July 31, 2008

Chase, standoff and drug bust in Anzalduas Park

Thursday, July 31, 2008 at 9:01 a.m.

A Wednesday police chase and standoff with 40 armed men ended with a drug bust.

Authorities said the incident happened in the construction site for the Anzalduas International Bridge.

Investigators said they had a vehicle under surveillance and tried to pull it over when the driver took off.

The truck drove into Anzalduas Park and into the Rio Grande.

The driver swam across to Mexico where almost 40 alleged smugglers were waiting with semi-automatic weapons.

A brief standoff ended without incident and no injuries.

Border Patrol officials recovered 790 pounds of marijuana from inside the vehicle.

Four Men Sentenced On Gun, Drug Charges

Staff Writer

Four men were sentenced Wednesday to federal prison for drug and gun crimes.

Raul Berumen Briseno, 30, of Longview, was sentenced to seven years and three months for conspiring with three others to possess and distribute 500 grams or more of methamphetamine.

Briseno was indicted, along with Michael Layne Smith, 40, of Kilgore, Jesse Joseph Montoya, 26, of Longview and Santiago Montiel Aguirre, 30.

Briseno pleaded guilty, admitting that on June 1, 2007, he received a telephone call from Smith and discussed meeting him to sell him 1 pound of meth. Briseno and Aguirre met Smith in Gregg County to distribute the drugs, but were arrested. Law enforcement searched Briseno’s vehicle and found two cereal boxes, each containing 1 pound of meth.

Defense attorney James Scott Hacker told the judge that he believed his client was very remorseful, said he wouldn’t commit future crimes and he would be deported.

Briseno, through a Spanish-speaking interpreter, told U.S. District Judge Leonard Davis he was sorry for everything and asked for forgiveness for the harm he did.

When the defendant is released from prison, he must surrender himself to immigration officials for deportation proceedings, Davis ordered. He also recommended Briseno undergo drug treatment.

Smith and Montoya have pleaded guilty in the case and have been sentenced to seven years and eight years, respectively, while the indictment against Aguierre was dismissed.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Moore prosecuted the case.

Illegal immigrants returning home in large numbers

12:00 AM CDT on Thursday, July 31, 2008
By DIANNE SOLÍS and STELLA M. CHÁVEZ / The Dallas Morning News
/ The Dallas Morning News
Javier García and Brendan Case and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

By several measures, illegal immigrants appear to be returning home in large numbers, pushed by enforcement efforts and the sagging economy.

A report issued Wednesday in Washington put the size of the exodus at more than a million over the last year, though its methodology was criticized.

Also Wednesday, Mexico's central bank said that remittances – payments sent home by Mexicans working abroad – have slowed after years of steep increases. That announcement came as the Mexican government considers ways to receive and help find work for returnees.

In Dallas, officials said nearly 500 families have gone to the Mexican consulate this year seeking documents needed to enroll their children in Mexican schools. That's twice as many as in all of last year.

The last time Mexico – the country that sends the U.S. the most legal and illegal immigrants – saw a repatriation of significant magnitude was in the 1950s.

This time, the drivers appear to be concerns about the job market and stepped-up enforcement of immigration laws, said Roberto Suro, a University of Southern California professor who formerly directed the Pew Hispanic Center in Washington.

"There is every reason to suspect there is some response to the enforcement efforts that have created an atmosphere of fear," he said, "but knowing what number to put on it is very, very difficult."

Census data

The Center for Immigration Studies, a Washington think tank, did put a number on the migration: 1.3 million over the last year.

That estimate was based on data collected monthly by the Census Bureau on the number of foreign-born adults living in the U.S. The latest data was from May. And the estimates are based on the assumption that the "overwhelming majority" of the estimated 12 million immigrants in the U.S. illegally are Hispanics who are younger adults with relatively little education.

Other groups were quick to criticize that assumption, and the assertion that the population of illegal immigrants peaked last August as Congress debated legislation that would have provided legal status to those here illegally. Critics of the report also said that a lost job doesn't necessarily force a construction worker to leave the country.

Less cash

But construction job losses are affecting remittances, Bank of Mexico President Guillermo Ortiz said Wednesday. He said about 22 percent of Mexican workers in the U.S. have jobs in construction, an industry that has slowed sharply.

Gone are the days when migrants came back to Mexico each year flush with cash, then returned to jobs waiting in the United States, as they did during the boom years of 2002 to 2006.

Now, more migrants rounded up by U.S. immigration officials are being sent home penniless. Others have decided to return for good.

'I want to stay here'

Among them is Nancy Romero, 27, who waited Wednesday for documents from the Mexican consulate in Dallas.

She was with her two boys, ages 6 and 4, but not her husband, who was deported 15 days ago. He was detained after being involved in a traffic accident.

Ms. Romero said, "Returning to my country fills me with emotion. But I also feel for my children because they have so many opportunities here."

Her 6-year-old, Jose, a U.S. citizen, interrupted the conversation to say, "I want to stay here, so I can learn English."

That sentiment is common, according to the Mexican consul in Dallas, Enrique Hubbard, who spends many mornings talking to people about their plans.

"People say they have been out of a job for a long time, or people worry they will be arrested and have to go back," Mr. Hubbard said. "Practically all of them say they have children born here ... and then when the kids grow up, they will have to choose what country they live in. It is very sad, heartbreaking."

Veronica Escobedo, a U.S. citizen raised in Mexico, has three children. She fears for her husband, an illegal immigrant.

"We have family members that have been deported," she said. "My husband is scared and said, 'I don't want the same thing to happen to me.' "

The consul said discussing such emotional decisions is tricky.

"Sometimes, we start questioning the reasons for them to go back and we give the false impression that we don't want them," says Mr. Hubbard, a former ambassador. "They are welcome. It is their home."

Welcomed home

The Mexican government is considering building reception facilities for returnees at four border points, including Nuevo Laredo and Ciudad Juárez, Mr. Hubbard said. A group of Mexican governors is lobbying for preferential hiring of returning immigrants for large infrastructure projects, he noted.

Such a move comes after two Mexican governors came to Dallas last summer to meet with immigrants, who angrily asked them why there was no plan for jobs when they return.

Now, a Mexican government Web site for the Interior Ministry shows a group of Mexicans in line at a metal fence in San Ysidro, California. The headline reads: "Program of Human Repatriation." The subtext: "The federal, state and municipal government and civil society are organizing to help you with dignified treatment so that you can return to your community of origin. We will provide: Medical and psychological help, shelter and food, and communication with your loved ones and information on your options for employment."


Against this backdrop, the U.S. government detailed Wednesday a pilot program for self-deportation aimed at illegal immigrants from multiple countries who live in five cities. None are in Texas. U.S. immigration officials said there are about 460,000 illegal immigrants who have been given final orders to leave the country but have no criminal charges filed against them.

The migrants would be given 90 days to plan their return to their homelands.

On Wednesday afternoon, Juan and Lucia Estevez and their two boys could only think of returning to Mexico. The couple said they're tired of living as illegal immigrants. They came here hoping to buy a house, but instead saved money to build a home in Mexico City. They plan to leave Friday, over the objections of their 13-year-old son.

Staff writers Javier García and Brendan Case and The Associated Press contributed to this report.



Man dead after truck crash ends chase

By Ron Maloney
The Gazette-Enterprise

Published July 31, 2008

SEGUIN — Officials were looking Wednesday for the driver of a stolen pickup truck in which a 25-year-old Mexican man was killed late Tuesday in an accident that ended a police chase on State Highway 46.

Department of Public Safety Public Information Officer, Trooper Travis Hall, said that Mexican national Salvador Soto-Rosas was killed in a single-vehicle crash in a cornfield off Rudeloff Road.

Precinct 4 Justice of the Peace Larry Morawietz pronounced him dead at the scene of major injuries at 1:20 a.m.

Hall said Seguin DPS Trooper Jason Nolen was on patrol just before midnight Tuesday when he saw a 2003 Ford F-350 northbound on State Highway 46, just south of Rudeloff road.

“The trooper attempted to stop the driver on a traffic violation and the driver fled,” Hall said. “The driver entered a cultivated hay field, continued through the field and crossed over Rudeloff Road into a corn field.”

In the second field, the truck slammed into a large drainage ditch and Soto-Rosas, who was riding in the bed of the pickup, died when the force of the impact slammed him into the back of its cab.

Nolen was not injured in the chase, Hall said.

Officials sought the driver and others who might have been in the truck, but no one was found, Hall said.

“The driver of the pickup fled on foot and was not apprehended,” Hall said. “It was pitch dark out there.”

The pickup truck had been reported stolen, Hall said, but he did not know where it had been taken from.

The chase was the second in Seguin on Tuesday involving a reportedly stolen truck, and is the most recent in a series of incidents in recent months in which local law enforcement officers have chased trucks.

Tuesday morning, Sheriff’s Investigator Bobby Bailey and other deputies chased a young Hispanic male in a stolen Dodge pickup that was destroyed when the driver slammed into a tree across a field off State Highway 123 Bypass.

The driver of that vehicle escaped after the crash because deputies in police cruisers were unable to keep up on rough ground.

Seguin police have had similar recent chases as well, local officials say.

In some of the cases the stolen trucks are involved in human smuggling or trafficking.

Seguin Police Detective Lt. Johnny San Miguel said pressure to secure the Mexico border has led to increased profits for human smugglers, called “coyotes,” who are paid upwards of $1,000 to $1,500 or more per head to move illegal immigrants.

“It’s considered safer and can be more profitable than smuggling drugs,” San Miguel said.

