Friday, December 9, 2011

ILLEGAL BORDER CROSSINGS DIP SHARPLY - Yeah, right & Mexican Gangs Have Found God, too!

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Eight Out of Ten Illegal Aliens Apprehended in 2010 Never Prosecuted, Says Border Congressman

Thursday, March 17, 2011
Edwin Mora

Washington ( – An illegal alien apprehended by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency during the last fiscal year had an estimated 84 percent chance of never being prosecuted, according to figures compiled by the office of Rep. John Culberson (R-Texas).
Culberson submitted the figures for the record during a hearing Wednesday of the House Appropriations subcommittee on homeland security.

Of 447,731 illegal aliens apprehended by the U.S. Border Patrol during fiscal year 2010 (which ended last September), only 73,263 (16.4 percent) were prosecuted, according to the submitted data. That means that 374,468 illegal aliens that were taken into custody (83.6 percent) were never prosecuted



December 9, 2011
Illegal Border Crossings Dip Sharply
Campaign rhetoric to the contrary, statistics show that the number of illegal immigrants crossing the border is less of a problem now than it has been for four decades.
While presidential candidates talk about how to secure the United States-Mexico border, data show that their focus might instead be on dealing in a positive way with the millions of illegal immigrants already here. Apprehensions by the United States Border Patrol are at their lowest level since the Nixon era, according to unofficial statistics from the agency that The Washington Post reported this month.
A sour economy, increased enforcement by the Border Patrol and skyrocketing smuggling fees are keeping more would-be crossers at home.
In 2010, the Border Patrol apprehended about 448,000 illegal immigrants on the Southwest border, roughly 93,000 fewer than in 2009. This year, apprehensions have dipped by more than 25 percent, to 327,500.
There are now 10.2 million illegal immigrant adults in the country and another 1 million illegal minors, according to data released this month by the Pew Hispanic Center. The center estimates that 35 percent of those adults have been in the country 15 years or longer, compared with 16 percent in 2000. Conversely, only 15 percent have been in the country five years or less, compared with 32 percent in 2000.
“It’s more expensive to get in, it’s more dangerous to get in and there are no jobs to be had,” said Jeffrey S. Passel, the senior demographer at the Pew Hispanic Center. “It’s not surprising that the inflows are way down.”
James W. Ziglar, a senior fellow at the Migration Policy Institute and a commissioner of the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service under President George W. Bush, said there are so many people in the country illegally because the system has long been dysfunctional.
“We are not going to deport these people,” Mr. Ziglar said. “We need to deal with the problem and provide them with a way to a legal status.”
Mr. Ziglar’s stance reflects the view of many of his fellow Republicans. In a poll this year, the Pew Research Center for People and the Press found that 58 percent of so-called Main Street Republicans supported a path to legalization while 39 percent opposed it. A poll by the Partnership for a New American Economy, a bipartisan group of mayors and business leaders, found that only 16 percent of likely attendees at the Iowa Republican caucuses were opposed to expanding legal immigration.
Along some parts of the Texas-Mexico border, violence is also down. Ciudad Juárez, for example, is on pace for 1,000 fewer homicides this year — a rare bit of good news in a ravaged city. Howard Campbell, a professor of anthropology at the University of Texas at El Paso, said the violence in adjacent Ciudad Juárez has subsided because the gangs used by the Juárez drug cartel are weaker and the Sinaloa cartel — which has waged a war in the city since 2008 — is distracted with tougher battles to the west. Mr. Campbell also cited pressure on President Felipe Calderón to make the police and the military more accountable and to improve his country’s image.
“In general,” Mr. Campbell said, “things hit bottom, and so there is an almost natural cycle of improvement. Whether this improvement will last is impossible to say.”
U.S. funding for jailing illegal immigrants falls far short of costs
California is expected to get $90 million this year, but the state spends about $1 billion annually. L.A. County says it gets pennies on the dollar for its expenditures.
By Anna Gorman
February 5, 2010

The $90 million California is expected to receive from the federal government this year for jailing illegal immigrants convicted of crimes is far short of the state's roughly $1 billion annual cost, officials said.

"The federal government has sole control over the nation's borders. The states do not," said H.D. Palmer, a spokesman for the state's finance department. "The incarceration costs associated are borne disproportionally by states like California."

Los Angeles County officials have not projected how much in reimbursement funds they could receive this year.

But in 2009, the county received $15.4 million in federal money, officials said. That is a fraction of the $100 million it spends on average to jail illegal immigrants.

