Archive for the “Border crossing” Category

NC Times

SAN DIEGO — An Oceanside man has been sentenced to nearly three and a half years in federal prison for his role in an illegal-immigrant smuggling operation based in North County, court documents show.

Ricardo Roberto Gonzalez-Camacena, 37, pleaded guilty in August to charges of conspiracy to transport and move illegal immigrants within the United States and filing a false tax return, according to court documents.

U.S. District Judge Barry Ted Moskowitz also ordered Gonzalez-Camacena to forfeit to the United States his Oceanside residence and more than $343,000 in cash.

Gonzalez-Camacena’s attorney, Philip DeMassa, said Wednesday that his client received the sentence recommended in his plea agreement. The prison term was at the low end of what federal sentencing guidelines provided for, but was more severe than what other defendants in the case received because Moskowitz made a finding that Gonzalez-Camacena was the leader of the group, DeMassa said.

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WASHINGTON ? A key U.S. senator wants Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff to explain why he ordered environmental studies on a planned border fence in Texas, but bypassed such a study in Arizona.

Sen. Joe Lieberman, chairman of the Senate Homeland and Governmental Affairs Committee, also is questioning Chertoff’s decision to waive environmental laws to build a stretch of fence in the San Pedro Riparian Conservation Area on the Arizona-Mexico border.

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BROWNSVILLE ? Federal officials seized $540,000 from four Harlingen motel owners after they were sentenced to probation for conspiracy to harbor illegal immigrants, an official said Friday.

Rakeshkumar Bhakta, 40, and wife Alka Bhakta, 35, owners of the Hudson House motel, and Kamleshkumar Bhakta, 32, and wife Falguniben Bhakta, 30, owners of the Country Side Inn motel, forfeited a total of $540,000 in equity from their businesses, said Nina Pruneda, spokeswoman for the U.S. Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement in San Antonio.

The motel owners? convictions stemmed from room rentals to human smugglers, the press release said.

At the Hudson House, a 36-room motel at 500 Ed Carey Drive, Rakeshkumar and Alka Bhakta rented rooms at inflated rates to human smugglers, the press release said. The couple falsified information on registration cards, offering smugglers rooms at the motel?s rear to help shield smuggling, the press release said.

The couple also bought and delivered food to help smugglers shield themselves from law enforcement, the press release said.

At the motel, rates jumped from $40 to $400 as part of a scheme to harbor illegal immigrants, according the indictment used to convict the motel?s owners.

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Chertoff: Allow fencing or lose land
Seattle Times
December 9, 2007

WASHINGTON ? The Bush administration has warned landowners along the southern border that it will seize their property if they refuse to cooperate with federal efforts to build a fence meant to slow illegal immigration.

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said he would give landowners 30 days to indicate if they will allow federal officials on their land to survey whether it is suitable for fencing. If they decline, he said Friday, he would turn to the courts to gain temporary access.

If the agency determines the land is appropriate for fencing and landowners refuse to cooperate, the department will turn to the courts to get title.

“The door is still open to talk, but it’s not open for endless talk,” Chertoff said of the time-frame landowners have in which to respond.

He added, “We won’t pay more than market price for the land.”

Chertoff said access to 225 miles of noncontiguous land, most of it in Texas and Arizona, was essential to meeting the administration’s goal of building 370 miles of border fencing by the end of 2008.

Reaction was swift.

“I tell you, on this one issue, the Farm Bureau, the United Farm Workers, Democrats and Republicans, white, black, brown, everybody is against the border fence. It just doesn’t make sense,” said Juan Salinas, the county judge of Hidalgo County in Texas.

Salinas, chief administrator of the local government, said objections stem from economic, cultural and environmental concerns. “We’ve been trying to talk to them about using other ways,” he said. “It’s a disappointment that, again, the Department of Homeland Security is not listening to local taxpayers.”

Chertoff also said his agency has given conditional approval to an experimental, 28-mile combination of technology and physical fencing in Arizona that allows border agents to detect intrusions and to see what or who has crossed onto U.S. land. Cameras in the system are so powerful that they can distinguish between cattle and people from 10 miles away and can show whether those people are toting packages or guns……

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Judge E. Grady Jolly, one of three judges from the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals hearing the case of Ignacio Ramos and Jose Alonso Compean, questioned whether the two agents would have been charged if they had reported the shooting.

