Archive for June 1st, 2008

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The Los Angles Times

At a town-hall meeting, the senator is urged to trade part of California for a Mexican state. ?I had intended to compete in California,? he answers.

John McCain bills his town-hall-style meetings as a way to seek ideas from voters. But in Reno this week, a voter offered the senator a rather impolitic proposal for dealing with illegal immigration, a thorny issue for McCain among some Republicans.

The real problem, this voter argued, is the Mexican government. ?Why don?t you do something about changing the government in Mexico so those people can live at home in a rich and beautiful and wonderful country? If they don?t want to do that ? let?s trade them half of California for Tamaulipas in the Gulf of Mexico,? the voter continued, referring to a border state of Mexico.

McCain raised his eyebrows, a sign he wasn?t going to touch that one. ?You know,? he said after a pause, ?I had intended to compete in California.? He briskly moved on to his plans for securing the borders, creating a temporary-worker program and helping the Mexican government fight drug cartels.

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The New York Times

VILLA AHUMADA, Mexico ? A massacre here two weeks ago has turned this once sleepy town into a ghostly emblem of the drug violence that has swept Mexico over the last year and a half, gutting local police forces, terrifying citizens and making it almost impossible for the authorities to assert themselves.

On the night of May 17, dozens of men with assault rifles rolled into town in several trucks and shot up the place. They killed the police chief, two officers and three civilians. Then they carried off about 10 people, witnesses said. Only one has been found, dead and wrapped in a carpet in Ciudad Juárez.

The entire municipal police force quit after the attack, and officials fled the town for several days, leaving so hastily that they did not release the petty criminals held in the town lockup. The state and federal governments sent in 300 troops and 16 state police officers, restoring an uneasy semblance of order. But townspeople remain terrified.

?Yeah, we?re afraid, everyone?s afraid,? said José Antonio Contreras, a 17-year-old who was threatened by the gunmen. ?Nobody goes out at night.?

Tourists driving south from Texas to the Pacific Coast beaches pass through Villa Ahumada on Highway 45. There was a time in the not-so-distant past when this dusty town on the railroad tracks was best known for its roadside burrito stands, its good cheese and its having recorded one of the coldest temperatures in Mexico ? 23 below zero in January 1962.

In recent years, however, it also became a way station along one of Mexico?s major drug smuggling routes. Villa Ahumada lies about 85 miles south of El Paso on the main highway from the city of Chihuahua to the border city of Ciudad Juárez.

Mexico?s drug violence has by now become so pervasive that it is infecting even small communities like this one, which has fewer than 9,000 residents.

Around the country in the last 18 months, more than 4,000 people have been killed in similar attacks and gun battles, even as President Felipe Calderón has tried to take back towns where the local police and officials were on the payroll of drug kingpins.

This week, seven federal officers died in a gun battle with cartel henchmen when they tried to enter a house in Culiacán, Sinaloa, a city notorious for its traffickers. The officers had been sent to the city, along with 2,700 other soldiers and agents, to track down a reputed drug kingpin believed to have ordered the assassination of the acting federal chief of police, who was killed in Mexico City on May 8.

When the police arrived, banners were hung in the city taunting the officers and saying the reputed kingpin, Arturo Beltrán Leyva, reigned supreme in Culiacán.

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The Washington Post

DES MOINES, Iowa — After the biggest immigration raid in U.S. history, hundreds of workers have been sentenced but not one company official as yet faces any charges _ something critics say is typical of a federal government that is tough on employees but easy on owners.

Worker advocates and lawmakers say the fact that nearly 400 workers were arrested in the May 12 raid at the Agriprocessors Inc. plant in Postville _ or more than one-third of the total number of employees _ proves that company officials must have known they were hiring illegal immigrants.

“Until we enforce our immigration laws equally against both employers and employees who break the law, we will continue to have a problem with immigration,” said U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley, an Iowa Democrat whose district borders Postville.

Such raids are designed to get headlines and make it appear that the federal government is cracking down on illegal immigration, said Frank Sharry, executive director of the immigration reform group America’s Voice. But he says even those who think enforcement is the answer can’t seriously believe the 12 million illegal immigrants in the U.S. can be arrested and deported.

“Even if you wanted to pursue an imbalanced enforcement-first strategy, the only thoughtful way to do it would be to go after employers, make examples of them and try to scare other employers into compliance,” he said. “They’re not doing that.”

The owner of the Postville plant, Aaron Rubashkin, has said that the company is conducting its own investigation “into the circumstances which led to the recent work site enforcement action, and is fully cooperating with the government.” He said the company could not respond to specific allegations due to pending legal issues.

Court documents filed by an Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent before the raid at the Postville plant indicate that authorities believed company supervisors were violating a number of federal laws including harboring illegal immigrants. An application and affidavit for search warrant alleged that:

Based on 2007 fourth-quarter payroll reports, about 78 percent of Agriprocessors’ 968 workers were using false or fraudulent Social Security numbers in connection with their employment.

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