"The federal government reimburses us literally pennies on the dollar what it costs us," Los Angeles County Sheriff's Lt. Mark McCorkle said

The state -- which houses 19,000 illegal immigrants in its prisons and jails -- receives the federal money through the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program, or SCAAP. Obama's proposed budget plan sets aside $330 million for the incarceration program, down from $400 million last year.

But with California struggling to balance its budget, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is continuing to fight for additional funding, Palmer said.

Last year, Sheriff Lee Baca wrote a letter to the House Appropriations Committee urging an increase in funding for the program.

"Because SCAAP reimburses previously incurred undocumented criminal alien incarceration costs, every dollar of incarceration costs not reimbursed by SCAAP adds a dollar to state and local budget shortfalls that must be offset by reductions in other essential services," Baca wrote.

Although the county does not know exactly how many undocumented immigrants are in its jails, McCorkle said about 3,300 inmates identify themselves as foreign-born.

Officials from states greatly affected by illegal immigration long have argued that their taxpayers should not have to bear the burden for Washington's failure to control the border.

Threat grows as Mexican cartels move to beef up U.S. presence
By William Booth and Nick Miroff
Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, October 19, 2010; 1:36 AM
SAN DIEGO -- When a major Mexican drug cartel opened a branch office here on the California side of the border, U.S. authorities tapped into their cellphones - then listened, watched and waited.
Their surveillance effort captured more than 50,000 calls over six months, conversations that reached deep into Mexico and helped build a sprawling case against 43 suspects - including Mexican police and top officials - allegedly linked to a savage trafficking ring known as the Fernando Sanchez Organization.
According to the wiretaps and confidential informants, the suspects plotted kidnappings and killings and hired American teenage girls, with nicknames like Dopey, to smuggle quarter-pound loads of methamphetamine across the border for $100 a trip. To send a message to a rival, they dumped a disemboweled dog in his mother's front yard.
But U.S. law enforcement officials say the most worrisome thing about the Fernando Sanchez Organization was how aggressively it moved to set up operations in the United States, working out of a San Diego apartment it called "The Office."
At a time of heightened concern in Washington that drug violence along the border may spill into the United States, the case dubbed "Luz Verde," or Green Light, shows how Mexican cartels are trying to build up their U.S. presence.
The Fernando Sanchez Organization's San Diego venture functioned almost like a franchise, prosecutors say, giving it greater control over lucrative smuggling routes and drug distribution networks north of the border.
"They moved back and forth, from one side to the other. They commuted. We had lieutenants of the organization living here in San Diego and ordering kidnappings and murders in Mexico," said Todd Robinson, the assistant U.S. attorney who will prosecute the alleged drug ring next year.
The case shows that as the border becomes less of an operational barrier for Mexican cartels, it appears to be less of one for U.S. surveillance efforts. Because the suspects' cellphone and radio traffic could be captured by towers on the northern side of the border, U.S. agents were able to eavesdrop on calls made on Mexican cellphones, between two callers in Mexico - a tactic prosecutors say has never been deployed so extensively.
Captured on one wiretap: a cartel leader, a former homicide detective from Tijuana, negotiating with a Mexican state judicial police officer about a job offer to lead a death squad.
Recorded on other calls: the operation's biggest catch, Jesus Quinones Marquez, a high-ranking Mexican official and alleged cartel operative code-named "El Rinon," or "The Kidney." As he worked and socialized with U.S. law enforcement officials in his role as international liaison for the Baja California attorney general's office, Quinones passed confidential information to cartel bosses and directed Mexican police to take action against rival traffickers, prosecutors say.
He and 34 other suspects are now in U.S. jails. The remaining eight are still at large.
Investigators say it is not unusual for Mexican cartel leaders and their underlings to move north to seek refuge, or place representatives in such cities as Los Angeles, Chicago and Atlanta to manage large deliveries of drugs. But the Fernando Sanchez Organization was more ambitious. It was building a network in San Diego, complete with senior managers to facilitate large and small drug shipments and sales.
Cross-border network