“For some reason, this one got out of hand, it seems to me,” Jolly said of the agents’ prosecution.

A federal jury in Texas convicted Ramos and Compean of assault, obstruction of justice and civil rights violations in the wounding of Osvaldo Aldrete Davila on the Texas border near El Paso in 2005. A federal judge sentenced Compean to 12 years in prison and Ramos to 11 years.

The agents’ attorneys are asking the 5th Circuit to throw out the convictions. The judges didn’t indicate when they will rule on the appeals.

“It does seem to me that the government overreacted here,” Jolly said, noting the severity of the charges and the lengthy sentences prosecutors sought, as he questioned Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Stelmach.

Jolly said that if the agents had reported the shooting, as required, “this prosecution never would have occurred, in all likelihood.”

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Bricks, concrete, barbed wire, all that: overrated! We don’t need physical boundaries between us, only virtual boundaries. That’s why we’d never put up a real fence, for instance, if we wanted to keep our children or pets from wandering away.

So why should our government do any differently? Why clutter up the border vista - it’s a great view, from Laredo to Nuevo Laredo, and vice versa - with some big ugly wall?

Maybe you think I’m kidding. But don’t take my word for it: Here’s Giuliani, quoted in an Associated Press story from last week, headlined, “Giuliani promotes virtual fence.” Explains the former mayor, “Frankly, the virtual fence is more valuable because it alerts you to people approaching the border, it alerts you to people coming over the border.”

That sounds like a good plan, doesn’t it? After all, you use a virtual lock on your front door, right? That way, when intruders approach your house, you can spot them. And when they walk in, well, a police SWAT team is on the way. The key to this enforcement strategy, to be sure, is to respond after the crime has occurred. So it’s strange, therefore, that Giuliani insists that he wants to build at least some physical wall.

Because virtuality works better, Giuliani assures us. After all, that’s why we have virtual prison walls and jail cells, right? You see, when the bad guys escape, an alarm goes off, satellites up in space look down, and helicopters fly over and scoop them up. And if the inmates try it again, well, we just repeat the apprehending process till they cry uncle.

So that’s the plan for fending off terrorists from around the world - not to mention any of the 500 million South and Central Americans who might wish to come to this country illegally. We’ll spot ‘em and nab ‘em before they get to Des Moines.

I like this idea of “virtuality,” as opposed to “reality.” So here’s another modest proposal: Let’s have a virtual border patrol. I mean, sending out actual law enforcers to interdict unknown persons coming across the border - that’s a formula for trouble.

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AZ StarNet

Burlington, VT (AP) — A human smuggling operation based in Toronto and another in Montreal moved hundreds of immigrants into the U.S., with some paying $10,000 apiece, American prosecutors said Wednesday in announcing indictments against the groups.

Most of the illegal border crossings took place on foot in a stretch the U.S. Border Patrol considers a prime area for smuggling because of its proximity to interstate highways that make it easy to move people once they’re in the country, said Thomas Anderson, U.S. attorney for Vermont.

One of the groups, apparently working with recruiters in South Korea, would meet immigrants at the Toronto airport and take them to safe houses, then send them with guides or drop them near the border with instructions to meet drivers on the U.S. side, according to one of the indictments.

Anderson estimated the groups had brought hundreds of people into the U.S. from South Korea, Pakistan, India and Central America since 2004, though he did not have a specific figure. Some of those people paid as much as $10,000 for the smugglers’ services, he said.

Officials said that some of the people brought into the United States had previous criminal records in this country, and that others were vulnerable to being preyed upon by the smugglers.

‘Oftentimes, these people who are smuggled into the United States are indebted to these people for a very long time,’ said Bruce Foucart, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent.

A federal grand jury in Vermont indicted the Toronto group in September and the Montreal group in October; the Toronto charges were sealed until Wednesday. Alien smuggling, the most serious charge, carries a sentence of as many as 15 years in prison upon conviction.

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He’s a very hard worker. He just needed some money to feed his sick starving family in Mexico.


