Day of the Dead both solemn, festive in Mexico

NOGALES, Sonora — The city’s cemetery is dotted with blues, reds, pinks and yellows — lots of yellows.

On Nov. 1 and 2, thousands of families descend from throughout the city and across the border to visit their departed loved ones.

People start trickling in early in the morning and stay through the late night. They clean the gravesites and adorn them with fresh flowers, sold for a couple of dollars a bunch by vendors who set up shop along the streets.

When they’re finished, they light a candle before heading back home.

Beatriz Uriol, 59, bought more than 40 pounds of bright marigolds, pink cockscomb bunches and daisies to decorate the graves of her brother, who died 47 years ago, and a grandson who died 14 years ago when he was just four days old.

By midday the ever-growing cemetery, with graves being dug further up the hill, is full of families. The smell of fresh flowers, street tacos and roasted corn fill the air. Echoing over the gravestones are the sounds of children playing, of songs dedicated to the departed, of rakes against the rocky soil as people remove debris.

The festivity is a multi-generational family gathering, where children who are off from school accompany their parents, grandparents and even great-grandparents. Some seem to fully understand what they are doing there, but for most it’s a fun day where they get to play in the cemetery with their toy trucks, run around and eat candy.

Vendors yell out, their rhythmic cries selling peanuts, candied apples, cotton candy and flowers for five pesos, less than 50 cents.

“Day of the Dead is to celebrate those who we’ve lost,” said Uriol, “and we come here as a way to say thank you. Thank you for being our brother, for being our son.”

Continue reading at the Arizona Daily Star.

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Report: ICE complicit in hiding maltreatment at Eloy center

There have been 14 deaths at the Eloy Detention Center since 2003. Photo by Arizona Daily Star.

The Eloy Detention Center has not failed an inspection since 2006 despite having the highest number of known deaths at any immigration detention center in the country and frequent reports of sexual assault, a new report by immigration reform advocates says.

“Under these circumstances, it was expected that the facility’s inspections reports would reveal a troubling history of failure to meet standards regarding medical care, suicide prevention and sexual assault prevention,” said the report. “Instead, the inspection reports reveal ICE’s complicity in obscuring the facility’s failure to meaningfully address its violations.”

The inspection process that Immigration and Customs Enforcement uses is ineffective and often makes it easier for detention facilities to pass, including those with publicly reported human rights abuses, according to the report by the National Immigrant Justice Center and Detention Watch Network.

The report is based on inspection documents for 105 immigration detention centers from 2007 to 2012, including Eloy, obtained after the groups sued the federal government.

Continue reading at the Arizona Daily Star.

Use of force by border agents, officers declines

Use of force incidents by agents and officers of the largest law enforcement agency in the country are down, newly released data from Customs and Border Protection show.

For the second year in a row the total number of incidents — which can include a physical restraint or lethal force — decreased. The majority of the 768 cases in fiscal 2015 also involved a less lethal weapon.

The data show a 26 percent reduction in the number of use of force incidents, CBP Commissioner R. Gil Kerlikowske said in a news release. “This reduction is especially significant considering that assaults against agents and officers have essentially remained steady.”

Agents and officers were assaulted nearly 400 times this past fiscal year, slightly up from the 373 incidents in 2014.

The agency has come under increasing scrutiny for Border Patrol shootings and what many see as a lack of transparency and accountability. In response, the agency released its updated use-of-force policy and a report from the Police Executive Research Forum that was critical of some of the deadly force cases it reviewed.

In fiscal 2015, which ended on Sept. 30, customs officers, Border Patrol agents and air interdiction agents, used their firearms 28 times, about the same as in 2014. But that’s down from 60 in 2011, CBP data show.

Since 2005, on-duty Border Patrol agents and customs officers have killed at least 52 people — including six in fiscal 2015, according to an Arizona Republic database.

“The past year has brought many changes to CBP on use of force, transparency, and accountability,” Kerlikowske said.

“The steps we have taken over the past year – implementing policy changes, revamping our training, standing up a new review process, and expediting the disclosure of basic incident information to the public – are critical to achieving our mission and ensuring the trust of the American people.”

Staffing shortages keep expanded port of entry partly closed

Despite a recent $250 million expansion, getting through the Mariposa Port of Entry from Nogales, Sonora, into Nogales, Arizona, can be a slow process. The reason: Lack of adequate Customs and Border Patrol staffing. Photo by A.E. Araiza/Arizona Daily Star.

A shortage of customs officers at the newly expanded Mariposa Port of Entry in Nogales means there are days when many of the 20 lanes are closed.

The staffing shortage is part of a national problem. Customs and Border Protection got approval last year to hire 2,000 customs officers by the end of this fiscal year — including 170 in Arizona — but the federal agency has filled only about 800 of them. Officials attribute the shortfall to a background investigation contractor’s data breach, low polygraph clearance rates among applicants and a shortage of federal polygraph examiners, all combined with the attrition of existing customs officers.

To ease the shortage and get cars moving through the port, which is crucial to trade between the U.S. and Mexico, the city of Tucson is helping the agency find qualified applicants by hosting a job fair on Nov. 9. The Tucson Police Department will also participate.

Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild said the idea for a job fair came out of his visit with CBP officials in Washington, D.C., over the summer. The event will target recent college graduates, criminal justice majors, veterans and anyone looking for a career in law enforcement.

At the federal level, Arizona U.S. Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake and U.S. Rep. Martha McSally, all Republicans, introduced bills in both chambers to expedite the hiring of veterans as customs officers by having the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security work together. The bill, the Border Jobs for Veterans Act, awaits the president’s signature. About 30 percent of CBP employees are military veterans.

Continue reading at the Arizona Daily Star.

When parents deported, kids often land in foster care

Belem Chagolla, center, laughs with neighbor Tony Ortiz, while they eat ice cream with their respective children. Photo by Mike Chisty/Arizona Daily Star.

When parents in this country illegally are detained or deported, their children often are left behind — and some end up in state custody.

Because of a lack of uniformity across agencies and across states, the outcome of each case depends largely on individual attorneys, caseworkers, judges and even detention centers.

Continue reading at the Arizona Daily Star.