The gang is an offshoot of the Tijuana cartel, led by baby-faced Fernando Sanchez Arellano, a nephew of the once fearsome Arellano-Felix brothers who ran the Tijuana drug trade for almost 20 years before they were captured or killed. The nephew's organization is a weaker syndicate, at war with itself and rivals, police say, and locked in a desperate struggle to maintain market share in the highly competitive billion-dollar drug corridor into California.
Unlike the cartel crews in Mexico, which are typically built on strong ties between families or friends, the San Diego franchise recruited from U.S.-based Latino street gangs. Some were illegal immigrants, others U.S. citizens, according to arrest warrants. Twelve of the 43 indicted have alleged gang affiliations in San Diego. Six of the 43 are current or former Mexican law enforcement officers. Eight are women.
"You couldn't pick these people out of a crowd," said Leonard Miranda, a retired captain in the Chula Vista, Calif., police department who worked on the investigation. "Some of them kept a very low profile. Their family members didn't even know."
According to the 86-page federal racketeering indictment unsealed July 23, cartel members operated stash houses, managed smuggling crews, distributed marijuana and methamphetamine, trafficked weapons, laundered money, committed robberies and collected drug debts. When people did not pay, they were kidnapped or targeted with execution on both sides of the border.
U.S. authorities say the wiretaps allowed them to foil murder plots and other violent acts. The assistant special agent in charge of the San Diego FBI office, David Bowdich, said his teams stopped the execution of two Mexican police officers. The authorities also saved a cartel associate called "Sharky" who was going to be killed because he had disrespected drug lords in Tijuana.
Troubling signs
From their apartments by the beach or cars parked at motels, the targets of the investigation talked and talked on their cellphones.
They almost always spoke in Spanish, usually in clipped code, with lots of street slang. They bought and quickly discarded the phones. Top lieutenants often employed "alineadores," personal assistants who juggled a dozen phones and took messages so that the boss would not be heard on the line. Investigators say the alleged cartel members clearly were afraid that their calls could be monitored.
And they were right. In February, the FBI secured hard-to-get "roving" wiretaps for 44 individuals that allowed investigators to track their movements via global positioning satellites.
According to U.S. law enforcement officials, the Mexican government was not involved in the investigation.
Quinones, the high-ranking Mexican official, was a close adviser to Attorney General Rommel Moreno, the top prosecutor in Mexico's Baja California state. He was arrested July 22 when U.S. agents invited him to the San Diego police department to help with an investigation. It was a setup.
"My client's gone from a cross-border international liaison officer to a guy in a 10-by-10-foot isolation cell in lockdown 23 hours a day," said his defense attorney, Patrick Hall, who described Quinones as "a normal dad with three kids, married 11 years, who lived in Tijuana all his adult life and was one of the dads out there at the Little League baseball games."
Hall said the federal agents were "reading in facts and interpretations and distortions into the true meanings of what's being said on the wiretaps."
Quinones's arrest has almost certainly dealt a blow to efforts at cross-border information sharing and collaboration, though officials on both sides played down the apparent betrayal. "Would you stop going to church just because of one bad priest?" Quinones's boss, Moreno, said in an interview in Tijuana.
But the U.S. wiretaps also detected other troubling signs of corruption.
On the day of the mass arrests, U.S. agents arranged for suspected drug lieutenant Jose Najera Gil to pick up visa documents he was seeking from the U.S. Consulate in Tijuana. But the Mexican police who were supposed to arrest him at the consulate failed to show up.
A day before the arrests, another Mexican police officer, Jose Ortega Nuvo, received a call on his cellphone, which was being tapped by U.S agents. The caller warned him that he was about to be arrested. According to court testimony, the call came from the offices of the federal police in Mexico City - a special unit vetted to work alongside agents from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
It would also reveal a disheartening truth: The cartel's U.S. distribution system was bigger and more resilient than anyone had imagined, a spider web connecting dozens of cities, constantly regenerating and expanding.
Inside the Cartel
Unraveling Mexico's Sinaloa drug cartel
As drug smugglers from the Sinaloa cartel in Mexico sent a never-ending stream of cocaine across the border and into a vast U.S. distribution web in Los Angeles, DEA agents were watching and listening.
By Richard Marosi
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
July 24, 2011
Reporting from Calexico, Calif.
Never lose track of the load.

