Seven Houstonians convicted in plan to send assault rifles into Mexico

April 22, 2014

Guns by Flickr user barjackHouston Chronicle, 4/21/14

Seven Houstonians have been convicted in a federal court of conspiring to traffic dozens of AK-47 variant rifles into Mexico, federal attorneys and ATF officials announced Monday.
Abel Lopez, 34, Arturo Garcia, 30, Roberto Santana Mears, 22, Mary Bel Deanda, 39, Martha Gonzales, 41, Angel Aquino-Pineda, 27, and Javier Resendez, 29, have all pleaded guilty in connection with the operation.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Hugo R. Martinez and Jeffery D. Preston prosecuted the case in Corpus Christi. A 2013 traffic stop in Kingsville by the Kingsville Specialized Crimes and Narcotics Task Force uncovered 35 AK-47 variant rifles and $26,000 concealed cash inside a truck driven by Aquino-Pineda.

He told investigators he was transporting the weapons from Houston to McAllen with their final destination intended for Mexico. The serial numbers on seven of the rifles found in his possession had been removed.  ATF investigators were then able to trace the rifles back to Houston and a straw purchasing scheme involving Deanda, Garcia, Gonzales and Mears who were buying the rifles for Resendez and Lopez.

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Immigration reform: If Obama moves on his own, how big a political risk?

April 22, 2014

Adcocates rally for immigrant rights in Dallas

Christian Science Monitor, 4/21/14

President Obama has long insisted he does not have the power to waive deportations of illegal immigrants on his own.  Put under pressure from political allies, Mr. Obama may be headed for some changes of immigration policy via the Department of Homeland Security. DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson is considering limiting deportations of undocumented immigrants who do not have serious criminal records, the Associated Press reported Monday.

Obama set the stage for the reported recommendations last month, when he ordered Secretary Johnson to review how current immigration law is implemented, with an eye toward conducting enforcement “more humanely,” as the White House put it.

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New NPR Series ‘Borderland: Dispatches From The U.S.-Mexico Boundary’

April 21, 2014

border2Reports on NPR Newsmagazines March 19-28

In an effort to discover how two nations influence each other, Morning Edition host Steve Inskeep and a team of NPR journalists traveled the 1,900-mile length of the U.S.-Mexico border to report on the people, goods and culture that cross the heavily-fortified boundary. NPR News presents the dispatches and related coverage as the multipart series “Borderland,” exploring major issues such as immigration, the drug trade, business and cultural change through the personal stories of people who live where the countries meet. “Borderland” begins airing today on Morning Edition,continuing daily until March 28 across the show as well as All Things Considered and Weekend Edition Saturday and Sunday, and are also available online at

“Borderland” humanizes border issues, which are hotly-debated but not always well-illuminated. Inskeep and fellow journalists talk with migrants, refugees and law enforcement officials, and meet with writers, musicians and workers in Mexican factories known as maquiladoras. NPR’s John Burnett, Kelly McEvers, Carrie Kahn and Ted Robbins, as well as Monica Ortiz-Uribe and Jude Joffe-Block of public radio’s Fronteras Desk also offer complementary reports in the series.

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A 12-Year-Old’s Trek of Despair Ends in a Noose at the Border

April 21, 2014

Photo Credit: Kelly DonlanNY Times, 4/19/14

Noemi Álvarez Quillay took the first steps of the 6,500-mile journey to New York City from the southern highlands of Ecuador on Tuesday, Feb. 4, after darkness fell. A bashful, studious girl, Noemi walked 10 minutes across dirt roads that cut through corn and potato fields, reaching the highway to Quito. She carried a small suitcase. Her grandfather Cipriano Quillay flagged down a bus and watched her board. She was 12.

From that moment, and through the remaining five weeks of her life, Noemi was in the company of strangers, including coyotes — human smugglers, hired by her parents in the Bronx to bring her to them. Her parents had come to the United States illegally and settled in New York when Noemi was a toddler. Noemi was part of a human flood tide that has swelled since 2011: The United States resettlement agency expects to care for nine times as many unaccompanied migrant children in 2014 as it did three years ago.

She got a little closer this year. In March, a month after she left home, the police picked up Noemi and a coyote in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. The authorities took her to a children’s shelter. She was described as crying inconsolably after being questioned by a prosecutor. A few days later, she was found hanged from a shower curtain rod in a bathroom at the shelter. Her death, ruled a suicide by Mexican authorities, remains under investigation by a human rights commission there.

The number of unaccompanied minors caught entering the United States and then referred for placement is expected to reach 60,000 in the 12 months ending Sept. 30, said Lisa Raffonelli, a spokeswoman for the Office of Refugee Resettlement, an increase from 6,560 in 2011. In Mexico, the number has more than doubled.

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The fracking divide: Mexico’s oil frontier beckons U.S. drillers in wake of new law

April 21, 2014

energy- oil pumps 2The Washington Post, 4/19/14

The geological marvel known to Texas oilmen as the Eagle Ford Shale Play is buried deep underground, but at night you can see its outline from space in a twinkling arc that sweeps south of San Antonio toward the Rio Grande. The light radiates from thousands of surface-level gas flares and drilling rigs. It is the glow of one of the most extravagant oil bonanzas in American history, the result of the drilling technique known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. Curving south and west, the lights suddenly go black at Mexico’s border, as if there were nothing on the other side.

