Immigration Judges Dismissing More Deportation Cases

Dec 1st, 2010 | By Michel Marizco | Category: General News, Immigration


This story first appeared on KJZZ's Fronteras Desk. Visit our website for stories from all across the border.

Immigration judges are letting more illegal migrants stay in the country. Government records show that the Obama Administration is focusing its deportation efforts on those who have been convicted of crimes.

Most people who show up in front of an immigration judge still face deportation, but the Department of Homeland Security, and judges in Arizona, have doubled the number of cases where deportation orders are dropped compared to five years ago.

Homeland Security May Disable its Virtual Fence

Nov 30th, 2010 | By Michel Marizco | Category: General News, Immigration, Politics


This is a story I produced for the Fronteras Project that aired this morning on Arizona Public Media.

Please bookmark and visit our web site,, for stories from all along the border region, from San Diego to San Antonio.

I interviewed Linda Thomas, a former program manager working within Dept. of Homeland Security's Strategic Border Initiative, or SBInet. It's the first time someone with an insider's understanding of the project has emerged to discuss their experiences. TUCSON, ARIZ. – The federal government’s electronic border fence has been plagued with problems from the beginning. Now, the program is nearly in tatters, and some security experts believe last week’s short renewal of the fence contract is the government buying itself time before backing out of the ambitious project. KJZZ’s Michel Marizco reports. The Homeland Security Department has renewed the Boeing Corporation’s contract to build a virtual border fence for another month. The agency has been tentatively extending the nearly one billion dollar contract one month at a time. It’s a hesitation that is widely expected to be the agency’s last act before either dumping the project altogether or keeping the technology but getting rid of the project. The project is called the Strategic Border Initiative or SBInet. And for more than four years, Boeing’s been unable to complete it. Linda Thomas was a high level manager working for a subcontractor Boeing hired to help build the project’s towers and ground sensors. She walked away from the project in disgust after seven months and says now that the federal government wasn’t keeping track of Boeing’s failures. She describes a field test she conducted in Playas, New Mexico. “We went out there and did a test of the microwave system and a colleague and I drove around in circles – for hours – so that the microwave could try and lock in on us and it just wasn’t successful,” Thomas said. She says she felt that Homeland Security has invested so much money into this program that it can’t back away now, or it stands to lose the last four years of work. “Then I attended various meetings with Boeing and – I guess – straw that broke the camel’s back was pretty much a meeting at the end that I went to with very high level people and everybody was, at least in the Boeing family, to me, was just sitting around joking about how we weren’t making progress and I just couldn’t handle it anymore and that’s when I resigned,” Thomas said. The system, once predicted to cover the entire Mexican border, now is only set up in two small stretches of southern Arizona. The idea of a border-to-border electronic wall appears to be over. Jim Carafano is a homeland security analyst with the Heritage Foundation in Washington. “What they’re trying to do is keep the technology without keeping SBInet because the word SBInet says, ‘Oh, that’s that wasteful evil program that Bush had,’ right? They don’t want that,” Carafano said. “So they want to figure out how they can fund this thing, at a lower level, more modest, and they’re trying to square that circle.” Homeland Security officials declined to be interviewed on the air for this story. In an email, they said that they are currently reviewing the: “independent, quantitative, science-based reassessment of the SBInet program.” In the meantime, Homeland is investing in other technologies, both new and old. Next year, its bringing in three more Predator B unmanned aircraft to fly the borders, creating a fleet of ten UAVs. Last month, the agency began another recruitment drive to hire 2,000 more agents for the southern border. Homeland Security has until December 18 to decide what it’s going to do with the program.

¿Where’s the Outrage Here?