It was drilled into everybody who worked for Carlos “Charlie” Cuevas. His drivers, lookouts, stash house operators, dispatchers -- they all knew. When a shipment was on the move, a pair of eyes had to move with it.

Cuevas had just sent a crew of seven men to the border crossing at Calexico, Calif. The load they were tracking was cocaine, concealed in a custom-made compartment inside a blue 2003 Honda Accord.

The car was still on the Mexican side in a 10-lane crush of vehicles inching toward the U.S. Customs and Border Protection inspection station. Amputee beggars worked the queue, along with men in broad-brimmed hats peddling trinkets, tamales and churros.

A lookout watching from a car in a nearby lane reported on the load's progress. Cuevas, juggling cellphones, demanded constant updates. If something went wrong, his boss in Sinaloa, Mexico, would want answers.

The Accord reached the line of inspection booths, and a lookout on the U.S. side picked up the surveillance. He was Roberto Daniel Lopez, an Iraq War veteran, standing near the “Welcome to Calexico” sign.

It was the usual plan: After clearing customs, the driver would head for Los Angeles, shadowed by a third lookout waiting in a car on South Imperial Avenue.

But on this hot summer evening, things were not going according to plan. Lopez called his supervisor to report a complication: The Accord was being directed to a secondary inspection area for a closer look. Drug-sniffing dogs were circling.

Cuevas rarely talked directly to his lookouts or drivers. But after being briefed by the supervisor, he made an exception. He called Lopez.

“What's happening?” he asked.

“The dogs are going crazy,” Lopez replied.

Dots on a map

Cuevas worked for the Sinaloa cartel, Mexico's most powerful organized crime group. He was in the transportation side of the business. Drugs were brought from Sinaloa state to Mexicali, Mexico, in bus tires. Cuevas' job was to move the goods across the border and deliver them to distributors in the Los Angeles area, about 200 miles away.

The flow was unceasing, and he employed about 40 drivers, lookouts and coordinators to keep pace.
The canines circling the load car that evening in August 2006 were the least of his problems.

The canines circling the load car that evening in August 2006 were the least of his problems. Eight agents from a Drug Enforcement Administration task force had converged on the border. Not even U.S. customs inspectors knew they were there. The agents had been following Cuevas and tapping his phones for months.

Because he was a key link between U.S. and Mexican drug distributors, his phone chatter was an intelligence gusher. Each call exposed another contact, whose phone was then tapped as well. The new contacts called other associates, leading to more taps. Soon the agents had sketched a vast, connect-the-dots map of the distribution network.

Its branches spanned the U.S. and were believed to lead back to Mexico's drug-trafficking heartland, to Victor Emilio Cazares, said to be a top lieutenant of Joaquin “Chapo” Guzman, the most wanted trafficker in the world. From his mansion outside Culiacan, Cazares allegedly oversaw the network of smugglers, distributors, truckers, pilots and stash house operators.

Other DEA investigations had targeted Mexican cartels, but this one, dubbed Operation Imperial Emperor, was providing the most complete picture of how drugs moved from Sinaloa to U.S. streets.

DEA officials were in no hurry to wrap it up. In fact, they were holding off on arrests so they could continue to study the supply chain and identify new suspects.

Imperial Emperor would eventually result in hundreds of arrests, the seizure of tens of millions of dollars in drugs and money, and the indictment of Cazares.

It would also reveal a disheartening truth: The cartel's U.S. distribution system was bigger and more resilient than anyone had imagined, a spider web connecting dozens of cities, constantly regenerating and expanding.

The guy next door

As a U.S. Marine in Fallouja, Iraq, Lopez had dodged mortar fire, navigated roads mined with explosives and received a commendation for leadership. Back home in El Centro, he couldn't even get work reading meters for the local irrigation district.

But Lopez, who had two children to support, knew another industry was always hiring.

One of the Sinaloa cartel's main pipelines runs through the antiquated U.S. port of entry at Calexico, a favorite of smugglers. The inspection station sits almost directly on the border, without the usual buffer zone of several hundred feet, so inspectors have difficulty examining cars in the approach lanes. Drug-sniffing dogs wilt in summer heat that can reach 115 degrees.

California's southeastern corner, a region of desert dunes and agricultural fields with the highest unemployment rate in the state, offered fertile ground for cartel recruiting.

Smugglers were your next-door neighbor, the guy ringing you up at Wal-Mart, the big tipper at Applebee's, the old friend at your high school reunion.

Lopez was friends with a man named Sergio Kaiser, who had married into his family. Kaiser said he owned a body shop, but his tastes seemed too flamboyant for that. He was building a house with a grand staircase modeled on the mansion in the movie “Scarface.”
Smugglers were your next-door neighbor, the guy ringing you up at Wal-Mart, the big tipper at Applebee’s, the old friend at your high school reunion.

In reality, Kaiser was Cuevas' top lieutenant, and he told Lopez he could help him with his money troubles. There were several possibilities.

For a night's work driving a load car from Mexicali to Los Angeles, a driver shared $5,000 with his recruiter and got to keep the car.

Another entry-level position was as a lookout. One kind of lookout followed the load car from the stash house in Mexicali to the border. Another stood watch at the port of entry and reported when the car had cleared customs. Yet another tailed the load car up the freeway to Los Angeles.

Lopez accepted Kaiser's offer. Being a lookout was harmless, he figured: Just stand there and watch a car cross the border. “[He] didn't say it involved drugs, but I knew,” Lopez said. “I thought, 'What's the big deal?'“

Tricks of the trade

Cuevas owned a large tract home in Calexico and drove a late-model BMW 323. A gold chain dangled from his thick neck. Married with two children, he enjoyed the cliched perks of a smuggler's life. He went through several mistresses, treating them to breast-enhancement surgeries and trips to Disneyland and San Francisco.