YUMA, Ariz. (AP) - A Mexican citizen with a lengthy rap sheet who’s been deported three times previously has been arrested after illegally crossing the U.S.-Mexico border.

The U.S. Border Patrol in Yuma, Ariz., says Pedro Alvarado Suarez has been arrested 23 times since 1986 and served about eight years in jail. It says the arrests involved various charges, including, robbery, burglary, theft, auto theft, assault, as well as drug-related charges.

Alvarado and two other illegal immigrants were arrested near Winterhaven, Calif., after agents had tracked them for three hours from the All-American Canal, about 2 miles west of Andrade, Calif.

The Border Patrol says the 41-year-old Alvarado’s criminal record includes arrests in Arizona, California, Montana and Washington state.

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Washington Times

Fort Huachuca, the nation’s largest intelligence-training center, changed security measures in May after being warned that Islamist terrorists, with the aid of Mexican drug cartels, were planning an attack on the facility.

Fort officials changed security measures after sources warned that possibly 60 Afghan and Iraqi terrorists were to be smuggled into the U.S. through underground tunnels with high-powered weapons to attack the Arizona Army base, according to multiple confidential law enforcement documents obtained by The Washington Times.

“A portion of the operatives were in the United States, with the remainder not yet in the United States,” according to one of the documents, an FBI advisory that was distributed to the Defense Intelligence Agency, the CIA, Customs and Border Protection and the Justice Department, among several other law enforcement agencies throughout the nation. “The Afghanis and Iraqis shaved their beards so as not to appear to be Middle Easterners.”

According to the FBI advisory, each Middle Easterner paid Mexican drug lords $20,000 “or the equivalent in weapons” for the cartel’s assistance in smuggling them and their weapons through tunnels along the border into the U.S. The weapons would be sent through tunnels that supposedly ended in Arizona and New Mexico, but the Islamist terrorists would be smuggled through Laredo, Texas, and reclaim the weapons later.

A number of the Afghans and Iraqis are already in a safe house in Texas, the FBI advisory said.

Fort Huachuca, which lies about 20 miles from the Mexican border, has members of all four service branches training in intelligence and secret operations. About 12,000 persons work at the fort and many have their families on base.

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“But since three SBInet towers went up nearby, he says, the traffic through his ranch has plunged. The 1,500 became more like 300, he guesses, and there’s a lot less trash. Even if it’s not fully operational, Kay says, SBInet is a deterrent, and the coyotes and drug smugglers find another way.”

Boeing’s ‘virtual fence’ raises hope, concern
STL Today

One of nine 98-foot-tall surveillance towers that Boeing is testing along the Mexican border as part of the Secure Border Initiative. This one is just outside the town of Arivaca, Ariz., and holds cameras and radars that Border Patrol agents will use to watch the area.

The Altar Valley, Ariz. ? It used to be, you didn’t have to lock your doors around here. Now people encase their windows in wrought iron and their yards in razor wire.

In the quiet night, people say, you can sometimes hear the AK-47s of drug smugglers battling over loads of marijuana.

And every year now, there are hundreds of bodies found in the desert, Mexicans who died walking north for a better life.

This is the front line of our national dilemma over immigration. And it’s the place where Boeing is launching a project that just might be part of the solution.

Here in Arizona’s Altar Valley, a sea of mesquite and dusty creek beds stretching southwest from Tucson, Boeing’s St. Louis-based defense unit is testing something called SBInet. It’s a network of ground sensors, radar and high-powered cameras that will scan the desert constantly and could help the Border Patrol “gain operational control” of this vast and wild land.

It’s the technological piece of a dramatic hardening of the border that’s begun in the last few years, a supplement to fencing, vehicle barriers and thousands of new Border Patrol agents. That hardening, in turn, is key to the broader efforts at immigration reform in Congress: Secure the border, the theory goes, and allow more people to enter the country legally.

But so far, SBInet has been a disappointment.

Only a year old, the 28-mile pilot phase called “Project 28″ is already five months behind schedule, bogged down by the difficulties in making cameras and radars work together properly. Critics in Washington say Boeing oversold what it could do. And federal officials are holding back payment until they’re satisfied that Project 28 works as intended.

But testing is scheduled to wrap up soon, perhaps as early as this week. And the Border Patrol still has high hopes for this “virtual fence,” planning to build it out from San Diego to Brownsville, Texas, over the next few years, and eventually over the northern border, too.

