Armed men rob migrants in Nogales, Sonora, shelter

A group of migrants was asleep when men with guns burst through the door of the shelter they were staying at in Nogales, Sonora, witnesses said.

“They broke down the door and using bad words, told us to get up,” said a 53-year-old from Central Mexico, who asked not to be identified for fear of retaliation. “They put us face down and went through our pockets. They got my wallet and took 800 pesos (about $60).”

Twenty migrants, mostly from Central America, were staying Thursday night at La Roca, a popular Christian shelter for Central Americans trying to get to the United States or who were just deported.

The armed group included 19 men in ski masks and a woman who appeared to be leading the operation. They wore police uniforms and were riding in at least eight marked patrol units, said the Kino Border Initiative group in a news release.

Aldo Saracco, first inspector of the state commission of human rights in Sonora, said Saturday he could not confirm if the gunmen were members of the state and municipal police because it was too early in the investigation.

A call and emails to Nogales and Sonora state police went unanswered Saturday. Rights groups have filed complaints with Mexican state and federal authorities, as well as with state and federal human rights commissions.

“We want to know exactly what happened so police don’t feel they can do whatever they want,” said Marla Conrad, an advocate with the Kino Border Initiative, a binational organization that works on immigration issues in both sides of the border.

The group is helping the seven men who came forward to file an official complaint and is assisting the family that runs the shelter.

Saracco confirmed the agency received a formal complaint and is working with authorities, who have 15 days to respond.

On Monday, Francisco Arce, deputy director for public safety in Nogales, Sonora Francisco Arce said municipal police officers weren’t involved.

Continue reading at the Arizona Daily Star.

Sexual assault a threat for female border crossers

A 24-year-old woman from Oaxaca, Mexico, had been walking for five or six days west of Nogales when her smuggler pulled her away from their group in late June and raped her while the rest of the crossers slept.

A Honduran woman said the man she paid to get her across the border raped, robbed and threatened to kill her in April.

Although all unauthorized immigrants are at risk of abuse, women and children — particularly children traveling without a parent — are especially vulnerable. That is particularly concerning to human rights groups and law enforcement officials this summer, as the recent surge of unaccompanied minors and women traveling with their young children has brought tens of thousands of potential victims to the border.

Human rights organizations estimate that as many as 6 in 10 women experience sexual violence during their journey to the United States. But few report it — some may be embarrassed, others afraid. And if they manage to come into the country without being caught, many prefer to continue their journey rather than risk being deported if they go to the authorities, Santa Cruz County Sheriff Tony Estrada said.

“What we receive and report and what really happens, there’s probably a big separation between those two,” Estrada said.

So far this year, the Santa Cruz Sheriff’s Office has taken 11 reports of sex offenses, one of which was a sexual assault on an immigrant.

Last year, three of 23 cases involved women border crossers. One involved a 14-year-old girl, also from Oaxaca, who was found by Border Patrol agents in a remote spot east of Arivaca and said she was raped by her smuggler. The case against the alleged rapist is still pending.

In the last decade, Customs and Border Protection has seen an increase in sexual violence against migrants as drug smuggling organizations have taken over the smuggling of people, agency spokesman Andy Adame said. The threat of sexual assault is so high that in Altar, Sonora, a popular staging area for border crossers about three hours from Tucson, pharmacy shelves are lined with more than a dozen brands and types of birth control.

Continue reading at the Arizona Daily Star.

Arizona can’t deny driver’s licenses to ‘dreamers’ court rules

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ordered Arizona to stop denying “dreamers” driver’s licenses while the legal case continues.

Among the issues the three-judge panel cited Monday was that the policy could cause “irreparable harm” to the youths and that it wasn’t being applied evenly among groups in similar situations. Young adults whose parents brought them to the United States illegally may qualify for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, commonly called DACA, which lets them stay in this country with a two-year work permit that can be renewed.

“Defendants’ policy appears to be intended to express animus toward DACA recipients themselves, in part because of the federal government’s policy toward them,” Judge Harry Pregerson wrote in the unanimous decision. “Such animus, however, is not a legitimate state interest.”

Gov. Jan Brewer said in a written statement that she was analyzing her options for appealing what she called a misguided court decision and that Arizona would continue to fight for the rule of law.

“It is outrageous, though not entirely surprising, that the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has once again dealt a blow to Arizona’s ability to enforce its laws,” she said. “This continues us down a dangerous path in which the courts and the president — not Congress — make our nation’s laws.”

It is not clear how soon beneficiaries could apply for a driver’s license. Timothy Tait, assistant communication director for the Arizona Department of Transportation, said in an email Monday that the ruling was under review.

Almost 20,000 immigrants have received deferred action in Arizona, out of more than 550,000 nationwide.