He would ride his pricey sand rail in the Baja California dunes, and he always picked up the tab at restaurants or on wild weekends across the border in Mexicali.
When you think of drug cartels, you think violence, guns, killing. This guy was nothing like that.”

At Emmanuel's barber shop, Cuevas would jump the line to get his “fade” haircut, then pay for everybody else's trim. He took care of friends' hospital bills and lent people money, no strings attached.

“When you think of drug cartels, you think violence, guns, killing,” Lopez said in an interview. “This guy was nothing like that.”

He didn't carry weapons or surround himself with enforcers. Constantly juggling phones and buying packaging materials from Costco, he seemed more stressed out than intimidating. Cuevas had a stutter, and it worsened when his boss Cazares called from Sinaloa. He took antacids to calm an anxious stomach.

To get drugs across the border, he deployed a fleet of SUVs and cars with custom-made hidden compartments. He favored Volkswagen Jettas and Chevrolet Avalanches. Both were manufactured in Mexico, and the DEA believes cartel operatives were able to study the designs to identify voids where drugs could be concealed.

Cuevas sent the cars to a mechanic in Compton who outfitted the compartments with elaborate trapdoors. The jobs took two weeks and the mechanic charged as much as $6,500, but it was worth it. Only a complicated series of actions could spring the doors open.

One front-bumper nook could be accessed only by connecting a jumper cable from the positive battery post to the front screw of a headlight. The jolt of electricity would cause the license plate to fall off, revealing the trapdoor.

Cuevas picked his drivers with great care, rejecting people with visible tattoos or serious criminal records and sending those he hired on dry runs to test their nerves. He kept the Calexico border crossing under constant watch, focusing on the mobile X-ray machine that could see inside vehicles. It was used sparingly, and the moment inspectors drove it away, his crew went to work.

Over the years, his cars consistently eluded detection.

“I was great at it. I had never lost a car in the border,” Cuevas said. “Dogs never hit it or nothing.”

In mid-2006, however, he seemed to lose his touch.

In June, authorities had followed one of his drivers to Cudahy, near Los Angeles, and seized 163 pounds of cocaine from a stash house.

A month later, police outside El Centro stopped his best driver, a hot dog vendor from Mexicali, and found $799,000 in a hidden compartment.

Cuevas had to make the cartel whole, either in cash or by working the debt off by supervising shipments without receiving his cut. Hundreds of pounds of cocaine, meanwhile, continued to pour in every week from Sinaloa, and he was under intense pressure to keep the goods moving.

Now, on this August evening, a customs inspector had pulled his load car, the Accord, into the secondary inspection area.

“Dude, I think your guy got busted,” Lopez told Cuevas over the phone. “They've got him in handcuffs.”

Behind the dashboard and in a rear-quarter panel of the Honda, inspectors found 99 pounds of cocaine. The driver was arrested. Everybody else scattered. Lopez drove home, unconcerned. He had spent only 15 minutes at the border crossing and never got near the drugs.
Dude, I think your guy got busted,” Lopez told Cuevas over the phone. “They’ve got him in handcuffs.”
Cuevas ordered his crew to dump their cellphones, in case anyone had been listening in. At the DEA's bunker-like surveillance post in nearby Imperial, the wiretap chatter went silent.

DEA agents had not expected a bust and were not happy about it. The agents had planned to let the driver cross the border and then follow him to his Los Angeles connection. Now they would have to regroup.

Waiting in the dark

Two days later, the agents sat in a van down the street from Cuevas' two-story home in Calexico, waiting for the lights to dim. Cuevas' neighbors in the subdivision of red-tile-roofed tract homes included firefighters, Department of Homeland Security officers and state prison guards.

After months of tailing Cuevas, the agents knew he favored Bud Light beer, burgers at Rally's and tacos at Jack in the Box.

They once pushed the cocaine-filled car of one of his drivers to a gasoline station after the man ran out of fuel on Interstate 5. The driver never suspected that the good Samaritans were helping so they could continue tailing him to his destination.

After midnight outside Cuevas' home, the agents started digging through his garbage cans. They were searching for a notepad, a receipt, a business card, anything with a phone number on it.

There was enough evidence to arrest Cuevas. But the goal was to expand the investigation, and that required resuming the phone surveillance. Agents hoped Cuevas had thrown away the numbers of some -- even one -- of the 30 new cellphones he had just distributed to his crew.

Sifting through trash was always a filthy chore, especially so in this case. Cuevas was the father of a newborn. The agents were elbow-deep in dirty diapers.

Finally, they pulled something from the muck. It was a piece of spiral notebook paper with numbers scrawled on it. Phone numbers.

