Archive for April 22nd, 2008

The Washington Post

The U.S. government today will order commercial airlines and cruise lines to prepare to collect digital fingerprints of all foreigners before they depart the country under a security initiative that the industry has condemned as costly and burdensome.

The proposal does not say where airlines must collect fingerprints — at airport check-in counters, departure gates or kiosks somewhere in between. But the government estimates the undertaking will cost airlines $2.3 billion over 10 years, a U.S. homeland security official said.

The overall economic impact on companies, passengers and the government is expected to exceed $3.5 billion, industry lobbyists said, at a time when carriers are struggling with safety concerns, high fuel costs and passenger complaints.

Formal announcement of the plan to track the departure of foreign visitors, as part of the Homeland Security Department’s US-VISIT program, comes after an extended battle between the security agency and airlines.

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff linked the effort to enforcing the nation’s immigration laws recently, saying airlines were obstructing the measure for commercial reasons.

“If we don’t have US-VISIT air exit by this time next year, it will only be because the airline industry killed it,” Chertoff said recently. “We have to decide who is going to win this fight. Is it going to be the airline industry, or is it going to be the people who believe we should know who leaves the country by air?”

Doug Lavin, regional vice president for the International Air Transport Association, which represents major U.S. and international carriers, said the government, not airlines, should collect fingerprints. “This is ludicrous,” Lavin said. “We can’t afford anything in the billions to support a program that should be a government program.”

Fingerprinting an estimated 33 million departing foreign passengers a year will result in “delayed departures, missed connections here and around the world,” Lavin said.

Launched after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, US-VISIT is intended to automate the processing of visitors entering and exiting the country, using fingerprints and digital photographs to help find criminals, potential terrorists and people who overstay visas and join the nation’s illegal immigrant population.

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The Washington Post

NEW ORLEANS, April 21 — With the North American Free Trade Agreement taking a pounding on the campaign trail, President Bush met here Monday with the leaders of Mexico and Canada to defend the pact and to seek new ways to cooperate on border, economic and regulatory issues.

After meeting with Bush, Mexican President Felipe Calderón touched on the recent criticism of NAFTA from both Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Barack Obama (D-Ill.), who have promised to revisit the treaty if elected president.

Without mentioning the candidates by name, Calderón said, “I do not believe that people are realizing how many benefits NAFTA has brought both to the United States and to Mexico.” He said the agreement has meant more jobs and economic growth and is “decreasing the flow of immigration.”

White House aides have also defended the trade pact in recent days. “We want to find ways to, frankly, convince the American people . . . that this is an arrangement that’s worked for us, and it’s also worked for our neighbors,” Dan Fisk, the top White House staffer on Latin America, said before the summit. “There’s nothing broken. Why fix a success?”

The two-day meeting here is the fourth in what has become an annual summit among the leaders of the three nations. Bush met separately with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, and the three heads of state were planning to dine together Monday evening.

Relations between the United States and its two neighbors have been good in recent years, with both Calderón and Harper sharing Bush’s devotion to free trade and, in Canada’s case, the commitment to the war in Afghanistan. But the Mexican side has been disappointed that Bush has not liberalized the U.S. immigration system, a big priority for Calderón and his predecessor, Vicente Fox.

After their meeting Monday, Bush called for U.S. congressional approval of a $550 million package to help Mexico fight drug traffickers who have threatened to destabilize the country in recent years. A House Democratic aide said the package is likely to pass this year, possibly as part of the funding bill for the war in Iraq.

By far the most sensitive topic in the trilateral relationship is trade, which amounts daily to a three-way exchange of about $2.5 billion in goods and services, Fisk said.

Both Democratic candidates have said they would try to amend NAFTA to better protect the environment and labor rights. Obama has said he was against the 1994 agreement from the start; Clinton says that she, too, was a critic, though she says she muted that criticism because she was part of the administration of her husband, who pushed the agreement through Congress.

Thomas J. Donahue, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, who is attending the meeting, said he believes that the candidates have softened their rhetoric because they are fishing for votes in Pennsylvania, which he said is a big exporter of goods to Mexico and Canada. In the end, he said, “I don’t think we are going to screw up the NAFTA deal.”

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FOX News

A Chilean man was halfway to freedom when his alleged border-crossing attempt was derailed.