Bailey is assigned by Sheriff Arnold Zwicke to the Sheriff’s Combined Auto Theft Task Force. Like DPS troopers, Bailey is familiar with chases involving stolen vehicles or undocumented immigrants.

In one last year involving both sheriff’s deputies and DPS troopers, 10 people riding in a pickup were injured near the site of the former Interstate 10 rest area in eastern Guadalupe County after the truck they were in slammed into a tree. That incident, like most involving illegal immigrants, involved a stolen truck.

“They run from us nine out of 10 times because they can plow through brush,” Bailey said. “A Crown Vic has more trouble following through brush or sand.”

Texas university, feds reach deal on border fence

By CHRISTOPHER SHERMAN – 28 minutes ago

BROWNSVILLE, Texas (AP) — The planned fence along the U.S.-Mexican border will no longer cut off a large chunk of a South Texas university, according to an agreement that the school and the federal government presented to a judge Thursday.

U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen, who had ordered the University of Texas at Brownsville and the Department of Homeland Security to work on a compromise, accepted the deal in principle and ordered both sides to submit it in writing by Tuesday.

Under the agreement, the government will not condemn any university land and will not build a fence on campus. In exchange, the school will enhance an existing fence that is in disrepair so that it will stand 10 feet tall next to the levee that runs north of the campus golf course.

The university will also invest in additional surveillance cameras and allow the Border Patrol to install its own cameras and sensors on the fence.

It is a far cry from the original proposal for a 15- to 18-foot steel fence that school officials said could have disrupted the university's access to its golf course, threatened plans for expansion and sent the wrong message across the border.

"There will be absolutely no additional impediment to the golf course," a jubilant university President Juliet Garcia said, adding that the improved fence "can be a very friendly fence."

"I see it with bougainvillea and vine growing all over it," she said.

The University of Texas System agreed to pay for improving the university's fence.

Garcia commended Homeland Security and the Border Patrol for working toward a compromise.

The Border Patrol will also support the university's efforts to win approval from the International Boundary and Water Commission to move the levee to allow expansion toward the Rio Grande.

The university on June 30 accused the government of violating an earlier court-approved agreement to study alternatives, and Hanen ordered both sides to find a solution that would meet the Border Patrol's security needs without disrupting the school.

The judge thanked both sides for working out a compromise that "allows both parties to fulfill their mission."

The university and its two-year sister school, Texas Southmost College, have been among the most formidable opponents of the border fence, which is widely unpopular in the Rio Grande Valley.

The university, with 17,000 students, is part of the nation's second-largest university system.

The Department of Homeland Security is racing to finish 670 miles of barriers along the border by the end of the year to comply with a congressional mandate.

But that goal was dealt another setback later Thursday, when the judge put off the government's request to take possession of 16 disputed properties for the fence and instead scheduled trials for March.

Most of the disputes center on the price the government has offered for land, which in many cases bisects valuable agricultural land.

By setting deadlines, Hanen appeared to try to motivate both sides to reach agreements without going to trial. The number of cases that go to trial is expected to fluctuate as some are added, removed or consolidated.

While Hanen scheduled jury trials, he said he would also consider the government's suggestion to establish a commission to settle land value disputes. He ordered the government to provide legal surveys of the land it expects to condemn and specific information about how the government developed the prices it offered.

FBI launches Arkansas jewelry heists investigation

Thu, Jul. 31, 2008

By JON GAMBRELLAssociated Press Writer

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- The million-dollar robberies occurred in the parking lots of jewelry stores, hotels and restaurants and took but a few terrifying seconds.

Masked gunmen and knife-wielding attackers ambushed cars and smashed windows to scare jewelry salesmen and couriers into submission before whisking away their merchandise. The thieves, focused enough to frisk their victims, remain at large after heists across the South.

In Arkansas, the FBI is launching an investigation into the robberies, including the latest: a daytime heist Tuesday in Little Rock in which thieves made off with $500,000 in jewelry. Agents say that robbery, matching two others last month in Pine Bluff and Nashville, Tenn., shares similarities with a string of jewelry thefts in Houston worth at least $3.5 million.

"In cases like these, it's standard investigative procedure for the FBI to check other FBI field offices for similar types of crimes," said Steve Frazier, a spokesman for the FBI's Little Rock field office.

In Houston, police have responded to at least six robberies of jewelry salesmen and couriers since April, one netting nearly $1.5 million in diamonds. Officers say the thieves used pepper spray, pistol-whipping and knives to threaten their victims.

"They definitely appear to be preplanned," said Shauna Dunlap, a spokeswoman for the FBI's Houston field office. "They appear to know where these individuals are going to be at a particular time."

FBI and police suspect the thefts could be part of what the bureau refers to as "South American Theft Groups." Agents say the groups, illegal immigrants from countries such as Colombia, Ecuador and Peru, stake out traveling salesmen and jewelry shows and sometimes trek across the country for heists.

Investigators recently arrested three Colombian nationals loitering around Houston-area jewelry stores. Dunlap said the men, held for illegally re-entering the United States, were being questioned about the robberies.

In June, robbers attacked couriers at a hotel in Nashville and a strip mall in Pine Bluff. Both victims told police the attacks happened quickly, with one jeweler even losing the diamonds hidden inside his socks. Each man reported losing about $500,000 in stones during the heists.

Tuesday's lunchtime robbery, along a well-traveled street in Arkansas' capital, targeted a salesman who flew into Little Rock National Airport on a private plane.

Despite keeping their travel plans quiet, jewelry salesmen make tempting targets, often traveling alone and carrying high-priced stones. The Jewelers' Security Alliance said traveling salesmen in the U.S. lost $39.5 million in stones last year in robberies and thefts.

TX Study: Increased enforcement has driven illegal immigrants from U.S.

Thu, Jul. 31, 2008

Study: Increased enforcement has driven illegal immigrants from U.S.
By PATRICK McGEEpmcgee@star-telegram.com

More than a million illegal immigrants have fled the country, scared off by a massive immigration crackdown that’s included high-profile workplace raids and sweeps of local jails, according to a new study by a group that pushed for tougher immigration enforcement.

From August 2007 to May, the number of illegal immigrants dropped 11 percent to 11.2 million nationally and to about 1.5 million in Texas, according to a report released Wednesday by the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Immigration Studies.

"It does seem that enforcement is working. What seems undeniably true is illegals respond to changing incentives, and some significant share have left the country," said Steven Camarota, a co-author of the report. "It seems to contradict the argument that illegals are permanently attached to the United States and their lives here and there’s no way to change that."

The study says that the great majority of those who left did so voluntarily, adding that if the trend continues, the illegal immigrant population will be cut in half in five years.

Pro-immigrant groups lambasted the study and said that only a slowing economy, not enforcement, will encourage illegal immigrants to go home.

"I think their methodology is flawed, and I think they’re overlooking 'It’s the economy, stupid,’ " said Angela Kelley, director of the Immigration Policy Center, a pro-immigrant policy and research organization in Washington.

She said the study ignores the decrease in construction and restaurant jobs that hit illegal workers hard.

Kelley also pointed to a University of California, San Diego, study that found that illegal immigrants fear crossing through the harsh desert climate more than they fear the Border Patrol.

But Camarota said that the exodus started before the unemployment rate began to rise and that the decrease in the number of illegal immigrants is already greater than that seen in the last recession.

The study concludes that it is mostly illegal immigrants who are leaving because the U.S. Census Bureau’s monthly figures show a drop in the number of less-educated Hispanics age 40 or younger.

Increased enforcement

Increased enforcement since 2006 has included high-profile raids on businesses with large numbers of low-skilled illegal-immigrant workers.

Julie Myers, assistant secretary of Homeland Security who heads Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said her agency is targeting employers that attract illegal workers.

"It’s a much different landscape than it was a couple of years ago," she said. "This is causing employers to take notice and make sure they’re in compliance with the law."

The government has stepped up immigration prosecutions 87 percent in one year, according to a study released earlier this month.

Many city jails, including Irving, Grand Prairie and Farmers Branch, participate in the Criminal Alien Program, which refers federal immigration officials to suspected illegal immigrants in their jails.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials have said that this has been a huge source of rounding up illegal immigrants for deportation. North Texas and Oklahoma jails turned 11,815 suspected illegal immigrants over to ICE last fiscal year, and it has almost as many this fiscal year with still three months to go.

'I want to go home’

Maria Martinez was the picture of discouragement Tuesday in the Denton County Jail.

The 40-year-old illegal immigrant and mother of two wore an orange prison uniform, jail ID bracelet and a dejected look on her face.

She was arrested July 23 in Addison for trying to get a job using a false Social Security card that she bought for $110. She faces a felony charge of tampering with a government record.

Visibly frightened by the prospect of going to prison, Martinez said she will return to Mexico and promise never to come back if she can avoid a prison sentence.

"I don’t want to risk being in this situation again," she said in Spanish. "I will not come back. I promise, I will not come back. I want to go home now."

She said she will take her 19-year-old daughter and 3-year-old son with her because they have no one else care for them. Her daughter is caring for her son while Martinez is in jail, she said.

Online: www.cis.org

Washington correspondent Dave Montgomery contributed to this report.


A new exodus? A Center for Immigration Studies report concludes that 1.3 million illegal immigrants, or 11 percent of the illegal-immigrant population, left the U.S. from August 2007 to May. The study argues that law enforcement, not the slowing economy, is causing illegal immigrants to go home because:

The illegal-immigrant population started to drop before the unemployment rate began to rise.

The current decline is already significantly larger than in the last recession.

The number of illegal immigrants declined at a time when the legal immigrant population continued to grow.