Sep 4th, 2010 | By Michel Marizco | Category: General News, Immigration, Politics
THE BORDER REPORT When I used to write about illegal migrant deaths on a daily basis, there was a macabre joke that nobody cared about the people who actually died, merely the number. It was meant as black humor but it carried a certain truth: You could have 200 migrants dying in the desert but the only one who garnered notoriety was the record-breaker; if you had 200 this year and 200 last, the one who got the public's attention was the 201st. That's a little bit how I feel about these 72 migrants found murdered in a mass grave in Matamoros, in late August. Suddenly, Mexico and the United States perked up. Now Ecuador and Honduras are equally excited. Let's keep in mind that consistently, over the past ten years, an average of 200 people die every year trying to cross through the Arizona desert. The Pima County Medical Examiner told the Arizona Daily Star that it has processed 1,669 deaths since 2001. Keeping track by fiscal year instead of calendar, the ngo, Derechos Humanos, tracks 2,065 since 2001, its members tell the Tucson Weekly. Working in Sasabe with a broadcast crew from Spain last week, we ran into a group of 20 Guatemalans heading west along the border line. It was 103º out, early afternoon and they were standing in the shade of an orange building, waiting for the smuggler to give the signal. Vague with their answers of their destination, some said they had the idea of working in the U.S., saving up some money, a narrative that's common, and yet profound when you consider how many migrants share it. They started off with excitement, a few of them smiling, moving quickly, all young. Their smuggler was walking them seven miles along the Mexican side of the border to where the Homeland Security Department's fences stopped, replaced by easily breached vehicle barrier. The problem was, some of these people were clearly not going to make it. A mile in and some were already faltering, falling back, a little bit at first, then more, the gap widening. This woman in brown below was particularly a concern. How far is she going to make it? They've got a day's walk on the Mexican side, energy already depleted, heat, relentless, then a few hours waiting for a Border Patrol agent to clear from an area, then a walk to some Tohono O'odham Indian Reservation pueblo, at least another day's hike to there, then either one more day to Tucson or three to Phoenix, moving at 25-30 miles per day. Where's the outrage here? Anyone? Honduras is going after Ecuador for revealing there was a second survivor in that 72 or 76 person massacre in Matamoros. "We regret the president of Ecuador gave out this information irresponsibly, and didn't take into account the risk to the Honduran's life," complained Honduran Foreign Minister Mario Canahuati. Excuse me, but the Honduran's life was placed in jeopardy long before he ran into whomever pulled the trigger just south of the border. In the case of the 72 dead, the Mexican government was quick to blame the Zetas based on the account of the first survivor. I remain skeptical. These days, every disorganized thug who seeks affiliation calls himself a Z and it seems unlikely that a real Zeta would identify himself as such (what the hell did they say: "Hi, we're Zetas and we want you to work for us?" Yeah, no.) Blaming the narcos-non-grata of Mexico is also a convenient way to dismiss the likely involvement of authorities working with whomever pulled the trigger. So Honduras blames Ecuador. The New York Times blames the Americans. Mexico blames the Zetas. The Americans blame organized crime in general, all for 72 people who only garnered national attention because they happened to die together. The message is clear. This is not acceptable: And yet, this is: It'd be funny if it wasn't so sad.


Aug 2nd, 2010 | By Michel Marizco | Category: General News, Immigration, Politics


