Category Archives: Mexico

Families seeking asylum wait days at Nogales port of entry, advocates say

Johanna Williams with the Kino Border Initiative on Monday speaks to a group of mostly Guatemalan parents and their children who started to arrive in Nogales on Saturday to present themselves at the port of entry to seek asylum. Perla Trevizo/Arizona Daily Star

Families continue arriving at the Nogales port of entry, many of them to seek asylum, but Customs and Border Protection has declined to provide updated information on the numbers or the process.

Since about May 12, dozens of parents with their children have been lining up at the pedestrian entrance of the port waiting to seek humanitarian protection. Most are Guatemalans; some are from Honduras and Mexico.

Many report fleeing cartels or gangs, domestic violence situations and extortion, said Joanna Williams with the Kino Border Initiative, a binational migrant aid organization.

On average, families are now waiting four days to be processed, which raises health and safety concerns, she said.

Initially, CBP issued a written statement saying the agency was processing people as quickly as possible and that the number varied on factors such as case complexity, resources and space available, and overall port volume.

Williams said a current delay seems to be with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement unit that transports people to a detention center or to a shelter, in the case of some families.

There are about 45 parents and children waiting in line at any given time with about 10 allowed in daily, Williams said. While they await their turn, they generally sit and sleep on the floor. A few have been hosted overnight at the group’s shelter or by the Mexican Red Cross. There’s a bathroom nearby they can use but few have opportunities to shower. Volunteers provide them with water, food and diapers and other basic necessities.

Continue reading at the Arizona Daily Star.

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Dozens of families, many from Guatemala, arrive in Nogales seeking US asylum

About two dozen people, mostly Guatemalan parents and their children, waited Monday to seek asylum in the U.S. at the pedestrian entrance of the DeConcini Port of Entry in Nogales. Perla Trevizo/Arizona Daily Star

NOGALES, Sonora — Faith they would make it across Mexico. Faith that U.S. officials would let them in. Faith they wouldn’t be separated once they crossed over. It bound them together through their travels and sustained them to the end, as they waited to be processed at the port of entry.

Dozens of families started showing up Saturday at the downtown port in Nogales to seek asylum, and officials processed a handful at a time.

By Monday, there were several who had slept on the floor, using cardboard and blankets as cushions, for two nights. More arrived Sunday and Monday.

By the end of the day, Mexican Red Cross workers said there were a few still left.

In a written statement, Customs and Border Protection said it processed people as quickly as possible “without negating the agency’s overall mission or compromising the safety of individuals within our custody.”

The number of people CBP can process, it said, “varies based upon case complexity; available resources; medical needs; translation requirements; holding/detention space; overall port volume; and ongoing enforcement actions.”

The number of families presenting themselves at ports of entry and between the ports has increased over the last several years.

Continue reading at the Arizona Daily Star.

Jurors on opposite sides: Was agent stopping threat, or lethally over-reacting?

Kevin Briggs and Heather Schubert, two of the 12 jurors in the murder trial of Border Patrol agent Lonnie Swartz. Perla Trevizo/Arizona Daily Star.

After sitting in a courtroom and listening to evidence for four weeks, a Tucson jury was deadlocked almost immediately on whether to convict Border Patrol agent Lonnie Swartz — a reflection of the strong divisions in society when it comes to law enforcement and the border.

Swartz, 43, was indicted in 2015 after firing 16 shots through the border fence at Nogales in response to rock throwers, killing Jose Antonio Elena Rodríguez. The 16-year-old Mexico native was hit eight times in the back and twice in the head.

While the decision to not convict the agent on a second-degree murder charge was quick, the jurors couldn’t agree on two lesser charges: voluntary manslaughter and involuntary manslaughter, two jurors said in interviews.

“We felt second-degree was not an appropriate sentence for him,” said Heather Schubert.

Continue reading at the Arizona Daily Star.

Full coverage or the Lonnie Swartz trial.

Feds mull retrial after border agent cleared in Mexican teen’s killing

Protesters block traffic at Congress Street and Sixth Avenue, shutting down traffic, after Border Patrol agent Lonnie Swartz was found not guilty of second-degree murder on April 23, 2018. The jury was unable to reach a verdict on two lesser charges of voluntary or involuntary manslaughter. Mamta Popat / Arizona Daily Star.

Federal prosecutors will consider whether to retry Border Patrol agent Lonnie Swartz on lesser charges after a jury acquitted him Monday of second-degree murder in the 2012 death of a Mexican teen.

“We are very disappointed for the family, for the victim and for the community,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Wallace Kleindienst outside the federal courtroom in Tucson after the verdict, which was followed by protests that blocked downtown streets into the night.

After nearly five days of deliberations, the jury of eight women and four men also told the judge it was hopelessly deadlocked on the two less-serious charges it was considering against Swartz, voluntary manslaughter or involuntary manslaughter.

Kleindienst said prosecutors will assess what was going through the jurors’ minds before deciding whether to retry Swartz on the manslaughter charges.

“It’s too soon to tell,” he said. “We all might be back here again.”

Swartz was charged in the October 2012 killing of 16-year-old Jose Antonio Elena Rodríguez of Nogales, Sonora. The agent is accused of firing 16 shots through the Nogales border fence in response to a group of rock throwers, including Elena Rodríguez, who was hit eight times in the back and twice in the head.