Source: Center for Immigration Studies

PATRICK McGEE, 817-685-3806

Rag factory raid results in indictments of 3


By JUAN A. LOZANO / Associated Press

The owner and two managers of a rag factory raided in June by immigration officials have been indicted on charges related to hiring and harboring illegal immigrants, prosecutors announced Thursday.

Mabarik Kahlon, 45, owner of Action Rags USA, and two managers, Cirila Barron, 38, and Valerie Rodriguez, 34, were each indicted on two counts: conspiracy to harbor illegal aliens and to induce illegal aliens to come to the U.S., and inducing aliens to enter the United States for commercial advantage.

Both counts carry a maximum sentence of up to 10 years in prison and up to a $250,000 fine, U.S. Attorney Don DeGabrielle said in a statement.

Another manager, Mayra Herrera-Gutierrez, 32, was charged last week with the same crimes through a criminal complaint.

Attorneys for Kahlon, Barron and Herrera-Gutierrez did not immediately return calls Thursday seeking comment. Court records did not list an attorney for Rodriguez.

All four defendants are expected to appear in federal court next week. Barron and Herrera-Gutierrez remain in custody because they are illegal immigrants. Kahlon and Rodriguez remain free on bond.

Earlier this month, charges against a fifth defendant, Rasheed Ahmed, were dismissed because of his serious health issues.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement began investigating Action Rags, a hot, cluttered factory in north Houston, following complaints in May 2007, according to court documents. The factory is an exporter and grader of used clothing.

During a yearlong investigation, ICE agents said they discovered the company did not properly complete I-9 forms to verify eligibility for employment and knowingly hired undocumented immigrants.

Managers paid illegal immigrants in cash until they were able to purchase fraudulent identity and Social Security cards from local flea markets, according to court documents.

Barron is alleged to have said to undercover informants used by ICE agents, "take them to the flea market and make them citizens."

ICE agents raided the factory on June 25. There were about 300 workers at the time of the raid. More than 150 suspected illegal immigrants, mostly from Mexico, working at the factory were detained in one of the largest immigration raids in the city in nearly two years.

The indictment alleges that illegal immigrants made up about 85 percent of the workforce at Action Rags.

Mortgage market hurting colonias, advocates say

July 31, 2008 - 3:53PM
Kyle Arnold

McALLEN — Problems in the housing and lending markets are making it harder for colonia residents to get loans.

So, community groups from across the nation met at the Border Community and Economic Development Summit in McAllen on Thursday to figure out how businesses can help colonias develop.

The National Association for Latino Community Asset Builders organized the event.

"One of the things that we've found is that the mortgage market has contracted a lot," said Bobby Calvillo, executive director of Affordable Homes of South Texas. "It has affected our ability to borrow money cheaply and that makes mortgages more expensive for borrowers."

More than 400,000 Texas residents live in about 2,300 colonias along the Texas-Mexico border. Colonias are small unincorporated communities that often lack basic resources such as sewage and potable water. Their residents usually don't have enough income to save money or buy a house, often because they are poorly educated, have no credit history or are not legally in the United States.

The tightened lending standards have been a double whammy since home building markets have crumbled and left thousands of workers without jobs.

Conference organizers hope they can improve colonias through philanthropy and capitalism instead of the traditional government welfare agencies.

"We have people that sell burritos to construction sites and people that buy leather jackets and go across the border to sell them," said Daniel Solis, co-founder of Alianza Para El Desarrollo Comunitario. "We don't have traditional banks that serve these communities."

Many of the community development groups were advocating alternative economic programs, such as microlending.

Microlending programs help low-income people invest in a small business. The concept has taken off in the last two years - particularly in third-world countries like Brazil and Mexico - after Mohammed Yunas, founder of Bangladesh's Grameen Bank, won the Nobel Peace Prize.

"This is a way to get low-income people to own their own business," said Carlos Salazar, a board member with the Hispanic Development Fund of Kansas City.

The conference included speakers from large companies such as Fannie Mae and Citibank who say they have an interest in attracting customers to further build the economy by helping the world's large low-income population.


Kyle Arnold covers business, the economy and general assignments for The Monitor. You can reach him at (956) 683-4410.

Side Step - Pee-Yew! Skunk numbers up in Del Rio


Associated Press

The residents of this border town are facing a stinky and growing problem these days: skunks.

Eddie Ortega, the director of Del Rio's Community Health Service Center, said there's an unusually high number of the malodorous creatures running around these days.

"I'm not positive of the reasons behind this past year's infestation, but we have invaded their territory," he said. "Also, the heat and very little rain have probably caused them to be more active in order to find food."

The nocturnal animals are not all bad news: They keep rodents in check.

But still, Del Rio residents don't have to keep them around. The health service center is offering cages for residents to catch skunks. A worker will move them elsewhere.


Information from: Del Rio News-Herald: http://www.delrionewsherald.com

Arrest: Jacksonville Police Department

Arrests were made by the Jacksonville Police Department for the period of July 21 through July 29.

• Alberto Cruz, city traffic warrants and immigration hold. Fines were set at $676 and he is being held.

• Gerardo Gonzalez, tampering with government records, sexual assault of a child and immigration hold. Bonds were set at $4,000, $50,000 and he is being held.

• Dan O. Tejeda-Rivera, public intoxication, driving while intoxicated bond forfeiture (Cass County warrant) and immigration hold. Bond was set at $3,000 and he is being held.

Texas Uproar Added:

Of 19 arrest, 3 were placed on immigration hold.

July 30, 2008

Sheriff departments split $1.21 million

Special to the Avalanche

The Brewster County Sheriff’s Department will receive $800,000 and Presidio County Sheriff’s Department will get $410,000 in Operation Stonegarden grants awarded to several counties on the Texas-Mexico border, according to the Department of Homeland Security.

A total of $4.13 million for five counties in Congressional District 23 will come from the 2008 appropriations bill, thanks in part to language inserted in the bill by Congressman Ciro Rodriguez, D-District 23.

“As a member of the Appropriations Committee, I have the ability to gain funding for projects in Brewster and Presidio counties, Alpine and the other communities in my district,” Rodriguez said. “The money that our sheriffs will receive will help to protect our families and communities in our border counties.”

Operation Stonegarden, which began as a pilot program in 2005, provides federal dollars to reimburse local law enforcement for costs incurred while working with federal law enforcement agencies at U.S. borders. These costs can include overtime pay, fuel and vehicle maintenance that otherwise would come out of local budgets.

The totals received by area

sheriff’s departments:

$800,000 for Brewster County

$410,000 for Presidio County

$1.4 million for Maverick County

$130,000 for Kinney County

$1.39 million for Val Verde County

Groups ask: How can businesses help colonias?

July 30, 2008 - 4:40PM
Kyle Arnold

McALLEN — Community action groups hope business can help colonias on the Texas-Mexico border in a way government has never been able.

Today, Hispanic community groups from across the country are set to gather in McAllen at the Border Community and Economic Development Summit to try to find a way to help the region's poorest residents

"It's a chance to talk about how we can get resources to the colonias along the border," said Shaydi DeJesus, a spokesman for the National Association of Latino Community Asset Builders.

There are more than 400,000 Texas residents that live in about 2,294 colonias along the Texas-Mexico border.

Colonias are small unincorporated communities that often lack basic resources such as sewage and potable water.

The conference is expected to bring leaders from mortgage company Fannie Mae, Citibank and non-profit groups to find out how to get more economic resources into colonia communities, such as access to jobs and banking.


Kyle Arnold covers business, the economy and general assignments for The Monitor. You can reach him at (956) 683-4410.

Mexico federal police to escort migrant transfers

The Associated Press

MEXICO CITY -- Mexican federal police will guard all government vehicles transporting detained migrants after gunmen hijacked a bus carrying 33 Cubans, the government said Wednesday.

Immigration officers previously could ask police for extra security while transporting illegal migrants to detention centers or back to their home countries. Federal police presence will now be mandatory for all such trips, said Interior Secretary Juan Camilo Mourino.

Gunmen seized the detained Cubans on June 11 after forcing unarmed immigration officials and two drivers off a bus heading to an immigration detention center in southern Mexico. Some of the Cubans were later found in Texas.

Two immigration officials were later fired because they contradicted themselves under questioning in the case.

Cubans are increasingly going through Mexico to get to the United States, hoping to avoid detection by U.S. Coast Guard officials. Mexican and U.S. officials say violent criminal organizations are often involved.

Mexico also has long been a transit route for Central and South Americans trying to get to the United States. On Tuesday, two Ecuadorean migrants died during a shootout between authorities and suspected smugglers.

Mourino said federal police will also help guard immigration detention centers, if necessary.

"All around migration routes, there are criminal bands that profit from human suffering," Mourino said. "Migrants are exposed to many dangers, and it's our duty to protect them."

U.S. Senator John Cornyn again urges release of ex-agents

Diana Washington Valdez / El Paso Times
Article Launched: 07/30/2008 12:00:00 AM MDT

EL PASO -- U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, renewed his call for President Bush to commute the sentences of former El Paso sector Border Patrol Agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose A. Compean.

Cornyn and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., sent Bush letters in 2007 and this year requesting the commutation. The White House has not responded to their request.

The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of Texas had no comment about the senators' request to reduce the prison sentences, Shana Jones, spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton in San Antonio, said Tuesday.

Mexico sees decline in migrant remittances

July 30, 2008 - 7:09AM
Associated Press

MEXICO CITY (AP) -- Half-year figures are expected to show the first sustained decline on record in remittances sent home by Mexicans working abroad, officials said.

