Catholic leaders hold Mass at border to urge immigration overhaul

April 2, 2014

LA Times, 4/1/14

About 300 people who gathered at the border fence in Nogales to attend a transnational Mass led by Cardinal Seán O’Malley of Boston and bishops from across the West and Southwest, including Auxiliary Bishop Eusebio Elizondo of Seattle; Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas of Tucson; Bishop Mark Seitz of El Paso; and Bishop Oscar Cantu of Las Cruces, N.M.

The Mass to celebrate the lives of those who have died crossing the U.S.-Mexico border is an attempt by the Catholic Church to call on President Obama to use his executive powers to limit deportations of people who are in the country illegally.

Obama has come under fire from immigrant rights activists who have nicknamed him the “deporter in chief” in reference to the high volume of deportations under his administration, although federal statistics now show that expulsions of people who are settled and working in the U.S. have fallen steadily since his first year in office, and are down more than 40% since 2009.

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Catholic leaders push immigration overhaul at border

April 2, 2014

Crucifix photo by Flickr user FadderUriUSA Today, 4/1/14

A delegation of Catholic leaders from across the United States visited Arizona’s border with Mexico on Monday and Tuesday to call for overhauling the nation’s immigration policy.  At a Mass held under the shadow of the border fence Tuesday morning, Cardinal Sean O’Malley, the archbishop of Boston, called on Congress for comprehensive immigration reform this year.

“The system is broken, causes terrible suffering and is a waste of human resources,” said O’Malley. “We’ve lost the sense of responsibility for our brothers and sisters. … America at its best is not the bigotry and xenophobia of the know-nothings but the welcome of The New Colussus.”

O’Malley was accompanied by eight other members of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and 17 priests. The clergy gave communion to people on the Mexican side of the fence as part of the Mass.

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Mexico confirms confrontation with Border Patrol agents

April 2, 2014

border patrol badgeLA Times, 4/1/14

Two heavily armed, camouflaged Mexican soldiers crossed 50 yards inside Arizona in January and drew their guns against U.S. Border Patrol agents who confronted them in a tense standoff, according to documents obtained by The Times/Tribune Washington Bureau. U.S. officials said it was one of nearly two dozen border incursions by Mexican soldiers into southern Arizona in the last four years.

The Jan. 26 confrontation, described in a Border Patrol foreign military incursion report and confirmed in a separate letter from U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner R. Gil Kerlikowske, ended when the Mexican soldiers retreated back over the border after U.S. agents — who also drew their weapons — summoned assistance. The soldiers, who misidentified themselves to border agents, claimed to be pursuing drug smugglers, documents show.

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Mexican state blames railways in migrant crimes

April 2, 2014

John Moore - Getty ImagesWashington Post, 4/1/14

Prosecutors in southern Mexico have filed a criminal complaint alleging railway companies or their employees have been complicit in crimes committed against migrants who ride their trains. Luis Angel Bravo, the attorney general of the Gulf coast state of Veracruz, said he filed a complaint with federal prosecutors against Ferrosur, a Mexican rail line, and a subsidiary of the U.S. railway Kansas City Southern.

Migrants from Central America hop aboard trains in the southern states of Oaxaca and Veracruz to reach the U.S. border, but they are frequently beaten, robbed or kidnapped by criminal gangs once aboard. Bravo said Monday that he filed the complaint after migrants claimed the trains make unscheduled stops that allow criminals to climb aboard.

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An unusual sight: Water flows in Mexico’s Colorado River

April 2, 2014

waterThe Christian Science Monitor, 4/1/14

The Mexicans living along the dry bed of the Colorado River near its delta on the Sea of Cortez are seeing something unusual: agua. A release of water from a dam at the US-Mexico border means that water is flowing again toward the parched delta of the shared river on Mexico’s Sea of Cortez, and it is bringing joy. Water hasn’t reached the delta in many years.

The goal of the release of 100,000 acre-feet of water is to restore the Colorado River’s flow in Mexico and restore wetlands along the shores of the dry riverbed. Some 300,000 migrating birds once called the delta home.

In building the Glen Canyon and Hoover dams more than half a century ago, the United States started blocking and diverting the Colorado River, eventually siphoning it dry before it could reach its delta. Some 70 percent of its waters go to cropland along its US course. And it slakes the thirst of 30 million people in seven US states and parts of northwest Mexico.