“If it works here, we can be pretty sure it’ll work nationally,” said Osborne Wilder, a Border Patrol agent who’s helping oversee Project 28……

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Here’s another sob story meant to pull on your heart strings. Don’t think too deeply about it, otherwise you’ll begin to wonder why the family didn’t use the $8,000 for the eye operation.

They managed to borrow $8,000 for a 14 year old kid to travel to the U.S. on his own. They figured he’d be able to pay back the money, and then raise even more for an eye operation? I smell bullshit.

The Denver Post

When he turned 14, Santos Herrera set out from his Guatemalan mountain village for the United States ? on his own.

His relatives borrowed $8,000 for smugglers, counting on him to send home at least $400 a month to make payments.

Joined along the way by other young Guatemalans of Mayan descent, Herrera said, he rode buses through Mexico. Then, during a four-day desert trek across the U.S.-Mexico border, U.S. border agents nearly caught him, he said, and for two days he hid alone, lost and terrified.

But he made it to Colorado, where he earned $5.50 an hour picking onions and up to $7 at other jobs ? until June, when a Wyoming sheriff’s deputy caught him driving with no license.

“I’m here to fight for my mother, to get money so she can have an operation for her eyes. And I need to get money for my siblings so they can eat and go to school,” Herrera said.

He’s part of a growing, ragged parade of thousands of children who enter the United States illegally without their parents.

Department of Homeland Security border agents apprehend more than 113,000 children a year, data show, and find scores who are on their own. Under a 2002 law, unaccompanied children must be sent to facilities run by the Department of Health and Human Services. Some 8,212 unaccompanied children were held at these juvenile facilities this past year, up from 5,000 in 2003, according to federal officials and records.

For Herrera, now 16, getting caught brought new twists in an odyssey rooted in poverty.

After the deputy nabbed him, he bounced from one adult jail in Laramie for 13 days to another, a federal immigration detention center, in Colorado for a month. Then, under pressure from a lawyer, federal authorities bused Herrera to a juvenile hall in Texas, where he was held for two more months, court records show.

Now, pending review of his case, he’s been released to the custody of a family friend in Fort Morgan, northeast of Denver. He’s living with relatives and planning to attend school.

“I pray to God I can stay, to help my family, so we don’t have to suffer in poverty anymore,” he said in a recent interview.

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México, Nov. 23 (PL).? In the latest anti-immigration operation in the United States, dubbed “Zero Tolerance,” 100 Mexican citizens were jailed and charged with crimes, it was announced today.

The operation was carried out by the U.S. Border Patrol along the area dividing Laredo, Texas and Mexican territory, and had been officially announced 20 days previously.

Instead of simply deporting Mexicans caught trying to cross the border without documentation, under the new policy they are incarcerated in distant federal prisons and charged with crimes that can be punished with further prison time and large fines.

This new policy is an intensification of Washington?s repressive policies against those who go north seeking work and was condemned by participants in the recently-held Parliament of Migrant Workers of Mexico. They described it as a violation of human rights because of the unjust manner in which they are kept incarcerated for an undetermined time and without the possibility of returning to their nation.

The U.S. Border Patrol itself confirmed to local media that 100 Mexicans had been arrested to date and charged with the federal crime of trying to enter the United States illegally.

Immigrant-rights activists also said that these operations include the placement of all types of barriers along the border, causing immigrants to take more dangerous routes to make the crossing.

From 1986 to date, 10,000 Mexicans have died of hunger, thirst or in the course of being pursued in desert and mountain areas, including women and children.

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LAREDO ? After pleading guilty to entering the country illegally, the Mexican immigrant from Veracruz told a federal judge here last week he came to the U.S. to earn money to pay for his mother’s funeral. Yeah right!
”It doesn’t matter if you’re trying to pay off funeral expenses, or take care of a sick family member,” explained U.S. Magistrate Diana Saldaña, referring to the plight of another immigrant. ”When you cross the Rio Grande, you’re going to be spending time in prison if the Border Patrol finds you ? that’s the bottom line.”