A landmark energy bill approved by Mexico’s Congress in December is aimed at correcting this disparity. It has opened the country’s oil industry to private and foreign investment for the first time in 75 years, with the goal of bringing in new technology, expertise and a risk-taking culture long missing at the state oil monopoly, Pemex.

Lawmakers will be hashing out the nuts and bolts of the law over the coming weeks, but expectations are that U.S. and other global companies will be able to bid on oil and gas projects by the end of this year, beckoning the fracking crews across the border — into some of Mexico’s most violent areas.

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Immigration: Border Patrol Agents Arrest More Than 200 Immigrants Hiding In Texas

April 21, 2014

mexican immigrantFox News Latino, 4/20/14

At least 80 immigrants suspected of entering the United States illegally were arrested in a makeshift encampment in suburban South Texas. They were found in an undeveloped patch of scrub near an abandoned tennis club in McAllen. They were camped under tents and huts camouflaged with mesquite branches and cacti. Some told authorities they had been there sleeping on pieces of cardboard with little food or water for at least a week.

It was unclear whether any of those arrested Thursday afternoon were guides suspected of guarding the immigrants, Border Patrol spokesman Danny Tirado told The McAllen Monitor. A short time later, Border Patrol arrested 132 immigrants found in two buildings on a property in Alton, about 8 miles west of McAllen, according to KRGV-TV.

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House Democrats need 27 signatures to force vote on comprehensive immigration reform bill

April 16, 2014

shutterstock_93480406The Washington Post, 5/15/14

House Democrats are renewing their push for a vote on a proposed comprehensive immigration reform package, vowing Tuesday to refocus efforts on pressuring Republicans to sign onto a discharge petition that would force a vote on the legislation.

The immigration reform push is the third recent attempt by Republicans to leverage a discharge petition — a procedural tactic that allows the majority of House members to supersede the will of the House leadership and bring a bill to the floor — in an attempt to force a vote on a piece of legislation that they support.

House Democrats say they currently have 191 signatures — all Democrats — on the petition, and that they will recommit to pressure Republican lawmakers who have said previously that they would support comprehensive immigration reform. The petition must get 218 signatures to force a vote on the legislation.

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Sen. Klobuchar pressing Mexico on heroin cartels and sex rings

April 15, 2014

mexican drugsStar Tribune, 4/15/14

Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar is pressing Mexican law enforcement authorities to acknowledge responsibility for spiking numbers of heroin and sex-trafficking incidents that increasingly are ravaging neighborhoods and families across the United States — including Minnesota.

In a series of meetings in Mexico City, Klobuchar is joining North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp and Cindy McCain, wife of Arizona Sen. John McCain, in urging the Mexican government to intensify its work on both sex trafficking and the illegal movement of heroin into the United States.

“One of the things we can acknowledge when we’re meeting with them is that we have our own issues on this,” said Klobuchar in an interview from Mexico. “We’re not just telling them, ‘Do this or do that.’ We are saying we have our own issues.”

The domestic heroin crisis is escalating rapidly, particularly in the Midwest. Hospital emergency department visits for heroin in the Twin Cities nearly tripled from 2004 to 2011. The number of heroin deaths in the metro area has tripled since 2011, to 63 last year.

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Mexico’s maquila boom extends across the border

April 15, 2014

iStock_000008876270MediumAlbuquerque Journal, 4/14/14

Mexico’s maquila industry has become a raging bull that’s busting up the competition in China and other Asian nations for the first time in decades. Rapidly rising costs to produce and ship goods from Asia, especially heavy industrial items such as cars and home appliances, are encouraging the world’s major producers to ditch overseas manufacturing and instead set up operations in Mexico, where proximity to U.S. markets helps to lower costs and increase operating efficiencies.

That’s good news for New Mexico, and for all U.S. border states, because the rapid growth of Mexico’s maquilas, or assembly factories, is creating huge business opportunities up and down the 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexico border. And that, in turn, is creating new industrial hot spots in places such as southern New Mexico, where companies are flocking to set up new facilities to supply goods and services to the maquila industry.

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Mexico: Homicides Decline Near Border, Report Says

April 15, 2014

m16 gun closeupNY Times, 4/14/14

Murders in Mexico declined in 2013, and they decreased significantly in several cities near the border with the United States, according to a new report from the Justice in Mexico Project at the University of San Diego to be released Tuesday. Using preliminary police data, researchers identified a homicide decrease of about 16 percent, with some of the biggest drops in murders in Ciudad Juárez and Monterrey, notoriously dangerous cities that have recently calmed down as the war between criminal gangs and the government has declined in intensity. Still, experts warn, it is not clear whether the decline is attributable to an overall weakening of organized crime: The number of gun-related murders has held steady as other kinds of killing have declined, and homicides have sharply risen in states farther south.

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