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At NAFTA’s Platinum Anniversary: American Attitudes toward Cross-Border Ties

April 1, 2014

Border Fence Arizona and MexicoA Chicago Council Survey conducted in partnership with CESOP, CIDE, ITAM and The Wilson Center Mexico Institute – finds Americans and Mexicans recognize the importance of US-Mexico economic relations. While both publics tend to think the two countries are working in the same direction on trade and economic development, both publics are hesitant to turn their governments’ primary focus away from border and security issues.

Read all the results  of the survey, here.

Agriculture groups to GOP: You’re blowing it on immigration reform

April 1, 2014

Migrant California vineyardWashington Post, 3/31/14

There’s a rising sense that if House Republicans don’t act by summer on immigration reform, the window for action could close for good. If nothing happens by August recess, the pressure on Obama to act unilaterally could become overwhelming, and any executive action will likely make legislative reform even less likely, perhaps postponing it until at least 2017.

Now even Republican-aligned constituencies who want reform are concluding the same thing. They are growing increasingly alarmed that they are at risk of getting cut out of the process — and their interests badly damaged — as the best chance to reform the immigration system in years is now in serious danger of slipping away for the foreseeable future.

Craig Regelbrugge, who co-chairs the Agriculture Coalition for Immigration Reform, says a large majority of his group’s members — which include large and small farming enterprises and growers all around the country — are Republican, and many give to the GOP. But he’s increasingly hearing from members who are so frustrated by the Congressional GOP’s failure to act on reform — which is central to maintaining a workforce in the industry — that they are considering withholding campaign donations.

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River of drugs runs through Rio Grande Valley

March 31, 2014

800px-Puerto_ColombiaUSA Today, 3/30/14

Last year, across the Southwest, the Border Patrol, Customs and Border Protection and other law-enforcement agencies intercepted more than 3.5 million pounds of marijuana — nearly a fifth of an ounce for every person in the United States. But in the Rio Grande Valley, for every load they capture, 10 slip through, local officials estimate. Federal law-enforcement officials agreed.

The loads get through because the drug cartels closely monitor the Border Patrol and other law-enforcement agencies. The cartels study their tactics and strategies, and adapt quickly. They use that knowledge and the corrupting influence of money to win the daily cat-and-mouse games that define drug smuggling across the Rio Grande. Encounters between agents and drug smugglers are frequent but rarely lethal. When cornered, drug runners are likely to abandon the loads of marijuana and escape back across the river.

Nationwide, nearly every drug-smuggling case in which Border Patrol agents did report responding with force over a 29-month period involved marijuana, The Arizona Republic found. Force can include using firearms, physical force, less-lethal weapons and devices to stop vehicles, like tire spike-strips.

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Immigration Reform Is a Moral Imperative

March 31, 2014

Hundreds of thousands of immigrants 2 participate in march for Immigrants and Mexicans protesting against Illegal Immigration reform by U.S. Congress, Los Angeles, CA, May 1, 2006The Wall Street Journal, 3/30/14

Republicans in the House of Representatives—sensing the political winds at their backs heading into the midterm election and distrustful of President Obama’s willingness to enforce the law—have opted to do nothing about immigration. Their strategy is shortsighted.

Reform will require moral courage and leadership, but it is necessary. Because of the federal government’s failure to secure the border, antiquated policies and a patchwork of conflicting regulations, there are now millions of people who have overstayed visas or crossed our borders illegally. The current system is inadequate for the country’s needs, and it is inequitable as well.

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Despite setbacks, tech industry presses on immigration reform

March 26, 2014

shutterstock_49320529Fortune, 3/26/14

Facing long odds, the U.S. technology industry is continuing to push Congress to enact comprehensive immigration reform this year.The effort, led by Joe Green, president of the bi-partisan group, got off to a rocky start. After it ran ads in support of the Keystone XL pipeline and in opposition to the Affordable Care Act to give cover to conservative Republicans who came out in support of immigration reform, came under fire from many prominent Silicon Valley figures who support environmental causes. Some members even left the group.

Despite the setbacks, the well-funded continues to press on. This week, it highlighted polls that suggest Republicans will not be hurt with their core voters for supporting immigration reform, and organized ThinkFWD events in San Francisco and New York to highlight issues like the role of the tech industry in strengthening the middle class. Green spoke with Fortune‘s Miguel Helft about the organization’s efforts.

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