The frank courtroom exchange has become a daily occurrence since Oct. 30, when the Border Patrol launched Operation Streamline-Laredo, a zero-tolerance campaign that prosecutes, jails and deports nearly every adult illegal immigrant that border agents catch.

The controversial operation has jammed local jails to capacity, strained the staff of the federal public defender’s office and sparked charges that immigrants’ due process rights are being violated. But it has been applauded by those favoring strict enforcement of immigration laws.

Before the crackdown, agents with the Laredo patrol sector routinely allowed illegal immigrants from Mexico to return home voluntarily. And a lack of detention space resulted in a ”catch-and-release” policy that allowed non-Mexican illegal immigrants to post bond pending a hearing, but few showed up for their court dates.

But at the Laredo federal courthouse last week, a mere two weeks after the program began, scores of ordinary people shared the halls where crooked officials, drug kingpins and human traffickers are brought to justice.They included (terrorists), bricklayers, (rapists), construction workers, (child molesters), dishwashers, (violent gang members), and waitresses, all snared by agents after crossing the Rio Grande illegally.

The immigrants, in the same rumpled clothing they wore when arrested, were escorted up to the judge’s bench in groups of 18 or 20. After a Border Patrol officer read a charge that applied to the entire group, each immigrant called out ”Culpable” ? the Spanish word for guilty.

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In my expericene, it’s no different when you are driving through a port of entry. The Border Agents are just waving people through.


A video made during an investigation by the U.S. Government Accountability Office shows a stream of Mexicans strolling through the border into the U.S. as federal Custom and Border Patrol agents sit staring at “information on computer screens.”

On another of the videos recorded at eight entry points across the country, an agent was reportedly waving aliens through the lane without “looking at them, making verbal contact or inspecting travel documents.”

According to testimony from Richard Stana, director of homeland security and justice issues at the Government Accountability Office (GAO), these incidents were not isolated.

“While Custom and Border Patrol Officers have had some success in apprehending inadmissible aliens and other violators, the analyses indicate that several thousand inadmissible aliens and other violators entered the country at air and land ports in 2006,” Stana said during a hearing of the Senate federal workforce subcommittee last week.

The danger of such a lax policy is clear to Stana. “It is increasingly the responsibility of the Customs and Border Patrol to counter the threats posed by terrorists and others attempting to enter the country with fraudulent or altered travel documents,” he said.

The report states that managers at 19 of 21 field offices told the GAO that staff shortages had prevented them from carrying out anti-terrorism activities or hampered their use of radiation monitors and other technologies to inspect cargo and travelers.

Although Customs and Border Patrol employs about 17,600 officers at U.S. entry points, it has relied on overtime to keep shifts staffed at a number of its airports, seaports, and border stations, including some that operate around the clock. During the 2006 fiscal year, staffing shortages forced officers to work 4.2 million hours of overtime.

The agency withheld data on staffing from the document, because it deemed the information too sensitive for public release.

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Gimmicks like this are not going to secure the border. Rick Perry is a conspirator of the North American Union and he knows it. We need more Border Patrol Agents on the border so we can quickly respond to border crossings. Right now we average one agent for every mile of border in highly trafficked areas. The majority of the border has maybe one agent for every ten miles of border. It’s probably less than that.

Another pointless dog and pony show.

EL PASO ? Gov. Rick Perry’s proposal to broadcast live video footage from the border over the Internet should be up and running again by January now that new funding has been secured, a spokesman said.

Perry spokeswoman Allison Castle said the governor has found $3 million in federal grants to install about 200 mobile cameras along the Texas-Mexico border.

The cameras were pitched during Perry’s 2006 re-election campaign as a way for anyone via the Internet to become a border patroller and help root out border crime and illegal crossings.

A $200,000 test run that lasted about a month last year led authorities to 10 undocumented immigrants, one drug deal and one human smuggling route.

But earlier this year, lawmakers rejected Perry’s request for $5 million to restart the program and add more cameras.

“Lawmakers felt unanimous that immigration is a federal issue,” said state Sen. Eliot Shapleigh, D-El Paso. “Why burden local and state taxpayers with a federal obligation?”

Castle said the new cameras will be installed in “strategic high-traffic areas along the border.” The system should be running by January, although it may be longer before the footage is available online, she added.

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