Violence stemming migrant flow to U.S.
By William Booth and Nick Miroff, Published: July 1
TENOSIQUE, Mexico – For years, Central American migrants rode slow buses and freight trains across Mexico, then paid “coyote” guides a few hundred dollars for a quick run or swim into the United States.
It was a hard journey, but nothing like today.
Warring mafias have turned once-sleepy farm towns and rail crossings in Mexico into notorious junctions of kidnapping, torture and death, creating a new geography of fear spanning from the U.S. border to the most humble villages in Central America.
The soaring number of attacks on migrants in Mexico, and the widely dispersed news of their barbarity, is discouraging many Central Americans from even attempting the trip to the United States, according to immigration officials, human rights advocates and the travelers themselves.
The flow of illegal Central American migrants to the United States has been slowing since 2005, the result of the sagging U.S. economy and increased law enforcement along the U.S. border, experts say. But a powerful new reason has emerged: Today’s migrants face a far more sinister journey and many have concluded it is just too dangerous.
“This is my fourth trip, but everything is different now. They’ll kill you for nothing,” said Darling Diaz Garcia, a Nicaraguan who was spending the night at a shelter in Tapachula across from the Guatemala border.
He had heard the horror stories of the crossing through Mexico. “Everyone has,” he said, but he was willing to risk it “to eat.”
Cheap hotels and migrant shelters here in southern Mexico that were once filled with wayfarers from Central America are now half-empty.
In Mexico, apprehensions of Central Americans have been cut in half, down from 240,269 in 2005 to 122,049 last year.
Even more telling, U.S. agents this year are catching far fewer Central American migrants trying to cross into the United States. In an average month in 2010, U.S. officers detained 4,242 illegal migrants along the southwest border that they classified as “other than Mexican,” meaning mostly Central Americans. In 2011, the monthly apprehensions of Central Americans have slowed by almost 20 percent.
The number of Central Americans trying to enter the United States without documents has been decreasing even as the U.S. economy begins to revive. Illegal immigration from Mexico has fallen as well, as travelers from Mexico’s impoverished southern states also face savage attacks and roadside kidnappers.
A difficult journey becomes more treacherous
The trip north has always been arduous. But where migrants once faced being robbed or molested, they now fear being killed and dumped in mass graves — or forcefully recruited into a gang and made to smuggle drugs — or abducted and tortured for weeks.
“Their lives are drained away at every step of the journey,” said Friar Tomas Gonzalez, who runs a shelter at the edge of this frontier town, just north of the Guatemala border. In a cement-block room, haggard men slept on bare foam pads, waiting to catch the next freight train north.
Father Flor Maria Rigoni, an Italian priest running a shelter in the border city of Tapachula, said the Central Americans seem more desperate to him now than when he arrived a decade earlier. “There is nothing for them back home,” he said. “They come through here like sheep going to the slaughter.”
Kidnapping crew members called enganchadores (hookers, literally) try to blend in with the migrants at his shelter to size up victims and deliver them to the gangs, said Rigoni, who has a foot-long beard, and wears a flowing white frock and a huge wooden cross in his belt like a pistol.
A dozen travelers sat along wooden benches waiting for dinner, warned to keep quiet about their plans. Their stories came in whispers. A young woman who left home in Honduras without telling her parents worried she would be raped if she continued alone.
Two brothers from Nicaragua rehearsed the technique for jumping onto a moving train and hiding on the underside of rail cars with a belt lashed to the frame to escape notice by the gangs. “That way,” they explained, “even if you fall asleep, you won’t die.”
At least 11,333 foreign migrants were reported kidnapped between April and September last year, most of them Central Americans, according to Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission.
Many migrants just disappear. No place is dreaded more than the northern Mexican state of Tamaulipas, controlled by the Zeta mafia, where 72 migrants were massacred last year on a ranch an hour south of Texas, and where at least 193 bodies have been recovered from mass graves since April, including many still unidentified travelers pulled from buses and bludgeoned to death with a sledge hammer.
Six Mexican immigration agents in Tamaulipas were arrested after victims identified them from photographs and said the officers had handed them over to members of the Zetas.
The attacks have sunk Mexico’s reputation as a defender of immigrant rights. Stung by the criticism, Mexican President Felipe Calderon promised Central American leaders that his government would protect their citizens, and Mexican lawmakers approved stiffer penalties for corrupt officials.
Desperation and danger
In recent weeks, soldiers have freed hundreds of kidnapping victims from stash houses along the northern border. More than 700 migrants were detected this month inside trucking containers, their crammed, ghostly silhouettes detected by police in the southern state of Chiapas who were looking for illegal guns with sophisticated X-ray scanners.
Mexican authorities are investigating reports of another mass kidnapping last week in the state of Veracruz, where armed men allegedly stopped a freight train in a rural area and loaded their vans with 80 migrants, including women and children.
Jorge Rivera, a 25-year-old Honduran staying at Gonzalez’s shelter, said he was snatched off a freight train last year by kidnappers, who beat him with a board to get his family’s phone number. He escaped after six days, then turned himself in to Mexican immigration officials and begged to be sent home.
With his wife pregnant and no job, Rivera said he was desperate and set out on his second attempt in early June, carrying $100 in his wallet and another $20 in his shoe. Guatemalan police robbed most of his meager stash, he said.
Kidnappers were waiting on the Mexican side. They chased him into a pool hall, where police arrested him, giving him temporary protection in the jail. A kindly taco vendor then steered him to the shelter.
“I don’t know whether to turn back or keep going,” Rivera said, his eyes welling up. “What do you think I should do?”
Researcher Gabriela Martinez in Mexico City contributed to this report.