The downturn in U.S. housing construction and stepped-up immigration raids have made it tougher for migrants to find jobs, and less able to send money home. Mexico's Central Bank is scheduled to release figures on the remittance flow on Wednesday.

Jesus Cervantes, director of economic measurement for Mexico's central bank, said remittances are expected to decline 1.5 percent to 2 percent for 2008 as a whole over the previous year.

Cervantes said that would be the first such sustained drop since a reliable tally has been kept.

Annual remittances nearly tripled from about US$9 billion in 2001 to almost US$24 billion in 2007, amid improved reporting methods and swelling immigration.

Businesses in many Mexican towns that came to rely on the cash flow are now being forced to scale back - also in part because of the decline of the U.S. dollar, which has lost almost 8 percent of its value against the Mexican peso this year.

Money sent home by Mexican migrants is the country's second-largest legal source of foreign income, after oil exports.

ICE blocks 9-1-1 calls from T. Don Hutto

By Philip Jankowski
July 30, 2008

Contract change restricts access to emergency, incoming calls

Outgoing 9-1-1 calls placed by immigrants detained at T. Don Hutto Residential Facility in Taylor will soon be blocked after Immigration Customs Enforcement changes the phone system in the former prison.

The block affects telephones used specifically by immigrants housed in the facility. Also blocked will be all incoming phone calls.

The change came as part of a change in the contract between Williamson County and Immigration Customs Enforcement billed as “Modification ... relating to Low Cost Telephone Services” on the county commissioners’ agenda Tuesday.

The commissioners voted 5-0 in favor of the item with no discussion of the matter. After the vote, County Judge Dan Gattis said he was unaware the alteration in the agreement effectively blocked outgoing 9-1-1 phone calls.

Regional Spokesman for ICE Carl Rusnok said the ability of residents at T. Don Hutto to place 9-1-1 phone calls is unnecessary because of the presence of trained medical professionals inside the facility.

“(T. Don) Hutto residents already have access to emergency attention by contacting any on-site resident supervisors. Medical professionals and facilities are also on site and can provide immediate services inside the center while ... personnel alert outside emergency responders through the 9-1-1 system, if deemed necessary,” Rusnok said in an e-mail response.

Rusnok also said blocking 9-1-1 calls prevents any possibility of abuse.

Local League of United Latin American Citizens member and T. Don Hutto critic Jose Orta said ICE and Corrections Corporation of America, which operates the facility, were “covering themselves” from any possible calls to police.

He referenced an alleged sexual assault that occurred in the facility in May of 2007. That incident led to the firing of a CCA employee after he was caught on a surveillance camera sneaking in and out of a detainee’s cell.

No charges were ever filed against the employee in that instance because of a now-corrected loophole in federal law.

The order approved Tuesday also expresses that phones should have access to toll-free numbers that will allow residents to use prepaid phone cards they purchase while at the facility, though it makes no mention of toll-free numbers to consulates or embassies.

“(Immigrants are) already hogtied as far as reaching out into the community,” Orta said. “I get calls all the time — desperate families — they Google and see they are at the facility and sometimes they can’t find their family members. If (residents) can’t call out without these telephone cards, who knows how they’ll ever get in touch.”

Assistant County Attorney Hal Hawes, who submitted the deal to the commissioners’ court, said blocking 9-1-1 calls would not cause any problems at the facility.

“They (CCA employees) provide security already,” Hawes said. “They have a good sense of when 9-1-1 needs to be called.”

The text of the alteration refers to 10 telephones being purchased and service with the capabilities of blocking 9-1-1 calls. The cost of the alteration is $942.01, a relatively small expenditure for the county.

Orta only partially blamed commissioners for letting the agreement slip through without any debate.

“This is the sad part about the county commissioners; they’re not privy to all that goes on in T. Don Hutto. Every time they amend their contract ... ICE ... is not going to be forward about their intentions,” he said.

Grassroots organizer and frequent protester of the facility Bob Libal said not allowing immigrants to place emergency phone calls is unsafe and that residents need access should they feel a need to call the police.

“It certainly doesn’t seem like a good safety measure. And if ICE is upholding (T. Don) Hutto as a place that is safe and secure, that doesn’t seem like a very appropriate action,” Libal said.

We the People - The problem is clear

The problem is clear

Extensive and explosive population growth is the root of all of our problems. Our resources are tapping out and the cost of living is constantly going up as resources deplete and demand increases. Highways are perpetually inadequate and are always under repair. Schools are underfunded. Hospitals are going broke. Wages are decreasing.

This country is in a constant state of catching up to population demands. When is it going to stop? The time to get serious about stabilizing our population growth is years overdue. Our government needs to stop pussyfootin’ around and get serious about securing our borders and enforcing our immigration laws. Forget amnesty and tell those who have invaded us that by a set deadline they must be out of this country or expect consequences. Then enforce those consequences.

The public needs to start demanding that our elected officials get proactive. Eight years discussing the matter is too long.

— Toby Cappel, Fort Worth

We the People - Don’t kill in Texas

Don’t kill in Texas

Regarding your editorial "More than a life at stake in August" (July 21), this is the kind of nonsense we have come to expect from our ever-dwindling paper of record here on the west side of the Metroplex. You have chosen to come down on the side of a double murderer who, according to the judicial system in Texas, has been given adequate due process.

You want an international court’s decision to supersede that of a Texas court of appeals, a position the Supreme Court rightly recognizes as a violation not only of federalism but of state sovereignty. Texas is not bound by the International Criminal Court. If an illegal immigrant does not want to be subject to Texas justice, then he should not kill Texas residents.

— Mike Bush, Euless

Corruption harms effort to fight drugs


by Midland Reporter-Telegram
Published: Wednesday, July 30, 2008 3:22 AM CDT

Where drugs are involved there is money, and where money is to be had there is the chance of corruption.

In fact we are seeing that already along our border with Mexico as a growing number of law enforcement officers are accused of taking bribes from drug gangs. This comes just as the United States is trying harder to secure our borders by slowing both the drug trade and the inflow of illegal aliens.

Washington is trying hard to aid Mexico's solid effort to fight the drug cartels by sending $400 million to help Mexico's army-led war on the trafficking gangs, at the hands of which brutal murders have surged to unprecedented levels.

But as we spend more money to fight the drug gangs, they spend more money to get their product into the U.S. where the drug market is lucrative. But as the hurdles mount for the drug dealers, they find other ways to get drugs to their anxious customers.

Currently, the Mexican drug cartels are using of bribes to corrupt U.S. agents. Data on agents convicted of graft are not made public, but the U.S. government is probing hundreds of border corruption cases where a decade ago it saw only a few dozen a year.

The FBI-led Border Corruption Task Force says it is busier than ever, from Texas to California. Some put the rise in bribery down to a recent tightening of border controls and a jump in hiring new agents. Smugglers can offer hundreds of thousands of dollars to get past the heavily policed border with drugs and immigrants. That can be much more than a border agent or sheriff makes in a year.

Andy Black, who oversees the San Diego task force, near the busy border crossing of San Ysidro, told Reuters, "We are talking about a minority of agents but they are a very significant threat, a weak link in efforts to secure the border."

Corruption south of the border is a major hurdle to Mexican President Felipe Calderon's quest to crush drug gangs, with up to half the country's police thought to be crooked. Spiraling drug violence has killed 1,700 people in Mexico this year.

U.S. anti-drug officials have pointed to higher street cocaine prices as proof of tighter border controls.

But the campaign is weakened by cases like that of a border agent and his brother in Texas who netted $1.5 million by letting tons of marijuana through checkpoint inspection lanes from 2003 to 2005.

We have always taken pride in the honesty of the vast majority in law enforcement in the U.S. We certainly don't want to be known for corruption in the system. That's why we should continue to search for corruption and graft, and when found, deal with it harshly.

July 29, 2008

Six illegals nabbed after wreck

DPS Trooper Tres Lattimore talks to the illegal immigrants
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
Cherry Young

A two vehicle accident Monday morning turned out to be a lot more than law enforcement personnel expected.While there were no injuries in the accident, one vehicle turned out to be packed full of illegal immigrants.

While heading north on Highway 16 South just south of FM 1191, Juan Piceno, 28, driving a white Ford 350 pulling a flat-bed trailer, was struck by a black Chrysler sedan driven by Nikki Nantz, 26, who had been traveling in the opposite direction and failed to yield before making a left turn into her driveway. Nantz said she had waited for a semi tractor to pass and turned without seeing Piceno’s vehicle behind it.

Piceno had five passengers in his truck. Nantz’s two children, ages 4 and 5, were in her car. No one was injured.

Young County Sheriff Deputy Patrick Bradford began the investigation and turned it over to Texas Department of Public Safety Trooper Tres Lattimore when he arrived.

Bradford said it looked to him like Nantz hit the driver’s side axle of the trailer when she turned. Piceno swerved to avoid the impact, spun into the ditch on the east side of the road and his trailer swung around and hit the driver’s side doors of the truck.

Nantz said it looked to her like Piceno was spinning. “As bad as it looked, the impact was not that great,” she said.

When Lattimore arrived, Bradford informed him that Piceno did not have a driver’s license. Lattimore issued a ticket to Nantz for making an illegal turn and one to Piceno for driving without a license.

Piceno was driving a company truck for G.L. Hunt and Company Foundation Repair out of Fort Worth. Lattimore said someone from the company would also be cited for permitting Piceno to drive their truck without a license. Bradford asked Piceno’s five male passengers for identification and when they could not produce any, deputies on the scene transported the six men to Young County Jail to await the arrival of Immigration and Naturalization Services officers from Abilene.

