Wednesday, a stocky 16-year-old Mexican boy died face down on a pitted concrete sidewalk in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico. José Antonio Elena Rodriguez had been shot seven times. His alleged killer, a U.S. Border Patrol agent, had gunned him down from the Arizona side of the border.

The Border Patrol, in a statement to The Daily Beast, claims the FBI is investigating the shooting, which began when Border Patrol agents came upon smugglers dropping loads of narcotics in Nogales, Ariz. As the smugglers hightailed it back into Mexico, the agents were “assaulted” with rocks from the Mexican side, the statement says. The agents ordered the rock throwers to “cease.” When the rocks kept coming in from Mexico, an agent “discharged his service weapon.” The Border Patrol did not say an agent killed the boy, but said instead “one of the subjects appeared to have been hit.”

The unlikely scenario of Border Patrol agents in the United States gunning down Mexican rock throwers in Mexico has played out several times in the last two years, outraging the Mexican government, raising questions about the Border Patrol’s use of force, and causing diplomatic huddles between the two countries.
“This is happening with a disturbing frequency,” a high-placed Mexican official who is very familiar with the Rodriguez shooting investigation tells The Daily Beast.  “It’s about use of force. How much of a threat is a rock compared to a firearm?”
Not counting the Rodriguez case, in the last two years, Border Patrol agents in the United States have reportedly shot and killed at least three Mexicans in Mexico, and injured at least one other, according to press reports. In each case, rocks were allegedly thrown from Mexico into the United States either as a way to divert agents from arresting Mexicans or as a mean-spirited taunt.
At least one other killing may have occurred in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico. On Jan. 5, 2011, a Border Patrol agent shot and killed 17-year-old Ramses Barron Torres when he and others on the Mexican side of the fence allegedly began throwing rocks at Border Patrol agents making a drug bust in the United States, according to Nogales International newspaper.
A year before, a Mexican teen was shot and killed by a Border Patrol agent on the Mexican side of the Rio Grande in Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico. The agent claimed the boys were running into the United States, then running back into Mexico. When he grabbed one of the boys, the agent said, the others began throwing rocks at him. He fired. The family filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against the agent in the United States, but it was dismissed, according to the El Paso Times, because the shooting occurred in Mexico.
Nogales Border Shooting
A U.S. Border Patrol vehicle keeps watch along the border fence in Nogales, Ariz. (Ross Franklin / AP Photo)
Another fatal shooting occurred in September. A Mexican man on the Mexico side of the Rio Grande near Nuevo Laredo was shot by a Border Patrol agent aboard a boat in U.S. waters, according to the San Antonio Express-News. The family said the man was picnicking; the Border Patrol said the victim was pelting the agent with rocks.

The Mexican official familiar with all the investigations tells The Daily Beast that in addition to the shootings in Mexico, in the last six years, more than two dozen Mexicans have been “shot, Tazered, or otherwise abused” by Border Patrol agents and other law enforcement officials on the American side of the border. Very often, rock throwing is part of the scenario. Since the shootings are found to be justifiable by U.S. officials, the message to Border Patrol agents is, “it’s fair game for a Border Patrol agent to shoot a Mexican,” he says.

“What would happen,” the official asks, “if the tables were turned?  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.”
Mexican leaders met Friday in Mexico City to discuss the Rodriguez killing, according to The Arizona Republic, and the shooting has been roundly condemned by all levels of Mexican government. In Washington on Thursday, the Mexican Embassy issued a blistering statement saying preliminary information about the Rodriguez shooting raises “serious doubts about the use of lethal force by U.S. Border Patrol agents, something that both the Mexican Government and Mexican society strongly deplore and condemn.”

The shootings have sparked “conversations” between the United States and Mexico, says Christopher Wilson, an expert on Border Patrol issues and associate in the Mexico Institute Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington. No one wants to deprive the Border Patrol of the use of weapons to deter and defend, says Wilson. But the shootings “have happened several times” and bear similarities—young victims, rock throwing, and a debate over whether the victims were really rock throwers, narco-traffickers, or innocent bystanders.
‘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.’

“There’s a lot of space for conversations on creative ways” for the United States to manage Border Patrol “protocols,” Wilson says, so such incidents don’t occur in the future.

At least one method—shooting things other than bullets—seems to work. Last year, a Nogales-based Border Patrol agent “used a pepper ball launcher to repel a rock-throwing smuggling suspect and seize $12,500 worth of marijuana,” the Nogales International reported.
No one was injured.

Unaccompanied migrant youth in U.S. detention centers rises 50%

Gang violence in Central America has led to a startling increase in the number of children who make the dangerous journey across the Mexican border alone in search of asylum in the United States, according to a report by the Women's Refugee Commission, a nonprofit that advocates for displaced women and children.

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.,0,6904349.story