Continue reading at the Arizona Daily Star.

Guatemala’s first lady visits immigrants in Tucson

Sebastian Quinac, of the Guatemalan Consulate, explains to Maria Gomez, 19, from Guatemala, how to read her bus ticket to Mississippi at the Greyhound Bus Station located at 471 West Congress Street. Gomez immigrated from Guatemala and was picked up in the Tucson Sector by Border Patrol. Gomez’s husband lives in Mississippi. Photo by Mamta Popat/Arizona Daily Star.

Guatemala’s first lady, Rosa Leal de Pérez visited Tucson’s Greyhound bus station Wednesday evening to thank volunteers and city officials for reaching out to the Guatemalan women and children who are dropped off daily by immigration officials before continuing their journey.

It was part of Pérez’s trip to Southern Arizona this week to assess the situation of Guatemalans, many of them women and young children.

“I come as a woman, as a mother and as a grandmother,” she said outside the bus station. “I have grandchildren who are the ages of the children making the journey and it breaks my heart.”

Pérez’s visit comes at a time when the federal government continues to grapple with an unprecedented increase in Central American minors and women traveling with their young children.

So far this fiscal year, the U.S. Border Patrol has apprehended more than 52,000 children and about 40,000 adults with minors.

Pérez arrived in Tucson Tuesday evening and during her trip has met with Catholic Diocese of Tucson Bishop Gerald Kicanas, and toured the Tucson Border Patrol Sector and the Nogales Placement Center where U.S. Customs and Border Protection has been holding children since early June.

On Wednesday, there were 431 children from Guatemala held at the center, which is being used as temporary housing while the Office of Refugee Resettlement finds bed space for the minors.

Continue reading at the Arizona Daily Star.

ACLU files new SB 1070 claim against Tucson police

Tucson police illegally detained a man for about an hour only to turn him over to the Border Patrol, the American Civil Liberties Union says in a complaint.

In its second immigration-related notice of claim against the Tucson Police Department in less than four months, the ACLU alleges that the implementation of Arizona’s SB 1070 law “continues to result in the violation of people’s constitutional rights.”

The most contested section of SB 1070 that was not blocked by the courts requires local police to check the immigration status of someone they stop for another reason if they become suspicious the person may be in the country illegally. That part of the law, however, has been interpreted and applied in different ways by different departments. An Arizona Daily Star analysis found that agency practices vary widely.

The police report was not available Tuesday, but according to the claim sent that day, Jesus Reyes Sepulveda was driving on Campbell Avenue on Jan. 26 when a police officer pulled him over at about 11 p.m.

The officer didn’t tell him why he was being stopped, the claim says, but asked for his driver’s license, insurance and registration.

Reyes Sepulveda was driving on a suspended driver’s license — a misdemeanor criminal offense — for unpaid traffic citations and expired insurance.

Officer Dyanna Hicks said he was going to be cited and released, and told him to call someone to pick him up since his vehicle would be towed, the claim said. But another officer, Kayla Conyer, called dispatchers to do an immigration check and, per their supervisor’s direction, asked the Border Patrol to respond.

Continue reading at the Arizona Daily Star.

Immigrant women, children at Tucson bus station no longer coming from Texas

Ana Carillo, 30, her daughter Lady, 4 (in pink), and her son Abner, 6, (not pictured) were at the Greyhound Bus Station in Tucson after crossing through Agua Prieta, Mex. They came from Guatemala by bus. She said the smuggler robbed her of her last 1,000 pesos, roughly $75, before telling her to run in the middle of the night. Photo by Perla Trevizo/Arizona Daily Star.

Groups of women with their children continue to be dropped off each day at the Greyhound station in Tucson, but they no longer come from south Texas. Instead, all of them tried to enter the United States through Arizona.

Ana Carrillo waited at the bus station recently as her two children, 4-year-old Lady and 6-year-old Abner, ran around with other children in the waiting area.

The Guatemala native crossed through Agua Prieta, east of Tucson, after the smuggler she hired to get her over the border robbed her of her last 1,000 pesos — roughly $75 — in the middle of the night and told her to run.

She’s not sure how far she went before she saw a Border Patrol agent, but her children were tired and crying.

“I was praying to God to please help me,” she said in Spanish while she waited for her bus to leave for Memphis, where she has a brother.

Lady’s face was covered in red spots — a reaction to the intense heat, her mother said. Their lips were so chapped from dehydration and the sun that volunteers ran to a nearby store to get ChapStick.

More than a year ago, volunteers from immigration advocacy group Casa Mariposa, who go to the bus station to help those released from immigration detention centers in the state, started seeing more women and children, said Blake Gentry, a volunteer coordinator.

Continue reading at the Arizona Daily Star.