G.L. Hunt and Company was contacted but refused comment. Their Web site states that they do not hire subcontractors.

Sheriff Bryan Walls said Young County detains illegal immigrants until the federal government can pick them up.“If we run across them, we call INS to see if they’ll come pick them up and we detain them until they do,” he said.

Art Torres from the INS office in Abilene said an investigation into the company employing the men would have to come from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Texas Uproar Adds:


"The unique standards and business philosophy that the company employs sets this company apart from its competitors. GL Hunt's employees are experienced construction experts that take pride in the quality of service they provide. All of GL Hunt's contracts are carried out by GL Hunt employees, there are no subcontractors involved. This allows for quality control, ensured compliance with industry standards, and absolute success for both the company and its clients. "

Texas probably will appeal ruling about bilingual education

12:00 AM CDT on Tuesday, July 29, 2008

AUSTIN – Texas will probably appeal a court ruling mandating a new language program for an estimated 140,000 junior high and high school students who don't have command of the English language, state officials said Monday.

Legislative leaders said curriculum improvements for that group of mostly Hispanic students are probably on the way regardless of the appeal.

The chairmen of the House and Senate education committees said lawmakers were already zeroing in on the problems of limited-English students – including low test scores and high dropout rates – before U.S. District Judge William Wayne Justice ruled Friday that the state has failed to properly educate those students.

In issuing the surprise decision, the longtime federal judge reversed his own July 2007 ruling that affirmed the state's bilingual education programs. His new order gives the state until Jan. 31 to come up with a different plan.

Senate Education Committee Chairwoman Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, said her panel is exploring legislation that would upgrade instruction and beef up dropout prevention programs for limited-English students.

"While our elementary school students are doing very well, we recognize there are problems in our high schools that we want to address," she said.

House Public Education Committee Chairman Rob Eissler, R-The Woodlands, touted legislation to provide state funding for dual-language immersion programs to replace traditional bilingual and English-as-a-second-language – ESL – classes.

Dual language

Under a dual-language program, students learn some subjects in their native language for a half-day and other subjects in English for the rest of the day.

"I thought this was a good solution last session," said Mr. Eissler, who passed a bill that set up a pilot program of dual-language immersion only to see it fail to get funding at the end of the 2007 session.

"We had some resistance from members who thought it was another giveaway to illegal immigrants," he said. "The truth is this is a great opportunity for kids to learn another language at an age-appropriate time. I hope this [court order] gives us some impetus to try out new approaches like this."

The attorney general's office is still deciding how to respond to Judge Justice's order, but the Texas Education Agency is expected to ask the attorney general to lodge an appeal.

"We are disappointed that the judge reversed his original order of a year ago," said Debbie Ratcliffe of the TEA. "We are continuing to study this latest ruling, but we do anticipate asking the attorney general to appeal."

Ms. Ratcliffe said the state "absolutely stands" by its programs for limited-English students and noted that even Judge Justice had positive views about the state's bilingual education programs for elementary school students in his original order.

"We know that these programs have been effective for thousands of students," she said. Even so, the TEA will do contingency planning for program changes that must be submitted to the judge by the end of January, she added.

State officials had no estimates on how much compliance with the federal court order would cost, but some observers said remediation for the 140,000 secondary students could cost $500 or more per student – or a minimum $70 million a year. Improved state monitoring of local bilingual and ESL programs – also ordered by Judge Justice – could push the cost over $100 million.

Irving Superintendent Jack Singley said much work must be done to improve programs for students learning English. Irving had the highest percentage of limited English students in the North Texas region last year – about 39 percent of students enrolled. About 4,704 of their roughly 12,851 limited English proficient – LEP – students were in ESL programs.

Most Irving students have been in U.S. schools for a number of years. Just 5 percent last year had been attending U.S. schools less than three years.

"I don't feel very comfortable about our ESL programs statewide, absolutely not," Mr. Singley said. "That's not as good a program as the bilingual program. It leads me to believe there's a lot of work to be done to deliver a different program. I have no idea what that's going to look like."

Many LEP students can speak conversational English without having mastered the vocabulary necessary to understand textbooks or to pass the graduation TAKS exams.

Dropout rate

Recently retired University of North Texas education professor Rudy Rodriguez, an expert on the issue, said the high dropout rate of Latino students in Texas is tied directly to inadequate programs.

"The decision reinforces the need and urgency for us to do something as a state," he said. "We need to develop new programs and new approaches in meeting the needs of these children. My hope is that the state will see this as an opportunity to improve the quality of the programs and not see it as a threat."

David Hinojosa of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, who represented the plaintiffs in the case, said TEA must come up with a plan that fixes the system.

"I don't know how on earth the state can say the ESL program is successful in any manner," he said, noting, "They're not being told to develop a whole new program. It just needs to be a program with some teeth in it."

Mr. Hinojosa said improvements "will require a commitment not only from the state, but also from school districts and principals. Many of our schools have been neglecting the needs of these students by holding low expectations for them and providing poor resources for their education."



Illegal Immigrant Caught with Dead Person's SSN

Tuesday, 29 Jul 2008, 6:35 PM CDT

Illegal Immigrant Caught with Dead Person's SSN
An illegal immigrant who used bogus records to apply for a job was still in jail Tuesday night, charged with tampering with government documents, and now she faces deportation. Her arrest may be the first case of a potential employer casting a net to help police make an arrest. FOX 4's Shaun Rabb reports.

Agent not negligent in death of 19-year-old undocumented Mexican immigrant

By Daniel Borunda / El Paso Times
Article Launched: 07/29/2008 12:00:00 AM MDT

EL PASO -- A federal magistrate judge has ruled that the U.S. Border Patrol was not negligent in the 2003 fatal shooting of 19-year-old undocumented Mexican immigrant Juan Patricio Peraza near Downtown El Paso.

Peraza's parents, Cesar Peraza Barraza and ex-wife Ramona Irene Quijada Soto, sued the federal government seeking unspecified damages claiming the death of their son was unjustified.

"While the shooting death of Juan Patricio Peraza is tragic and regrettable, it was not the result of negligence," stated the ruling by U.S. Magistrate Judge Richard P. Mesa filed Thursday in favor of the U.S. government.

On Feb. 22, 2003, Peraza was shot and killed by Border Patrol Agent Vernon Billings while Peraza was wielding a 5-foot pipe in a confrontation with agents near Annunciation House, a Downtown shelter for immigrants.

Peraza's death drew criticism from community and religious leaders.

Mesa determined that Peraza had ample opportunity to surrender and that Billings, who believed he was in danger, was justified in using deadly force.

Annunciation House officials, who could not be reached for comment Monday evening, have scheduled a news conference Tuesday to respond to the ruling and to ask for an evaluation of the investigation procedures in such deaths.

Testimony during the civil trial revealed that, unlike similar investigations, Border Patrol agents involved in the Peraza incident were taken away to their headquarters and had representatives with them when interviewed by El Paso police homicide detectives.

An El Paso grand jury declined to indict Billings in 2003.

In his ruling, Mesa criticized the Border Patrol and stated that "the shortcomings of the investigation are not inconsequential and do not create confidence in BP (Border Patrol) management's policy decisions ...

"In short, the failure to investigate properly did not cause Peraza's death and does not rise to the level of misconduct that would cause the Court to alter its credibility determinations."

Daniel Borunda may be reached at dborunda@elpasotimes.com;546-6102.

July 28, 2008

Appeals court upholds prison for border agents

Mon, Jul. 28, 2008

Associated Press Writer

SAN ANTONIO -- A federal appeals court refused Monday to throw out lengthy prison sentences for two jailed U.S. Border Patrol agents convicted of shooting an unarmed illegal immigrant and lying about it.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans upheld most of the convictions against former agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Alonso Compean.

The appeals court vacated their convictions for tampering with an official proceeding, but the three-judge panel refused to reverse the convictions that resulted in their lengthy sentences, saying the jury had spoken.

Ramos and Compean were convicted in 2006 and sentenced to 11 and 12 years in prison, respectively, for the February 2005 shooting of illegal immigrant and admitted drug smuggler Osvaldo Aldrete Davila on the Texas border near El Paso. Both men claimed they shot at Davila in self-defense.

The circuit court said Monday that "the trial of the case was conducted fairly and without reversible error." It affirmed the men's convictions on four counts each. Those include one count each of discharge of a firearm in commission of a crime of violence, which the court said carries a minimum term of 10 years.

The court sent the case back for resentencing and reversed convictions on five tampering counts because the Border Patrol investigation was not an "official proceeding" based on statute.

"However, this may not be of much moment to Ramos and Compean because we leave the major conviction with the major sentence ... untouched," the court said.

David Botsford, Ramos' attorney, said he was pleased the court reversed the tampering convictions.

"They never should have been in there, and that colored the jury's entire consideration of this case," Botsford said, though he added reversing those counts doesn't give his client "much in the way of relief."

Bob Baskett, Compean's lawyer, expressed disappointment.

"I think the court is wrong in a couple of the major points and we will be filing a motion for rehearing about those points," he said. Baskett took issue in particular with the jury instructions and the way the circuit court ruled on arguments about the gun count.

The case drew the attention of some in Congress who complained that U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton should have focused the prosecution on Aldrete, not the agents.

Sutton said in a statement Monday the court has validated "what this office has said all along - this prosecution was about the rule of law, plain and simple."

"With today's decision, I would ask that those who have criticized the prosecution, generally relying upon misleading and at times false versions of what happened, will re-evaluate their positions in light of the court record," Sutton said.

In July 2007, Sens. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., were among those who asked President Bush to commute the agents' sentences. Cornyn reiterated his position Monday, saying in a statement that "this case cries out for a commutation that is fair and just, and I once again call on President Bush to act."

Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., said in a statement that the Fifth Circuit had upheld a "severe injustice."

In April, Aldrete pleaded guilty to federal charges that he smuggled drugs again several months after being shot. Aldrete, who was granted immunity and testified against the agents in 2006, admitted his role in the initial smuggling attempt of about 700 pounds of marijuana.

Associated Press Writer Michael Kunzelman in New Orleans contributed to this report.

Man accused of paying girl to touch her

Posted: July 28, 2008 03:19 PM CDT

AUSTIN, TEXAS (KXAN) - A man is being charged with indecency with a child by contact after police said he paid a young girl to let him touch her.

According to documents made public Monday, two girls, eight and nine years old, were riding their bikes at the flea market in the 1500 block of Pleasant Valley Road Saturday when they were approached by 39-year-old Jose Luis Fuentes.

Police say the 8-year-old girl let Fuentes touch her after he paid her $2.

The 9-year-old friend told the girl's parents, who rushed to their child. An affidavit said the girl's parents found her crying and she told them what had happened.

Both girls pointed the man out and a group of people physically detained him and someone called police.

While they were waiting for police to come, Fuentes threatened to kill the girl after he got out of jail.

Police said Fuentes denied touching the girl and even offering her money. He said he had been drinking, but did not want to talk about what happened, according to officials.

Fuentes is sitting in the Travis County Jail on a $250,000 bond and an immigration hold.

Man pleads guilty for second time, gets reduced sentence

Appellate court reversed conviction in May, remanded new trial
The Lufkin Daily News
Monday, July 28, 2008

A convicted child molester, whose previous conviction and jury sentence were thrown out by an appellate court in May, has pleaded guilty a second time and received a reduced prison sentence.

Zachary Wayne Goshen of Lufkin is expected to serve an eight-year prison sentence in a plea agreement deal he reached last week with a state prosecutor. An Angelina County jury had sentenced Goshen to 15 years in prison and ordered him pay a $10,000 fine May 2007 after the 39-year-old man pleaded guilty to having sex with a runaway 13-year-old girl.

Goshen appealed the conviction and the 12th Court of Appeals in Tyler reversed the case in March. An opinion issued by the court stated Goshen's guilty plea violated his constitutional rights because he was not aware of the immigration consequences of his decision. When someone pleads guilty to a crime, the court is required to inform the defendant that if he is not a U.S. citizen the guilty plea could result in deportation or other immigration enforcements, according to the court's opinion issued in this case.

"Because the trial court did not inform Appellant of the immigration consequences of his plea, we are obligated by (case citation) to conclude that the trial court's failure to admonish Appellant is harmful error and to reverse the conviction and remand for new trial," the court stated.

Angelina County District Attorney Clyde Herrington called the case unusual because Goshen entered a guilty plea the morning of his trial and then asked for a jury to assess his punishment. He said the trial judge did not instruct Goshen of his immigration rights, but added that Goshen is a U.S. citizen, so it wouldn't have affected his decision to plead guilty.

However, the record did not reflect Goshen's citizenship status, which the appellate court stated is grounds for a conviction reversal.

"We don't have many cases reversed, so it's a little unusual. But it can happen," Herrington said.

Goshen's attorney said the court's decision to throw out the previous conviction was not merely a technicality.

"You have to advise a client of his rights to make sure he understands the law," said attorney John Tunnel. "It's a check in the system."

Instead of taking the case to trial again, Goshen and his attorney reached a plea agreement with the state last week. He accepted an eight-year prison sentence with no fine for the charge of aggravated sexual assault of a child.

Texas Uproar Added:

Immigration Control and Financial Responsibility Act of 1996
Made a Sex offense conviciton a deportable offence and the revocation of citizenship possible. Offenders are returned to their country of birth.

Violent Crimes Institute in Atlanta, reported about 240,000 illegal-immigrant sex offendersare living in the U.S., and estimated 93 sex offenders and 12 serial sex offenders cross the border illegally into the U.S. each day.

July 27, 2008

Reporter, son seek asylum

By Daniel Borunda / El Paso Times
Article Launched: 07/27/2008 12:00:00 AM MDT

EL PASO -- Emilio Gutiérrez Soto only had time to take his teenage son, a few clothes and memories of 25 years as a newspaper reporter when he fled his native Mexico last month, fearing for his life.

Gutiérrez, of the small town of Ascension, Chihuahua, is among the more than 60 Mexican citizens who have asked for political asylum at border crossings in the El Paso region since October, spurred in part by a raging drug cartel war.

"I have no desire to return to Mexico. It would mean death," Gutiérrez, 45, said in a recent telephone interview from an immigration detention center in El Paso.

Gutiérrez is awaiting a hearing, which may not come until December. He asked for asylum June 16 at the border crossing at Antelope Wells in the Bootheel of New Mexico.

"The decision to come here (the U.S.) was because of the terror. An attempt to save the life of my son. He's my only hope," Gutiérrez said in Spanish. His 15-year-old son is being held at a juvenile detention center.

Gutiérrez, who wrote for El Diario del Noroeste, claims that Mexican army officials targeted him for death after he wrote about allegations of crimes committed by soldiers in communities in the rural northwestern part of Chihuahua state.

Gutierréz's plea comes at a time when international press freedom organizations have labeled Mexico as the deadliest country in the Americas for journalists.

Last month, the Committee to Protect Journalists issued a report stating that 21 journalists have been killed in Mexico since 2000. Seven were killed in reprisal for their work. Seven others have been missing since 2005. The committee ranks the danger level in Mexico with that in such war zones as Iraq, Somalia and Sierra Leone.

Being a reporter in Mexico is "fine for those that cover sociales (the social scene) and entertainment. There is not much difference between politics and police news. It's the same garbage," said Gutiérrez, a Nuevo Casas Grandes native who has worked for several newspapers in Chihuahua.

The troubles for Gutiérrez began in 2005 when he reported allegations that soldiers had been involved in crimes, including a hotel robbery in Palomas, stated a detailed 12-page handwritten account by Gutiérrez.

Gutiérrez was confronted by army officers angered over his articles. "So you are the son of a whore who has been disparaging us," an army major reportedly told Gutiérrez.

The major asked Gutiérrez why he didn't report on the narcotraffickers in town. Gutiérrez responded that he didn't know who the traffickers were and that he was afraid of them.

"You should be afraid of us," the major warned before reportedly telling Gutiérrez not to write any more stories.

Two days later, an article on the confrontation was reported in the newspaper. Problems escalated. Gutiérrez said that he filed a complaint with Mexico's National Commission on Human Rights but that nothing was solved.

On May 5, soldiers raided and searched Gutiérrez' home after supposedly getting an anonymous tip about drugs and weapons. The raid, which turned up nothing, was also reported in the newspaper.

Gutiérrez began to noticed he was being followed and watched, his account stated.

"I would hardly sleep at my home. I would sleep at the office or at friends' homes. I was in a state of stress," he said.

On June 15, a friend told Gutiérrez that he should leave because the military was going to kill him.

"The sensation I had was cold. ... When they told me, I didn't doubt it for an instance," Gutiérrez said. "My mind went blank. What will I do? What will happen?"

He and his son hid out at a friend's ranch before heading to the U.S. border the next day, praying not to run into a military checkpoint. "At the border, they asked me what I had with me. I told them, 'Fear,' " Gutiérrez said.

The international press freedom group Reporters Without Borders has urged the Mexican federal government to open an investigation into the army and has urged U.S. authorities to give Gutierrez permission to stay in this country.

The Mexican Embassy in Washington, D.C., did not immediately return a call for comment Friday. In recent years, Mexico has strengthened laws to protect journalists.

The press in Mexico has historically not been immune to corruption, including reporters paid bribes for coverage. It is also rumored that drug cartels have associates at publications to ensure that some things are not reported.

Maria Elena Upson, spokeswoman for the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service, said that anyone can file for asylum but that the burden of proof is on the applicant. Refugees must prove they would be persecuted in their country because of their race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.

"The basic problem is the U.S. won't denounce it (persecution) because Mexico is an ally and they won't admit the level of corruption and persecution that exists," said immigration lawyer Carlos Spector, who is representing Gutiérrez.

Spector said he felt the number of Mexicans seeking political asylum -- with claims that their government won't protect them -- would continue to grow as they flee the violent-crime wave that has left more than 600 dead this year alone in Juárez.

But because asylum seekers are held in detention centers until their cases are heard, many simply give up their claims, Spector said.

"I think the situation in Mexico has deteriorated so much, the police forces are so infiltrated and corrupt that chaos has ensued," Spector said. "Criminals are acting with impunity."

Daniel Borunda may be reached at dborunda@elpasotimes.com; 546-6102.

July 26, 2008

Judge orders Texas to revamp bilingual education


Associated Press

A federal judge has given the state of Texas until January to improve its education programs for secondary school students learning English as a second language.

The ruling issued Friday says the Texas Education Agency has failed the 140,000 Texas students who do not speak English as their native language.

The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, an organization that litigated the case, hailed the ruling from the Tyler-based Eastern District of Texas as the "most comprehensive legal decision concerning the civil rights of English language learners in the last 25 years."

MALDEF says primarily Spanish-speaking students in Texas have higher dropout rates, lower graduation rates and lower achievement rates than their English-speaking counterparts.

Border Wall-k VI in opposition to the US-Mexico "border wall of apartheid"

Howdy amigos...

Border Wall-k VI in opposition to the US-Mexico "border wall of apartheid" is scheduled for August 19-23.

