Category Archives: Border Life

Border sheriffs say ‘the wall’ has become a lightning rod of division

Santa Cruz County Sheriff Tony Estrada, a Democrat, says “it’s so ludicrous that everything is hinging on that magical wall.” Gregory Bull / The Associated Press

As the government shutdown nears its fifth week, border sheriffs are saying “the wall” has become a lightning rod of division and a sound bite that constrains talks on securing the border.

“The term ‘the wall’ gets in the way a lot. It has become this semantic game of what is a wall,” said Pima County Sheriff Mark Napier, a Republican.

“Let’s talk about border security, which part of it will be physical barriers, part of that will be technology and part of that will be human resources,” he said.

Those, along with better technology and staffing at ports of entry, are the main points of a new, three-page statement released by the Southwestern Border Sheriff’s Coalition. Napier said he authored it on behalf of 31 sheriffs in four southern border states.

Napier was among a group of law enforcement officials and others who spoke to President Trump during a conference call Wednesday. He’s also talked to lawmakers in Arizona and nationally about the issue, including “a few Democrats,” he said, “but not as many as I would like.”

In interviews this week, Arizona’s Republican border sheriffs wouldn’t clearly state whether they supported the president’s position to continue the shutdown until congressional Democrats agree to his request for $5.7 billion for 234 miles of new steel barriers.

“There’s enough blame to go around,” said Napier. “The Democrats desperately want to win, the president desperately wants to win. But who should win is not the Republicans or the Democrats, but the American people.”

Yuma County Sheriff Leon Wilmot, also a Republican, said he gives kudos to Trump. “I would imagine the president is standing tall because he’s standing tall for the boots on the ground who are saying this is what we need to adequately do our job,” he said. “I know that law enforcement appreciate the fact he’s standing up and holding Congress accountable.”

But for Santa Cruz County Sheriff Tony Estrada, the lone Democrat among Arizona’s border sheriffs, “it’s so ludicrous that everything is hinging on that magical wall,” he said. “It’s completely absurd, reckless and of no common sense. There are places where it would be practical, an option, but will it be the solution? No.”

Continue reading at the Arizona Daily Star.

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Group seeks to make Tucson first sanctuary city in Arizona

A crowd gathered in Tucson to rally against SB 1070 in 2010. Much of the statute, at the time the strictest immigration-related state law in the country, has since been struck down. Arizona Daily Star 2010

A local group is hoping to change Tucson from an “immigrant-welcoming city” to Arizona’s first sanctuary city through a petition drive launching today.

“If the time is not now, then when? If it’s not Tucson, then where?” asked Zaira Livier, executive director of the People’s Defense Initiative, which is launching its effort Saturday, Jan. 12.

The Tucson Families Free and Together initiative would put the force of law behind many guidelines already in place here about circumstances under which police can ask about immigration status. It would also add protections for some victims of crime and prohibit certain collaborations between city and federal agencies, among other measures.

The campaign effort is to “build what somebody might call sanctuary for all, to build a Tucson that is a safe place for everybody to thrive,” Livier said.

While the city has made some changes to internal policy, she said, her group wants to ensure it remains even if there’s a change in leadership, and to give it some teeth.

The petition drive needs to collect 9,241 signatures by July 5 to put it on the November ballot. Livier said the group’s goal is to gather at least 20,000 signatures by the first week of June.

State Sen. John Kavanagh, a Republican from Fountain Hills and a proponent of enforcing federal immigration laws, said this week he will file a complaint if the measure passes and he finds that it violates Arizona law.

Continue reading at the Arizona Daily Star.

Shifting Trends: How do you ‘secure’ the border when most migrants are just turning themselves in?

Most of the migrants arriving in southwestern Arizona make no attempt to escape detection and simply turn themselves in. Above, Denilson Agustin waits at a Yuma shelter with his mother, Marleni, who wears a monitoring bracelet. She has agreed to show up for an immigration hearing. Kelly Presnell / Arizona Daily Star

Thousands of parents and their children continue to make the journey north — they either wait in line for days or weeks outside ports of entry or cross paths with Border Patrol agents and seek refuge.

The growing numbers have been particularly troublesome to President Trump, who’s made cracking down on immigration central to his campaigns and administration. He’s continued his calls for a wall; instituted a policy that led to the separation of more than 2,500 children from their parents; and deployed thousands of troops to the border.

But that hasn’t stopped many of the families and minors who are fleeing gangs, extortion and violent partners. Nor those escaping poverty, wanting to reunite with relatives or in search of a better job. To the contrary, thousands keep coming, increasingly in large groups.

How do you secure the border when half of those arriving borderwide — and more than three-fourths of those arriving in the Border Patrol’s Yuma Sector — are not trying to evade law enforcement nor the walls built to keep them out?

Continue reading at the Arizona Daily Star.

Shifting Trends: Americans’ deep political divide creates fraught territory

Fears about a border “invasion” need to be listened to, says former Bishop Gerald Kicanas. “But also people need to get more information, need to get more understanding.” Kelly Presnell / Arizona Daily Star

A group of about 40 students gathered outside a San Luis building — where many who came decades before them had organized alongside civil-rights leader César Chávez.