I was hoping this week would be a good opportunity to take a closer look at the Obama Administration's movement of 1,200 National Guard units to the Mexico border. According to this Arizona Republic article, it's gonna be a few weeks.* The first question I have is, why. While I continue to believe that the National Guard movement is for Americans' peace of mind (those not living in border states, anyway) and not to stop illegal immigration or drug trafficking, I'd like to point out the astuteness of the story; the administration said Aug. 1. Apparently they meant they were going to start addressing the movement of troops on that day. The second question, of course, is what are they going to be doing? We are told the Guard units will free up agents to focus on illegal migrants and narcos and that's great, but what does that mean? That the Guard units will be patrolling? So the Guard will act like spotters and the Border Patrol will act like chasers? Is this the plan? Because I thought that's what the $50 million in remote video surveillance system spent this year was for. That money, by the way, came from Recovery Act funding after Homeland was forced to scrap its ambitious plans for SBINet. If 2006 is any indication, allow me to explain what the Guard will be doing on the border. I'm on the road and doing this from memory but I won't easily forget the tasks the Guardsmen were assigned to do when they were here last time. 1. They will take the place of existing engineers with the Army Corps of Engineers and dig wells. 2. Others will draw maps of the U.S.-Mexico border, as if this is some new Lunar outpost that's never before been cartographed. 3. The ... intelligence ... units will be composed of bilingual teams who will read Mexican newspapers and web sites (Bienvenidos!) and draw up analyses based off those reports. Using the U.S. State Department's Morning Report - which does the same task, though far better, and is sent to every federal law enforcement supervisor ranked GS-13 and above, already - would make too much fiscal sense. The last time we tried this, the U.S. suffered its biggest defeat since the Alamo after a group of Sasabe-based drug traffickers walked up to a Guard observation post, presumably to see what they'd do. Under orders, the Guardsmen retreated and called Border Patrol in. They later received a commendation for the effort. This time around, Homeland Security Sec. Janet Napolitano has asked that the units be armed and they will be, though they'll only be able to fire in self-defense. Arizona will be receiving 524 of the 1,200 Guardsmen; in my opinion, they'd be best put to use as a single mobile deterrent force, a wall of green able to move randomly from one section of border to the next on a moment's notice, disrupting the smugglers' tactics and keeping them guessing as to where the wall will show up next. An Operation Hold the Line on a micro-scale. But that's just me. We'll see what happens next. *Credit should have gone to the Arizona Republic, which broke the story, and not The New York Times.

Federal Judge says Arizona illegally immigrated into federal jurisdiction

Jul 28th, 2010 | By Michel Marizco | Category: General News, Immigration, Politics


I honestly thought she would go the other way, but U.S. District Court Judge Susan Bolton struck down four of the key provisions of Senate Bill 1070 this morning, marginalizing what's been construed as the toughest state enforcement of federal immigration law in the country. The four key elements she blocked are: 1. Arizona will not be able to require cops to check the immigration status of someone they stop or arrest. 2. The segment of the law making it a crime to fail to carry immigration papers. 3. The segment that makes it a crime for an illegal migrant to seek or perform work. 4. Allowing police to make a warrantless arrest if they believe the person committed a crime that would lead to being deported. This is the segment of Bolton's ruling that bothers me:
"The court finds that preserving the status quo through a preliminary injunction is less harmful than allowing state laws that are likely preempted by federal laws to be enforced."
In other words, Arizona's illegal immigration influx is less of a problem than a patchwork of state laws trying to replace what the federal government is supposed to be doing. Which the federal government is NOT doing. Arizona was scheduled to begin enforcing 1070 Thursday. The court just brought us right back where we started. I find it unfortunate, not because I ever believed Arizona cops would actually have an impact on illegal immigration – they won't – but because the new law forced the federal government to take action, and I had hoped that action would come in the methodology of a comprehensive immigration reform bill. Instead, no change; status quo. I thought the judge would slap the feds around because last week, Bolton grilled the Obama Administration's lawyers on the issue of preemption; asking how the state's checking of identifications would be a preemptive act infringing on the Constitution's supremacy clause that says federal law beats out state every time. The response from Justice Department was that because the status checks were mandatory, ICE would be over-whelmed by deportation and processing requests from Arizona law enforcement. In essence, the United States argued they don't have the manpower to deal with Arizona's immigration law enforcement. You can read the Judge's decision in its entirety at Here's the Feds' public relations office's response to the ruling: “We believe the court ruled correctly when it prevented key provisions of SB1070 from taking effect.  While we understand the frustration of Arizonans with the broken immigration system, a patchwork of state and local policies would seriously disrupt federal immigration enforcement and would ultimately be counterproductive. States can and do play a role in cooperating with the federal government in its enforcement of the immigration laws, but they must do so within our constitutional framework. This administration takes its responsibility to secure our borders seriously and has dedicated unprecedented resources to that effort. We will continue to work toward smarter and more effective enforcement of our laws while pressing for a comprehensive approach that provides true security and strengthens accountability and responsibility in our immigration system at the national level.” Thank you for your acknowledgment that it is indeed broken.

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