The House of Representatives will take their "Summer District Work Period" from August 11- September 5th. The Senate will take their "State Work Period" from August 9 - September 7th. What an ideal time to have another Border Wall-k. Border Wall-k VI...or El Paso Border Wall-k.

Texas has 1250 miles of border with Mexico. That represents about 65% of the entire 1950 miles of US-Mexico border. That means that at least 65% of the border residents are opposed to the border wall.

In representation of their border citizens and communities, the Texas Mayors all along the Texas-Mexico border have stood up against this border wall, even entering into a lawsuit against the federal government to stop the construction.

Now it's time to convince Congress, that America cannot be the world leader of "liberty and justice for all" while walling itself off as country...and becoming an international gated community. Not many years ago, a wall between friends and family in Europe was considered the symbol of an oppressive enemy of the free world.

El Paso is our Far West Texas anchor city of the Texas-Mexico border that is subject to the construction of the longest border wall in Texas. 56 straight miles, cutting through heritage and culture, through lives, through beautiful crop lands. Such a wall will harm everything that we revere here on the border.

A coalition of local, state, national as well as border organizations are therefore galvanizing, organizing, sponsoring and endorsing a 56, five day Border Wall-k from August 19-23...from McNary to El Paso, so as to coincide with the Congressmen retuning from Washington, D. C. to do work in their districts.

The El Paso-Border Wall-k will leave McNary on Tuesday, August 19, travel NorthWest along Texas Highway 20, and arrive at the plaza in downtown El Paso on Saturday afternoon, August 23rd.

We request your solidarity. From coast to coast, we encourage all individuals and organizations opposed to the "border wall of apartheid" to spread the word about the El Paso-Border Wall-k. Let your friends and neighbors know that Texas is still standing up to one of the most demented schemes being imposed on a free people.

For more information you can contact:

Bill Guerra Addington
Border Ambassadors

Carlos Narentes
Sin Fronteras

Fernando Garcia
Border Network for Human Rights

Sarah Boone
Border Ambassadors

Would you and/or your organization be willing to participate, sponsor and/or endorse the El Paso-Border Wall-k?

In solidarity...


Border Ambassadors
Jay J. Johnson-Castro, Sr.

July 25, 2008

Man facing intoxicated manslaughter charge

Rojas - DWI Illegal Alien

By Lucretia Fernandez
Published: 07.25.08

A man who allegedly caused the death of a Conroe man in June is expected to face trial, now that a Montgomery grand jury has indicted him on intoxication manslaughter charges.

Miguel Laynez Rojas, 33, of Houston, is facing second-degree felony charges in the 284th state District Court of Judge Cara Woods.

A second-degree felony is punishable by a term of two to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

Rojas is currently being held at the Montgomery County Jail without bond because the U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement has a hold on him.

Several days following the accident on June 26, when Rojas allegedly pulled in front of Adam Landrum’s motorcycle on Interstate 45, Rojas posted a $30,000 bond and was released from jail, Montgomery County Sheriff’s Capt. Robert Green said. Last week, one day before Rojas’ July 17 indictment, Montgomery County Sheriff’s deputies picked Rojas up from the ICE detention center in Houston.

According to Green, ICE did not place a hold on Rojas the first time he was arrested and charged with intoxication manslaughter.

“They (ICE) usually have someone up here every day, but he (Rojas) may have been booked in after they left or on the weekend,” Green said.

Rojas’ attorney, Robert Bartlett, declined to give comment on the allegations.

Landrum’s mother is trying to deal with the loss of her second child this year. Her daughter, Adam Landrum’s sister, was killed in a car accident on Interstate 45 in April.

Tuesday is Adam Landrum’s birthday. He would have turned 27, said his mother, Jean Landrum. Rojas’ indictment brings her some consolation, but not much, she said.

“Nothing can bring my son back,” Jean Landrum said. “If it were up to me, I would pour every alcoholic beverage out in the world.”

Jean Landrum is convinced, although it has not been confirmed, the truck Rojas was allegedly driving was driven over her son’s 6-foot-1-inch, 210-pound body.

“There were so many broken bones in my son’s body that they must have run over him,” Jean Landrum said. “The wrecker said he had to pick the truck up off of him. My son was big and strong and never broke a bone before.”

Moore to help workers adapt

Friday, July 25, 2008
Moore to help workers adapt
Immigrant orientation set
By Janelle Stecklein
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SHARE THIS STORY: In many cases, county leaders may not take note of a minor car accident. But a recent accident in Moore County garnered the attention of leaders because it involved several refugees without identification.

"None of them had any IDs and it was just a real chaotic situation," said Tommy Brooks, the county's emergency management coordinator. "They don't like to carry their government papers with them because of the fear of losing them."

Officials quickly realized there was a need to help the immigrants adapt to their new country and community.

"It's totally another world for refugees when they come over here," said Moore County Judge Rowdy Rhoades.

So many Moore County organizations including the hospital district, the county's emergency management office, the Cactus Police Department, a pregnancy crisis center, JBS Swift & Co. and the Texas Department of Public Safety have planned a life skills fair Sunday that will cater to about 450 Burmese residents, Rhoades said.

Volunteers will try to issue every immigrant an identification card, which will help law enforcement and medical workers. Once those cards - which will not be official government IDs - are made, they will provide emergency contacts and which language the refugee speaks so that officials can find the correct translator, Brooks said.

Officials with the Moore County Hospital District will also distribute "File of Life" pouches, said Gayle Stowers, the hospital's marketing and community relations director. The packets help new residents gather information they might need when they go to the hospital or doctor, including pre-existing conditions, insurance, current medications and allergies.

"It will just make the whole process so much easier," Stowers said. "It's a starting point for us. And it's a great tool. I think everyone should have that information available."

Hispanic voters prefer Obama 3-to-1, Pew survey says

Posted on Fri, Jul. 25, 2008

By PATRICK McGEEpmcgee@star-telegram.com

Hispanic voters prefer Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama over his Republican opponent John McCain by nearly three to one, according to a survey released Thursday.

Latinos also prefer Obama’s views over McCain’s on specific issues, such as education, jobs, healthcare and immigration., according to the Washington, D.C.-based Pew Hispanic Center, a nonpartisan organization that researches the growing U.S. Hispanic population.

The national survey of 892 registered Hispanic voters found that nearly a third of the voters said Obama’s race would help him win their vote, while nearly a quarter said McCain’s race would hurt him.

Obama’s surge is denting gains that Republican President George Bush made in this voting bloc during the 2004 election against Democrat John Kerry, said Jim Riddlesperger, a Texas Christian University political science professor.

"If this trend holds, Obama is doing 13 percent better than Kerry did, and at this point McCain is doing 21 percent worse than Bush did," he said.

Battleground States

Although Latino turnout is lower than for other ethnic groups, experts believe they could be crucial in the 2008 election because their numbers are strong enough to matter in the battleground states of New Mexico, Colorado, Florida and Nevada.

Cecilia Muñoz, senior vice president for policy for the National Council of La Raza, a Hispanic civil rights and advocacy group, said both candidates addressed her group this month, an indication of their eagerness to win Hispanic votes.

"Neither candidate appears to be taking this community’s vote for granted," she said.

In the U.S. Senate, both Obama and McCain voted for legislation that would legalize the immigration status of millions of illegal immigrants, and both voted for the construction of fencing along the Mexican border to stop illegal immigration.

Hessy Fernandez, a spokeswoman for the McCain campaign, said McCain’s push for immigration reform shows that he supports issues important to Hispanics. She said more Hispanics can come to McCain’s side by Election Day.

"They know he has been fighting for policies that benefit the Latino community for more than two decades," she said. "He was a champion on the immigration issue, while Obama was nowhere to be found."

She said McCain won 70 percent of the Hispanic vote when he ran for U.S. Senate in Arizona.

But Obama campaign spokeswoman Shannon Gilson said more Hispanics are coming to Obama’s side because they like the vision he articulates.

"The more voters get to know Senator Obama and his track record and his vision of bringing people together for change, the better he does," she said. "Senator Obama has a long record of standing up for issues important to the Hispanic community, including the fight for immigration reform."


In a nationwide election a Republican candidate cannot realistically hope to win a majority of the Latino vote, according to Riddlesperger. The group leans too heavily Democratic for that.

The Pew survey suggests that it will be an uphill battle for McCain because 70 percent of registered Latino voters say the country is going in the wrong direction and 65 percent of them say they identify with or lean toward the Democratic Party.

"Latinos are dissatisfied. They are dissatisfied with the direction of the country," said Mark Lopez, associate director of the Pew Hispanic Center and coauthor of the report. "There’s just a general movement away from the Republican Party."

Pauline Gasca-Valenciano registers people to vote in Tarrant County on behalf of the League of United Latin American Citizens and she said she sees Hispanic voters leaning toward Obama. The Democrat has struck a chord with the Hispanic community by making his campaign slogan "Yes we can," the English version of Hispanic civil rights leader César Chávez’s "Sí se puede."

PATRICK McGEE, 817-685-3806

Kaufman County Judge Sentences Sex Offender

Denise Bell
Post Managing Editor

July 25, 2008

The courtroom of the Honorable Judge Howard Tygrett was a busy place yesterday morning as twelve cases were docketed for hearing, re-scheduling, or sentencing. Presiding at a steady pace throughout the morning, cases involving drug possession, DUI, burglary, and sexual assault were scheduled to be brought before the court.

Six defendants in jail house attire and restrained in handcuffs and leg shackles were escorted into the courtroom and shortly thereafter met with their appointed attorneys. Incarcerated defendants and defendants currently on bail, waited patiently to either be sentenced or re-scheduled for a future court appearance.