U.S. Spending At Least $18.6 Million Per Day to Incarcerate Illegal Aliens; More Than 195,000 Illegal Aliens Deported in Fiscal 2010 Had Committed Crimes Here

U.S. efforts to find and deport illegal immigrants are overwhelmed by sheer numbers and hampered by public agencies working at cross-purposes. The $2 billion spent each year has little measurable effect on either crime or immigration. Most people deported say they intend to return to the U.S. – and many do. Criminals have less trouble returning than most.”
“83% of warrants for murder in Phoenix are for illegal aliens. 86% of warrants for murder in Albuquerque are for illegal aliens. 75% of those on the most wanted list in Los Angeles, Phoenix and Albuquerque are illegal aliens. 24.9% of all inmates in California detention centers are Mexican nationals here illegally 40.1% of all inmates in Arizona detention centers are Mexican nationals here illegally.”

Four in 10 homicides in California are gang-related, Harris said. Those cases also account for 80% of the state's effort to relocate witnesses whose lives are in danger because of their cooperation with law enforcement, she said.




US arrests 2,000 in anti-drug sting
US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents simulate a raid in their Tactical …
US authorities have arrested nearly 2,000 people on narcotics charges in a 20-month sting targeting Mexico's La Familia Michoacana drug cartel, the US Justice Department said Thursday.
The ongoing multi-agency takedown saw 1,985 people arrested, along with the seizure of about $62 million in US dollars, and more than 12 tons of drugs.
The arrests and charges were carried out in 12 states and the US capital Washington in a major operation dubbed "Project Delirium" and the announcement came just two months after Mexican law enforcement officials arrested La Familia leader Jose de Jesus Mendez-Vargas.
"Project Delirium is the second successful, strategic and surgical strike to disrupt and destroy one of the most violent Mexican cartels, La Familia," said administrator Michele Leonhart of the US Drug Enforcement Administration.
"Through their violent drug trafficking activities, including their hallmark of supplying most of the methamphetamine imported into the United States, La Familia is responsible for recklessly and violently destroying countless lives on both sides of the border."
Among the drugs which were rounded up were 2,773 pounds (1,258 kilograms) of methamphetamine, 6,000 pounds (2,722 kilograms) of cocaine, 1,005 pounds (456 kilograms) of heroin, 14,818 pounds (6,721 kilograms) of marijuana and $3.8 million in other assets.
Deputy Attorney General James Cole said Project Delirium and other such efforts were "disrupting the operations of Mexican drug cartels in the United States and Mexico."
"The arrests and seizures we are announcing today have stripped La Familia of its manpower, its deadly product and its profit, and helped make communities large and small safer," he added, vowing cooperation with Mexican law enforcement to "diminish and ultimately eliminate" drug cartels.
Since June 1 alone, 221 individuals were arrested across the United States, including over 70 people just Wednesday and Thursday, as part of the operation, according to US Justice Department figures.
Mexico's Secretary of Public Security Genaro Garcia Luna hailed the "increased information-sharing and collaboration with the DEA," saying it had allowed for more significant arrests and seizures of drugs and money.
Those arrested under the operation were charged with a variety of crimes ranging from distribution of methamphetamine, cocaine and marijuana, money laundering and conspiracy to import narcotics into the United States.
The multi-agency Special Operations Division coordinated the investigative efforts -- with agents culled from the DEA, FBI, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Internal Revenue Service, US Customs and Border Protection, US Marshals Service and the Justice Department.
More than 300 federal, state, local and foreign law enforcement agencies participated in the operation.