Continue reading at the Arizona Daily Star or scroll below for complete trial coverage.

The trial of Border Patrol agent Lonnie Swartz

Lawyers in the second-degree murder trial of Border Patrol agent Lonnie Swartz, left, say he was protecting himself from rock throwers when he fired through the border fence. Ron Medvescek/Arizona Daily Star

For prosecutors, Border Patrol agent Lonnie Swartz was the man who in the span of 34 seconds fired 16 shots through the border fence, killing an unarmed Mexican teenager.

To the defense, he was an agent scared to death, operating in a busy drug-trafficking area, who had to make a split-second decision to protect himself and his fellow law enforcers from a group of rock throwers — including 16-year-old Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez.

The government and defense presented their cases  in U.S. District Court in Tucson over four weeks. On April 23, the jury found him not guilty of second-degree murder and couldn’t reach a verdict on voluntary manslaughter and involuntary manslaughter.

The government decided to retry Swartz on the lesser charges. The new trial is scheduled for late October.

Follow my coverage of the case below. Latest story is first.

Border agent Lonnie Swartz to be tried again in cross-border shooting of teen

Activists to rally at Tucson courthouse during hearing on border agent’s retrial

Jurors on opposite sides: Was agent stopping threat, or lethally over-reacting?

Feds mull retrial after border agent cleared in Mexican teen’s killing

Jurors in border agent’s trial deadlocked, judge says keep deliberating

Judge: Jurors can consider less-serious charges in border slaying case

Closing arguments expected early this week in border agent’s murder trial

Arizona border agent’s first shot killed Mexican teen, pathologist testifies

US border agent testifies he shot Mexican teenager to protect himself, other officers

First defense witness veers from expectations in border agent’s murder trial

Border agent’s Tucson murder trial this week to include testimony from Mexican officials

Testimony in border agent’s trial centers on whether teen was alive after first shots

Rock attacks vs. gunfire at issue in border agent’s murder trial

Border Patrol policies about rock-throwers dominate Day 2 of agent’s murder trial

Unjustified killing or self-defense? Border Patrol agent’s murder trial opens

Border Patrol agent to go on trial Tuesday in 2012 shooting death of teen

Beyond the Wall: Why we don’t need Trump’s ‘great, great wall’

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This spring, with Donald Trump’s “build the wall” message resonating so powerfully that he became the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, I was part of a team of Daily Star reporters that visited the southern border states. Our goal was to go beyond the political rhetoric and talk with people who live and work along the international line.

Check out the project at the Arizona Daily Star

 

Rare cross-border drug raid leaves 2 dead, 22 in custody

Two people were killed and 22 suspected members of the Sinaloa Cartel were arrested during what is believed to be an unprecedented cross-border law enforcement operation in Sonora, officials say.

Mexican officials had been investigating a stash house that was used for drugs and people in a rural area of the border town of Sonoyta, Sonora. The town is across the border from Lukeville, the popular border crossing used to reach the beach town of Puerto Penasco.

On Friday, Mexican federal officers raided the property, resulting in a shootout with armed men guarding the property.

The names of those killed and those arrested have not been provided, but U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials said over the weekend that those arrested were in the custody of the Mexican government. American officials were to seek extradition of individuals facing criminal charges here.

Mexican law enforcement staged for the operation in Lukeville with the assistance of U.S. law enforcement agencies, which some call a first.

“I’ve been living here for 15 years, and there’s no precedent for a mega-operation, even less so of a binational one,” said Hugo Regalado, Sonoyta’s city manager. He said city officials have been talking with long-time Sonoyta residents and no one remembers seeing anything like it before.

The operation, dubbed Diablo Express, involved about 15 to 20 Mexican federal police vehicles and four or five helicopters, Regalado said.

The city awaits specific information about the operation, he said, noting that local government was not notified before the raid.

While the cross-border cooperation is unusual here, a 2011 report by The New York Times noted that the Obama administration was allowing the Mexican police to stage for drug raids from inside the United States.

During the rare operations, the New York Times said, Mexican commandos assembled in designated areas in the United States and dispatched helicopter missions back across the border aimed at suspected drug traffickers. That is what has been described in Friday’s raid that launched from Lukeville.

Tony Coulson, who retired as the agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Tucson office in 2010, said he had never seen anything like it.

“I’ve never heard of anything like this, where armed Mexican police is brought to this side to actually stage an operation into Mexico,” he said.

In Friday’s raid, authorities confiscated 15 assault weapons, three handguns and more than 500 pounds of marijuana. Coulson said the drugs and weapons are far less important than who they arrested.

“You want to get at the highest level of who controls that corridor in order to totally disrupt and dismantle that group,” he said. “Your whole goal of an operation like that is to get key lieutenants who run the command and control the infrastructure of that area or group.”

Sonoyta is strategically important for the trafficking of drugs into Southern California, Coulson said.

“The corridor from Rocky Point to Sonoyta is a critical part of whoever controls the Baja California and Tijuana plaza,” he said.

The Sinaloa Cartel is one of world’s most notorious drug-trafficking rings.