Several defendants, many of whom were first time offenders, received fines and probationary sentences. One incarcerated defendant sat quietly awaiting his turn, undoubtedly aware that he would not be free to roam the streets in Kaufman for many years to come.

In the State of Texas vs. Jesus Santos Silva, Judge Tygrett sentenced Silva to eight years of incarceration in a state correctional facility for Burglary of a Habitation with the Intent to Sexually Assault.

Thirty year old Silva, an immigrant from Mexico who has for many years periodically resided within Kaufman, was arrested on July 14, 2007 for the sexual assault of a Kaufman woman.

According to the official Probable Cause Affidavit, upon arriving in the 1000 block of S. Houston officers made contact with a 67 year old female who reported that Silva had entered into her residence without her consent, removed his clothing, and forced her onto the couch.

She then explained to officers that neighbors had come in and Silva had then fled her home. Searching for Silva, officers located him within the 100 Block of W. Chestnut and immediately arrested him.

Court documents reveal that while waiting trail, Silva was examined by a court appointed psychiatrist. Declared mentally capable of assisting with his defense, the evaluation detailed a history of drug use, mental disorders, and abuse during his childhood. It also notes that Silva has been, and should continue to be, housed separately from other inmates due to safety concerns.

Standing before the court with a Spanish interpreter, Silva pled guilty and then answered a series of clarifying questions ask by both his attorney and the Judge.

Apparently Silva had been initially offered a plea of 45 years based on criminal charges that included Aggravated Rape. However, during the time period he waited trail, his elderly victim passed away from natural causes.

Unable to provide the testimony of the victim and now with a much harder case to prove, the Kaufman County District Attorney’s office reluctantly pled the case to Burglary of a Habitation with Intent to Sexually Assault.

Both Judge Tygrett and Silva’s attorney ask several questions designed to make sure he clearly understood that he was pleading guilty to a lesser charge and that the offered plea had been reduced to eight years. And that by pleading guilty to a felony he understood that he would be deported upon his release from prison.

According to Texas law, Silva is eligible to request parole after he has served one-half the imposed sentence. First Assistant District Attorney, Brian Corrigan stated, “It is unlikely that parole will be granted. And because of his immigration status, he will be immediately deported upon his release.”

The felony conviction also requires Silva to register as a sex offender whenever he is in the United States, whether legally or illegally.

Buckner weathers Dolly; help sought for colonias

By Jenny Pope, Buckner International
Published: July 25, 2008

MISSION—Buckner Children and Family Services’ Rio Grande Children’s Home fared well through Hurricane Dolly, suffering only a blackout.

But many residents in colonias where Buckner works throughout the region suffered considerable damage and are left with immediate needs, Buckner staff based in the Lower Rio Grande Valley reported.

Hurricane Dolly continued to bring torrential rains and flooding even after being downgraded to a tropical storm. This photo was taken outside Jorge Zapata's house in La Feria, where they've declared it a disaster area due to flooding. (Photo by Jorge Zapata)“The 27 children at the (children’s) home are safe, and no one needed to be evacuated,” said Michelle Harris, director of residential and transitional ministries at Buckner. “The tragedy, though, is that a lot of people in the region lost everything they own.”

Flooded highways

Dexton Shores, director of ministry development for Buckner in Mexico and along the Texas-Mexico border, said many sections of the two main highways in the Valley are flooded and the Department of Public Safety is not letting people drive through much of the region.

“We have Buckner staff driving through the colonias closest to their homes to see what they can do. They’ve discovered that many people are flooded out, many have lost their roofs and the rain has destroyed all their belongings,” Shores said.

Buckner mission coordinator Cheyenne Solis reported Thursday that colonias he visited in Donna and Progreso experienced “much damage with flooded streets, water inside houses, cars (flooded), broken windows and extreme roof damage.”

According to Solis, many families living in colonias are trapped and unable to leave to get basic needs, such as food, water and hygiene products.

“These are just some of the needs for all of the colonias stateside and in Mexico,” he said. “Many residents are without electricity.”

Jorge Zapata, Buckner colonia program director, said the floodwaters “got close, within one-half inch” of the bottom of the door of his home, “but thankfully none of it came inside the house.” Zapata lives in La Feria, where the mayor declared the city a disaster area due to flooding.

Colonia residents need food, clothes

Shores reported a need for financial support to provide clothes, food, building materials and furniture. As damage is further assessed, Buckner will seek additional help from churches and mission groups to repair damage in the colonias, he added.

Albert Reyes, president of Buckner Children and Family Services, said the ministry is relying on churches and individuals to respond the needs of colonias residents.

“Our churches have been faithful through the years to work alongside Buckner to help so many people in need in the Valley, and we need those partners now more than ever,” he said.

Anyone wishing to donate may do so online at www.buckner.org or by calling the Buckner Foundation at (214) 758-8050.


July 24, 2008

City of Killeen implementing a bilingual pay incentive program

Updated: Jul 24, 2008 6:55pm
The city of Killeen is trying to improve communication with a diverse and growing population.

Human Resources assistant for the city of Killeen Anita Casiano says she looks forward to a new bilingual incentive program.

"There's lots of people that come in and don't know that much English, that are coming from other states, sometimes Hispanic people looking for advice" Casiano said.

She says communicating with non-English speakers is a daily duty. Now, city staff who speak a second language could receive between $50 and $75 a month depending how well they test on their certification programs.

The estimated cost of the bilingual program is about $54,000, but city staff says the benefits will be hard to measure.”

According to a the Greater Killeen Chamber of Commerce, about 20 percent of the Killeen population is Hispanic or Latino nearly 5 percent is Asian which includes a growing Korean population.

"One of the things we want to do is to provide better services, and to be able to communicate in the language they understand most clearly." Human Resources Director Debbie Maynor said.

Killeen police officers must pass the highest level of language proficiency to communicate at crime scenes, and later write accident reports. "That's why we need bilingual pay, to make sure the citizens get the treatment they deserve." Killeen City Council member Juan Rivera said.

Through better communication with city staff. City department heads will identify needed language skills. Then the city manager must approve the extra money, before the tests are taken.

Long Wait Times At Bridges Caused By New Software

Monica Balderrama-KFOX News Reporter

POSTED: 10:09 pm MDT July 23, 2008
UPDATED: 1:23 am MDT July 24, 2008

EL PASO, Texas -- Travelers crossing over to the United States from Mexico waited in line at the bridge for about an hour on Tuesday afternoon.

"About an hour. It's really hot, though. It makes it worst," said Nallely Carreon, from Durango, Mexico.

Depending on the time of day the wait times can spike to over two hours.

"The main problem today is the heat. It's too hot to cross over. We don't have air conditioner in the car," said Francisco Fonseca, from El Paso.

The reason for the long traffic lines has to do with new software that was installed two weeks ago.

"We're really moving into the latest technology. It's unfortunate that you have to have some impact to get there and the impact has been on the wait times," said Rick Lopez, Chief Customs and Border Protection Officer.

The freshly installed program gives customs agents the capability to screen arriving travelers. By asking for documents or an identification, the agents will be able to see a picture of the person.

"It basically allows us to conduct examinations of arriving vehicles and travelers in the most expeditious way," said Lopez.

But it hasn't been that way--at least not yet. It's a learning curve for officers.

"The officers are familiarizing themselves with the current system, how it operates. They're helping each other get through it," said Lopez.

And the end result will be traffic getting through much quicker.

"It just takes longer and it frustrates people," said Carreon.

The update installed recently is only phase one of a series of updates. Next week, there will be another pre-installation that will prepare the ports of entry for radio frequency identification technology. That is supposed to speed travel across the border, while further enhancing security

Trapped in rail car, 3 illegal immigrants call 911

July 24, 2008, 12:21AM
Trapped in rail car, 3 illegal immigrants call 911

Copyright 2008 Houston Chronicle

It is not often that undocumented immigrants sneak into the United States and then alert authorities to their whereabouts, but three men trapped in a sweltering rail car had little choice and used a cell phone to call 911.

Smugglers had stashed two Mexicans and a Guatemalan in a grain hopper in the Rio Grande Valley and told them they would ride further north, said Daniel Doty, a spokesman for the Border Patrol's McAllen Sector.

As the temperature climbed Tuesday, the dehydrating men feared for their lives and reached for the phone.

"It gets hot very fast in those places," Doty said."Once inside a grain hopper, you can't get out; you have to be let out."

Agents rescued the men Tuesday afternoon thanks to one of them providing a portion of the Union Pacific identification number listed in the car.

A company emergency-response team was able to use a computer to track down the car within five minutes and provide rescuers with its location, Union Pacific regional spokeswoman Raquel Espinoza said.

"These individuals are very lucky to be alive," she said. "

It remains unclear when and where the men boarded the hopper or where they were headed.

Two of them were released to the Border Patrol on Wednesday after spending the night at the Christus Spohn Hospital Kleberg in Kingsville.

A third remained hospitalized in stable condition, said shift coordinator Linda Ann Garcia.

Illegal immigrants have previously used cell phones to call for help. Earlier this summer, three Chinese men lost in the South Texas brush lands called for rescue.

"We're starting to see more and more of that, where smugglers or members of the group actually carry a cell phone just in case," Doty said.

The McAllen Sector, which includes the Rio Grande Valley and hugs the Gulf Coast, is among the deadliest slices of the U.S.-Mexico border.

Agents assigned there reported finding 67 bodies in the first nine months of this fiscal year. That compares to 61 for all of 2007.


Should the Texas State Legislature pass immigration enforcement laws in 2009?