ICE leaving migrant dads and children at Tucson, Phoenix bus stations, shelters say

In this file photo from earlier this year, a Mexican woman altered her pants at Casa Alitas after being released by Immigration and Customs Enforcement and fitted with an ankle monitoring bracelet. Perla Trevizo/Arizona Daily Star

Under new ICE policy, migrant fathers traveling with children 4 years old or older will be dropped off at local bus stations after being released, instead of taken to area shelters, nonprofit organizations were told.

Shelters will only be contacted regarding mothers traveling with children and fathers with children under 3 years old, according to Gretchen López, who runs the Inn Project, one of the shelters that opened a few years ago to receive families being released by immigration officials.

A request for comment from Immigration and Customs Enforcement was not answered Tuesday evening.

Area nonprofits said they only found out about the new policy after Greyhound workers began to contact them, saying they had an unusual number of families at the bus stations who didn’t know what to do.

At least 70 fathers and their children were dropped off in Tucson between Monday and Tuesday, López said.

Leah Sarat, with the Restoration Project in Phoenix, said at least another 20 to 30 families were dropped off in Phoenix.

López said she went to the bus station in Tucson after 5 p.m. Monday to see what was going on. “I was able to take the majority to the shelter and to a second location run by the Inn Project,” she said. “So far, no one has been left on the street between the various shelters.”

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Mexican coffee cooperative with U.S. customers ‘helps build bridges’

Elvia Carrillo dumps arabica beans into a grinder at Cáfe Justo in Agua Prieta, Sonora. The cooperative’s farmers control the packaging and exporting, and set the price. Kelly Presnell / Arizona Daily Star

For coffee farmers in southern Mexico, the cooperative they began 16 years ago has allowed their sons to come home and make a living working the land, and it has also led to a growing number of university graduates in their community.

That is a major turn-around, notes Alonso López, one of 36 cooperative members from Salvador Urbina, in the southern state of Chiapas.

“My parents weren’t able to give me an education, only up to middle school, then we all had to help work the land or migrate to the border or the United States,” López said.

Today, his oldest daughter is studying to be a teacher. “I feel very happy to be able to give my daughter schooling,” he said. “I tell her she has to work hard; it’s her inheritance.”

In 2002, a group of coffee farmers who had migrated north to the border town of Agua Prieta, Sonora, or to the United States founded Café Justo with the help of a $20,000 loan from Frontera de Cristo, a binational ministry from the Presbyterian Church.

The ministry was grappling with how to respond to the realities of migration when a group of 25 farmers approached its board with the proposal, said Mark Adams, U.S. coordinator for the program.

They saw it as a way to try to address root causes of migration.

Sixteen years later, the coffee cooperative has grown from 25 families in the Salvador Urbina community to more than 100 across four communities, including a second group in Chiapas and one each in Nayarit and Veracruz.

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Not guilty: Jury acquits Border Patrol agent Lonnie Swartz of involuntary manslaughter

Araceli Rodriguez, left, mother of the late Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez, speaks outside the federal courthouse with supporters after Border Patrol agent Lonnie Swartz was found not guilty of involuntary manslaughter in Jose’s cross-border shooting death, Nov. 21, 2018, in Tucson, Ariz. Mike Christy/Arizona Daily Star.

Jurors found Border Patrol agent Lonnie Swartz not guilty of involuntary manslaughter, two hours after they told the judge they were deadlocked and he told them to keep deliberating.

The acquittal came Wednesday in the Tucson courtroom of U.S. District Court Judge Raner Collins.

The jury didn’t fill out the verdict form on a voluntary manslaughter charge, so prosecutors are arguing Swartz could be tried again, but defense attorneys say otherwise.

Because the agent was acquitted of the lesser charge of involuntary manslaughter, he cannot be retried on the higher charge of voluntary manslaughter, the defense attorneys said.

The judge set a status conference on the case, and those questions, for Dec. 11.

Swartz was on trial for the second time in the 2012 cross-border shooting death of 16-year-old Jose Antonio Elena Rodríguez.

“It’s been a long road” for Swartz, said Sean Chapman, one of two attorneys representing the agent. “And now it’s over. The jury did the right thing.”

He said that Swartz, who is on administrative leave, was weeping and relieved. Chapman said he didn’t know whether Swartz will return to the Border Patrol.

While the prosecutors couldn’t comment on the verdict, Assistant U.S. Attorney Wallace Kleindienst said they respected the jury’s decision.

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Jurors begin deliberating in re-trial of Border Patrol agent in Nogales teen’s killing

Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez. Courtesy of the family

Whether Border Patrol agent Lonnie Swartz shot and killed 16-year-old Jose Antonio Elena Rodríguez because he was fed up, or to protect himself and fellow officers from rock throwers, is what a Tucson jury will have to decide.