They called for family reunifications at a time this summer when a government policy had resulted in more than 2,500 immigrant children being separated from their parents at the border.

“What was done is not fair,” then San Luis Mayor Gerardo Sanchez, a Democrat, told the group in Spanish. “You march today to stop these injustices.”

That same day, about 20 miles north in a more conservative Yuma, members of the Immaculate Conception Parish held their first forum aimed at dispelling rumors that their refugee ministry was harboring unauthorized immigrants.

President Trump won in Yuma County with 50.5 percent of the vote in 2016. But in southernmost parts of the county such as San Luis, Democrat Hillary Clinton took nearly 90 percent.

For decades, immigration has been a highly politicized and divisive issue, especially around election time. A Pew Research Center poll before the 2018 midterm elections found that 75 percent of GOP voters said illegal immigration is a “very big” problem in the country today, while just 19 percent of Democratic voters said the same.

And while nearly 6 in 10 Democratic voters said the way unauthorized immigrants are treated is a very big problem, just 15 percent of Republican voters said this.

Forum organizers were well aware of the fraught territory in which they were treading.

Continue reading at the Arizona Daily Star.

Shifting Trends: Trying to secure the border, one prosecution at a time

“You have many rights,” U.S. Judge James Metcalf reminds migrants in his courtroom. Josh Peckler / The Yuma Sun

YUMA — In a matter of a couple of hours, federal magistrate judge James Metcalf explained charges, accepted pleas and sentenced 40 immigrants in three different languages — with one case postponed to have an interpreter available.

Not every day is as busy in this Yuma courtroom as it was that day in late July. But as the Trump administration pushes for a return to a zero-tolerance policy with the goal of criminally prosecuting everyone the Border Patrol apprehends, the numbers continue to rise, and the nationalities grow more diverse.

Last fiscal year, which ended in September, the courthouse in Yuma prosecuted 2,117 people through Operation Streamline, a fast-track program for border crossers, up from 836 in 2017. That is still much lower than the numbers seen in 2013, when nearly 5,800 were prosecuted.

The fiscal 2018 numbers only represent 8 percent of the 26,000 apprehended — in large part because 3 out of 4 were parents and their children or minors traveling alone, many of them Guatemalan.

Compare that to five years ago, when 94 percent of those apprehended were processed through Streamline but only 8 percent were families or unaccompanied minors.

The program known as Operation Streamline was created in 2005 in the Border Patrol’s Del Rio Sector in Texas to deter a growing number of Central Americans adults from crossing illegally.

Similar to what’s happening today with families, they would be released with a notice to appear before an immigration official because there wasn’t enough detention space to hold them while their cases were processed. But officials said few showed up to their appointments and the practice became known as “catch and release.”

Yuma was one of the first places that followed suit in 2006, at a time when its Border Patrol sector was making upwards of 100,000 apprehensions. Tucson joined in 2008.

Continue reading at the Arizona Daily Star.

Shifting Trends: The stories of 3 migrants who are undeterred

Socorro Reyes bides her time in the kitchen of the Casa del Migrante la Divina Providencia, Thursday, July 26, 2018, San Luis Rio Colorado, Sonora. Reyes, still sporting back and neck supports, is recovering from injuries sustained when a trailer of immigrants overturned fleeing from authorities in California. Kelly Presnell / Arizona Daily Star

SAN LUIS RIO COLORADO, Sonora — Casa del Migrante, not far from the port of entry, is a way station for migrants. It’s usually the first stop for deportees and, occasionally, one last layover for those making their way north.

Listen to the men and women at the shelter and two narratives emerge. Many caught by the Border Patrol and criminally prosecuted for illegal entry say they won’t try to cross again, at least not immediately.

If it was only the agents or the fence, a group of men said one afternoon in late July, they would reconsider. But there are also sensors, drones and the cartels that control the routes. It has gotten too hard, they said.

Others, who left children and partners behind or who come from extremely impoverished states, say they see no other option but to keep trying — no matter the cost.

Over the years, the Border Patrol’s strategy has been prevention by deterrence, making it so hard to cross that migrants think it’s best not to try; and when that doesn’t work, to use consequences, including criminal prosecutions, to reduce the number of repeat crossers.

But it’s still up for debate how effective those efforts are. A 2017 Government Accountability Office report found that applying consequences to border crossers didn’t seem to affect the recidivism rates over time. To the contrary, researchers found that apprehensions across multiple years increased from 21 percent in fiscal year 2014 to 25 percent in 2015.

Recently, many of the deportees who arrive at Casa del Migrante la Divina Providencia have been criminally prosecuted for illegal entry but were told the detention centers were full, said Martin Salgado, who runs the shelter.

For some the “push” factors — poverty, violence, natural disasters — and the “pull” factors — jobs, family, safety — are much stronger than any wall or punishment.

Here are the stories of three migrants who are undeterred.

Continue reading at the Arizona Daily Star.

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.

Continue reading at the Arizona Daily Star.