GAO report raises doubts about successor to ‘virtual fence’ in Arizona

Some members of Congress are skeptical of a new border surveillance system being rolled out in Arizona, citing a lack of specific measurements for its success and the $1 billion already spent on the failed program it replaces.

After the Secure Border Initiative net was canceled in 2011 — a “virtual fence” that covered 53 miles of Arizona’s 387-mile border with Mexico — Customs and Border Protection developed the new security plan. It includes a mix of radars, sensors and cameras.

At a House subcommittee hearing Wednesday to discuss the Arizona Border Surveillance Technology Plan, Beto O’Rourke, a Democratic representative from El Paso, said, “In concept it sounds good, but given our history with SBInet, we want to make sure we are aware of what CBP does next.”

Continue reading at the Arizona Daily Star.

Man killed in brawl with Border Patrol agent

A man was shot to death Thursday night during a struggle with a U.S. Border Patrol agent near the Arizona-Mexico border, officials said Friday.

Agents were tracking a group of illegal immigrants about 8:30 p.m. near Apache, about 30 miles northeast of Douglas. Two people were caught without incident, but a third person ran away, Carol Capas, a spokeswoman for the Cochise County Sheriff’s Office, said in a news release.

The man was found a short time later hiding under a tree and began to fight with the agent, Capas said. The man also tried to take the agent’s gun, which prompted the agent to grab his weapon and shoot the man, the release says.

Continue reading at the Arizona Daily Star.

State of Confusion

Monica Hernández was stopped by police in Nogales, Ariz., and investigated by the Border Patrol. She was detained for several days until her husband paid her bond. Here, she and her daughters relax at home in Nogales. Ron Medvescek/Arizona Daily Star

An Arizona Daily Star analysis of thousands of records from 13 Southern Arizona law-enforcement agencies revealed a patchwork of immigration-enforcement policies and data so incomplete there was no way to determine how police were implementing the law, or whether they were committing the systemic civil-rights violations opponents feared when SB 1070 was passed.

Read State of Confusion: Tracking SB 1070. Read the complete series here.

A Far Cry

A boy plays with his toy car inside Mtabila refugee camp in Tanzania. The camp is the last one hosting Burundian refugees who feld in the 1990s but it's scheduled to close at the end of the year. Perla Trevizo/Chattanooga Times Free Press
A boy plays with his toy car inside Mtabila refugee camp in Tanzania. The camp is the last one hosting Burundian refugees who fled in the 1990s but it’s scheduled to close at the end of the year. Perla Trevizo/Chattanooga Times Free Press

The series tells the story of Burundian refugees who had to flee their country during the civil war only to live their lives in camps in neighboring Tanzania. Some of them were selected for resettlement in the United States, but their troubles were far from over.

With a grant from the Ford Foundation, I spent two weeks in Burundi and refugee camps in Tanzania interviewing the families of the Burundian refugees who resettled in Chattanooga in 2007.

The series, which won the French-American Foundation’s 2013 Immigration Journalism Award, is available below.

A boy and his grandmother

Even after 5 years, some Burundi refugees still adjusting in Chattanooga

More about refugees

About the stories

Between Two Worlds

Jennifer Xiloj, 10, left, was born in Chattanooga, but was yanked out of the only life she knew when her mother took her to Guatemala.
Jennifer Xiloj, 10, left, was born in Chattanooga, but was yanked out of the only life she knew when her mother took her to Guatemala. Carlos Ventura for the Chattanooga Times Free Press.

What happens when your life is torn between two worlds?

You live in a place you love, where your children were born and are thriving, where hope endures. Now imagine that you’re forced to leave, ejected, called a criminal. You go while your family stays, or worse, your children must go with you, torn from the only home they’ve ever known. You’re sent to a place where $5 a day is the average wage, where schools are worn down and shabby, where health care, if you can get it, is crude.

Such is the reality for Guatemalans who live illegally in the Chattanooga area and across the United States. They never got permission to be here in the first place and there are many who believe that they, and their children, are only getting what they deserve, to be sent home, to stop being a drain on American society. But once they’re caught and sent back to the life they thought they’d escaped, they vanish from public consciousness, lost in a flood of immigration statistics. What happens to the deported, whose dreams of a better life are shattered for them and their families?

I spent three weeks traveling through Guatemala’s western states, following the stories of immigrants who once called the Scenic City their home. The trip was funded by an International Reporting Fellowship awarded by the International Center for Journalists. It was sponsored by the Ford Foundation and The Brooks and Joan Fortune Family Foundation. The series won the David Ignatius Award for International Reporting.

Click here to read the six-day series, watch videos and more.