U.S. Alleges Mexican Drug Cartel Rented Apartments in U.S. to Recruit Young Americans
Friday, January 07, 2011
Edwin Mora

A soldier guards packages containing marijuana as they are shown to reporters in the pouring rain in Tijuana, Mexico, on Monday, Jan. 3, 2011. (AP Photo/Guillermo Arias)
( - An assistant U.S. attorney told that a federal judge will hear a criminal case later this month involving an offshoot of the Tijuana cartel that is believed to be setting up operations in the United States to recruit young Americans for drug trafficking.
The case shows that U.S. drug cartels are attempting to extend their operations into the United States.
Todd Robinson, the assistant U.S. attorney who will prosecute the alleged drug ring at the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of California, said he expects the federal judge who will hear the case on Jan. 26 to set a trial date on that day.
According to the 86-page indictment, Mexican drug cartels have rented apartments in the United States under a franchise scheme aimed at recruiting young Americans into their illicit activities, coordinating drug trafficking operations, as well as kidnapping and extortion on both sides of the southwest border.
The case to be heard stemmed from a long-term investigation dubbed “Operation Luz Verde” (green light), that began in November 2009. The probe was conducted by the multi-agency San Diego Cross Border Violence Task Force and it reportedly revealed state and federal crimes, including murder, kidnapping, firearms and drug trafficking.
Investigators used court-authorized wiretaps to capture 50,000 phone calls over a six-month period that led to a case against 43 suspects, including some Mexican police officers and top officials, such as Jesus Quinones Marquez, the director of International Liaison for the Baja California Attorney General’s Office.
In that position, Marquez is one of the primary Mexican liaison officials providing information to U.S. law enforcement officers. According to the investigation, Marquez used his position to provide the drug cartel Fernandez Sanchez Organization (FSO) with confidential law enforcement information. He also allegedly arranged the arrest of FSO rivals by Mexican authorities.
The Justice Department indictment was unsealed in late July 2010 and charges 43 defendants with taking part in a federal racketeering conspiracy (Title 18, U.S. Code, Section 1962(d)). In the complaint, the 43 alleged culprits are said to be members of the FSO, which is an offshoot of the Arellano-Felix drug trafficking ring based in Tijuana.
According to the complaint, FSO “is a transnational drug organization with integrated narcotics and enforcement operations in the United States and Mexico.”
It is described as a “powerful organization that controls drug distribution and other illegal activities in the U.S. and Mexico, and which has increasingly committed acts of violence in Tijuana, San Diego County, and the greater Los Angeles area to expand its influence.”
The hierarchy of command under the leadership of Fernando Sanchez Arellano is comprised of five distinct groups: lieutenants, underbosses, corrupt Mexican officials, crew leaders, and crew members.

A young man lies dead in a public park after being shot to death by unidentified assailants in the municipality of Apodaca on the outskirts of Monterrey, Mexico, Wednesday Dec. 1, 2010. The numbered tags mark bullets casings. (AP Photo/Carlos Jasso)
According to the wiretaps and secret informants, the Fernando Sanchez Organization was operating out of a San Diego apartment it referred to as “The Office.”
The criminal complaint states that Mexican drug cartels are recruiting young Americans in an effort to keep their drug trafficking operations under the radar, including using young women as drug mules to cross from Mexico into the United States.
These “mules” allegedly were paid $100 per trip to smuggle quarter-pound loads of methamphetamine across the border.
The San Diego criminal enterprise also was recruiting members of U.S.-based Latino street gangs, both illegal immigrants and U.S. citizens, and former Mexican police officers, according to the indictment.
Most of the gang members operating in the San Diego office of the accused Mexican cartel are Latino, some illegal aliens and others U.S. citizens, according to the criminal complaint.
The investigation found that the criminal group had safe houses, distributed illicit drugs, trafficked in guns and other weapons, laundered money, committed robberies, and collected drug debts. When debtors failed to pay, they were kidnapped or targeted with execution on both sides of the southwest border.
In one instance, according to the investigation, the accused drug enterprise “placed the defaced headstone of two murder victims in the victims’ family courtyard with a threatening message” in an effort to publicize its enforcement capabilities.
During this investigation, the U.S. Department of Justice for the first time used communication towers on the U.S. side of the border to capture and monitor phone and radio communications used by Mexican drug cartels in the border area and thus were able to show that Mexican drug cartels are moving to expand their grasp into U.S. territory


Lou Dobbs Tonight    
And there are some 800,000 gang members in this country: That’s more than the combined number of troops in our Army and Marine Corps. These gangs have become one of the principle ways to import and distribute drugs in the United States. Congressman David Reichert joins Lou to tell us why those gangs are growing larger and stronger, and why he’s introduced legislation to eliminate the top three international drug gangs.

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