Attorneys on both sides made their closing arguments to jurors Friday in Swartz’s federal trial on a voluntary manslaughter charge.

An earlier federal jury in Tucson acquitted Swartz of second-degree murder in Elena Rodríguez’s 2012 death, but couldn’t agree on lesser charges. The prosecution decided to retry the case. Swartz is the first Border Patrol agent to be tried in a cross-border shooting.

“Unreasonable and unnecessary. Unreasonable and unnecessary,” that’s what the shooting was, Assistant U.S. District Attorney Mary Sue Feldmeier told jurors.

When Swartz fired through the border fence at Nogales, down into Mexico 16 times, hitting Elena Rodríguez 10 times in the back and head, it wasn’t about defending human life, she said, it was about not giving in.

“There’s no justification for what happened that night,” Feldmeier said, saying use of deadly force should be a last resort.

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U.S. officials: Arizona border ports need razor wire to prevent migrant rush

U.S. Army troops install razor wire atop the U.S.-Mexico border barrier in Nogales. Mayor-elect Arturo Garino says the wire does not give a good impression of the border area. Mike Christy / Arizona Daily Star

U.S. troops are topping the border fence with razor wire near ports of entry in Arizona to prevent migrants in caravans from storming in as some did at the Guatemala-Mexico border, officials said Friday.

“I think everybody saw what happened on the Mexico-Guatemala border, where Mexico was in fact offering asylum and they still rushed through the border. So we have to prepare for that eventuality,” Rodolfo Karisch, commander of the Joint Task Force-West, said during a news conference Friday at the DeConcini Port of Entry in Nogales. Karisch is also chief of the Border Patrol’s Tucson Sector.

Some migrants in the groups traveling north burst through the Guatemalan border fence and clashed with Mexico riot police trying to keep them from crossing last month, according to news reports.

About 1,500 U.S. troops have been deployed to Southern Arizona to support Customs and Border Protection in Operation Secure Line, in preparation for the potential arrival of large groups of Central Americans making their way slowly through Mexico.

Borderwide, about 5,600 troops have been sent and future deployments could exceed 7,000, as part of what was previously called by the Department of Defense Operation Faithful Patriot.

The troops include military police and engineering troops who can help build vehicle barriers and other fencing to strengthen different parts of the border, especially around legal crossing points. Others are here to help with maintenance, transportation and logistics to move materials, and Black Hawks will move agents to remote locations.

Medical and planning support staff are also prepared to assist as needed, said Col. Larry Dewey, senior mission commander of U.S. Army forces supporting CBP in Arizona.

“Our mission is not to stop the caravan of migrants,” Dewey said, but to support CBP.

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Soldiers deployed to border by Trump start arriving at Tucson’s Davis-Monthan

Soldiers and airmen assemble the framework for a tent at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, where some of the 15,000 troops being deployed along the entire border are to be housed. Spc. Keion Jackson / U.S. Army

Soldiers started to arrive at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base over the weekend as part of President Trump’s plan to deploy up to 15,000 troops to the southern border.

The deployment is in response to groups of Central American migrants and asylum-seekers slowly making their way through Mexico.

There are about 1,200 service members deployed to Arizona, although the numbers are in flux, a spokesperson with the U.S. Northern Command said, adding that the numbers of future deployments will depend on CBP’s request for assistance and its assessment of where troops are needed.

Both Davis-Monthan Air Force Base and Fort Huachuca have been identified as locations to house the soldiers.

Where are newly arrived, unaccompanied minors housed in Arizona? No one will say

Southwest Key shelter in Tucson. Mike Christy/Arizona Daily Star.

It is unclear where newly arrived unaccompanied minors in Arizona are being housed more than a week since Southwest Key reached an agreement with the state that keeps it from receiving children.

As part of the agreement between the Texas-based nonprofit and the Arizona Department of Health Services, Southwest Key also had to pay a fine and close two Phoenix-area shelters with a combined capacity for 559 minors.

The Office of Refugee Resettlement, the federal agency in charge of the minors who arrive in the United States without a parent or guardian, will relocate all children currently sheltered at Casa Phoenix by Nov. 22, a spokesperson said in an email. The unaccompanied minors previously housed at the Hacienda del Sol facility were moved before Sept. 28.

“Additional information was unavailable at this time as (the federal agency) continues its monitoring and investigation of Southwest Key Programs and determines next steps,” the email said.

Agency officials did not answer the Arizona Daily Star’s questions about where those arriving at the border after the agreement was reached on Oct. 24 are being housed, nor where those housed at the now-closed facilities are being relocated.

Consuls from Guatemala and El Salvador in Tucson said they aren’t authorized to speak to the media. The Guatemalan Consulate directed all inquiries to a communications person in Guatemala City, but that request also went unanswered.

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