The man, who was deported from the U.S. once before, was using a makeshift cart Sunday to shuttle himself along the support beams of an international bridge over the Rio Grande. But a wheel on the cart broke, stranding him on the span at least 20 feet above the ground, the Border Patrol said Monday.

Agents have been paying particular attention to the rafters of international bridges in El Paso, Texas, since last year when a similarly crude system for smuggling drugs was discovered.

“You can’t knock the ingenuity. It’s there,” Border Patrol spokesman Doug Mosier said.

The man told agents that smugglers in Mexico had arranged to get a group of people across the river using the cart, Mosier said. It is unclear how many people may have used it previously.

This is not the first time that Border Patrol agents have found such a makeshift device, but the discoveries are rare, agency officials told the El Paso Times.

This particular cart had a metallic frame with a wire mesh top. Underneath, the frame was supported by rubber wheels, like those on a toy wagon, mounted on axles, the El Paso Times reported. The cart fit perfectly between two I-beams running four feet apart along the length of the bridge?s underbelly.

Supervisory Border Patrol Agent Victor Lujan told the El Paso Times that an immigrant would lie on the trolley on his back, using his legs to push on the beams to move the cart along the rails.

Read more.

(more…)

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If the ACLU was so eager to “protect migrant’s human rights” they would stop Mexico from abusing Central American migrants.

KPBS

The ACLU and Mexico?s Commission on Human Rights have pledged to work together to protect migrants’ human rights along the U.S.-Mexico border. The groups say they’ll challenge Operation Gatekeeper and other federal programs that put migrants’ lives in danger. KPBS reporter Amy Isackson has details. LISTEN HERE.

Operation Gatekeeper is the federal government’s attempt to stem the flow of illegal immigrants in San Diego in the mid-1990s.

The government built miles of border fencing and beefed up the Border Patrol.

Illegal traffic in San Diego dropped. But people continued to cross in more dangerous areas. Deaths soared.

Kevin Keenan is Executive Director of the ACLU in San Diego. He says the problem is not going away.

Keenan: The fence keeps getting larger. Deaths have increased. And so it is incumbent on us to try again to figure out how to stop this inhumane waste of life.

The ACLU and Mexico?s Human Rights Commission plan to meet in June to determine how they’ll challenge Gatekeeper.

Meanwhile, the U.S. federal government plans to build 470 more miles of border fencing by the end of the year.

Amy Isackson, KPBS News.

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I found these links to local news stories over at Prison Planet. This is from a week ago. Apparently these three Southern states are a real hotbed of terrorist activity!

martial law
Just a photo I found on the Internet.

Crime, terror targets for weekend as 6 counties from 3 states team up for initiative

Commercial Appeal

Law-enforcement agencies in Tennessee, Mississippi and Arkansas this weekend will participate in an anti-crime and anti-terrorism initiative that will involve officers from more than 50 federal, state and local agencies.

Called “Operation Sudden Impact,” the initiative will have officers from six counties rounding up fugitives, conducting traffic checkpoints and doing other crime-abatement programs from 7 a.m. Saturday through 7 a.m. Sunday.

The names of those arrested, given traffic citations or otherwise noted will be reviewed by the Shelby County Sheriff’s Homeland Security Operations Center. Information will then be forwarded to the Tennessee Homeland Security Center in Nashville to watch for any possible ties to terrorist activity.

Read more.

1,292 traffic violations were handed out to terrorists?

WREG

Traveling around Memphis, you probably don’t think much about terrorists, but law officers do.

It was front and center stage at a round up Saturday.

Read more.

Do Tennessee Businesses Have Ties To Terrorism?


NewsChannel5

MEMPHIS, Tenn. - Federal agencies raided several Memphis businesses in a coordinated effort to find information about possible terrorism ties.

The operation has been named known as “Sudden Impact.”

The FBI along with hundreds of officers said they are looking for anything out of the ordinary. Agents take computers and paperwork from businesses.

One store owner said he was told the agents were looking for stolen electronics. While some business owners feel they are being targeted, law-enforcement officers said they are just trying to track down possible terrorists before something big happens.

“What we have found traditionally is that terrorists are involved in a number of lesser known type crimes,” said Mark Luttrell, Shelby County sheriff.

There has been no word on if any of the confiscated goods have led to any arrests.

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