Certainly makes a point
When U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton ruled on Wednesday that key provisions of Arizona's new anti-immigration law were unconstitutional, she could have also declared them unnecessary. That is, if the main impetus behind the controversial legislation was, as Arizona Governor Jan Brewer said when she signed it in April, "border-related violence and crime due to illegal immigration." The fact is, despite the murderous mayhem raging across the border in Mexico, the U.S. side, from San Diego to Brownsville, Texas, is one of the nation's safest corridors.
According to the FBI, the four large U.S. cities (with populations of at least 500,000) with the lowest violent crime rates — San Diego, Phoenix and the Texas cities of El Paso and Austin — are all in border states. "The border is safer now than it's ever been," U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesman Lloyd Easterling told the Associated Press last month. Even Larry Dever, the sheriff of Arizona's Cochise County, where the murder last March of a local rancher, believed to have been committed by an illegal immigrant, sparked calls for the law, conceded to the ArizonaRepublic recently that "we're not seeing the [violent crime] that's going on on the other side."(See photos of the Great Wall of America.)
Consider Arizona itself — whose illegal-immigrant population is believed to be second only to California's. The state's overall crime rate dropped 12% last year; between 2004 and 2008 it plunged 23%. In the metro area of its largest city, Phoenix, violent crime — encompassing murder, rape, assault and robbery — fell by a third during the past decade and by 17% last year. The border city of Nogales, an area rife with illegal immigration and drug trafficking, hasn't logged a single murder in the past two years.(See pictures of immigration detention in Arizona.)
It is true that Phoenix has in recent years seen a spate of kidnappings. But in almost every case they've involved drug traffickers targeting other narcos for payment shakedowns, and the 318 abductions reported last year were actually down 11% from 2008. Either way, the figure hardly makes Phoenix, as Arizona Senator John McCain claimed last month, "the No. 2 kidnapping capital of the world" behind Mexico City. A number of Latin American capitals can claim that dubious distinction.
An even more telling example is El Paso. Its cross-border Mexican sister city, Ciudad Juárez, suffered almost 2,700 murders last year, most of them drug-related, making it possibly the world's most violent town. But El Paso, a stone's throw across the Rio Grande, had just one murder. A big reason, say U.S. law-enforcement officials, is that the Mexican drug cartels' bloody turf wars generally end at the border and don't follow the drugs into the U.S. Another, says El Paso County Sheriff Richard Wiles, is that "the Mexican cartels know that if they try to commit that kind of violence here, they'll get shut down."(See photos of Mexico's drug wars.)
Which points to perhaps the most important factor: the U.S. has real cops — not criminals posing as cops, as is so often the case in Mexico — policing the border's cities and states. Americans and Mexicans may call their border region "seamless" when it comes to commerce and culture, but that brotherly ideal doesn't apply to law enforcement. That's especially true since state and local police are backed along the border by the thousands of federal agents deployed there. Thus the tough Arizona law — which seeks to allow local and state police to check a person's immigration status, a provision that Judge Bolton agreed opened the door to racial profiling by officers, and requires immigrants to carry their documents at all times — was sparked by largely unfounded fears.
Arizona law-enforcement officials say they believe the Cochise County rancher, Robert Krentz, was killed by an illegal immigrant — perhaps a coyote, or migrant smuggler — or a drug trafficker. His last radio transmission home as he inspected his property indicated he was helping a struggling person he believed to be one of the migrants who regularly trespass private land while crossing into the U.S. But while such assaults are hardly unheard of along the border — and while it's hardly irrational to worry about Mexico's violence eventually spilling into the U.S. — they have hardly risen to a level that justified the draconian Arizona bill. (In fact, if an illegal immigrant did murder Krentz, it would be the first time in more than a decade that a migrant has killed an American along the border's Tucson, Ariz., sector.)
"There's a real disconnect between emotions and facts when it comes to the border," says El Paso city councilman Beto O'Rourke. "You've got a lot of politicians exploiting this fear that the Mexicans are coming over to kill us."
The Arizona law, which Judge Bolton also said infringed on federal jurisdiction, may be a product of border bluster. But it has more than succeeded in getting Washington's attention. Even though the Obama Administration was one of the plaintiffs in the suit against the law, the President is sending 1,200 more National Guard troops to the region this weekend. What's more, our broken immigration system — and the federal government's feckless failure to address it — is a front-burner issue again.
The nation's border is actually a safe place. The nation's debate about it, at least politically, is anything but.
DEARE: Forgetting Mexico's failures
Dysfunctional economy has triggered migration northward
I love Mexicans. Really. My first real kiss was with a Mexican girl – ah, Sofia. And my first … well, you get the idea. My best friend in the world is my Mexican high school classmate. You see, I grew up in Guadalajara, the son of an Air Force officer who retired south of the border. I was an immigrant – a legal one, I hasten to add. I understand Mexico and Mexicans. I say all this upfront to emphasize that my opposition to illegal immigration is not because of any anti-Mexican bias.
Let's recognize that there is no real point in blaming ordinary Mexican citizens for heading north. Where are they supposed to go if there are no jobs to be had in Mexico? Guatemala? Belize? Cuba? Of course, they go to the States. That's the one country in the region with an economy capable – in normal circumstances, at any rate – of absorbing a significant amount of excess labor from external sources.
Is this situation the fault of the U.S. economy for being able to generate jobs? No. And here is where the ugly and inconvenient truth arises: Mexico's economic system is – and has been for the past 20 years or so – incapable of creating employment opportunities sufficient to keep pace with its growing population. With Mexico's current demographics, the Mexican economy needs to generate approximately 1 million jobs per year just to keep pace.
So why has the Mexican economy been unable to generate sufficient jobs for its people? Far be it from me – I am not an economist by training – to attempt to answer such a simple but profoundly complex question. But the proverbial bottom line is that Mexican society, to date, has been unable do so. The reasons involve politics, culture, religion, history, ideology and geography – among other factors.
Although most of the attention paid to Mexican President Felipe Calderon's speech to the joint session of Congress in May had to do with his condemnation of Arizona's new immigration law (you gotta give him credit for guts, and it played well back home) and drug-related violence (he was spot-on here, correctly citing the high rates of U.S. consumption), he himself admitted his country's failure: "I'm not a president who likes to see Mexicans leave our country, leaving for opportunities abroad. … Mexico will one day be a country where our people will find the opportunities that today they look for outside of the country."
This is the crux of the matter. The 12 million illegal aliens from Mexico ("undocumented workers" – now that's clever) are testament to Mexican political and economic leaders' collective failure to organize a system capable of creating sufficient employment for their own citizens – despite being next door to the world's largest market. So, successive Mexican presidents have relied on the safety valve of a permissive – even if illegal – environment in which to export their unemployment burden. That may be creative thinking, but it's not much of an economic policy. And let's not even mention the billions of dollars in remittances sent back to Mexico, the No. 2 or No. 3 source of legal income production in Mexico after petroleum extraction and tourism. The ultimate piece of chutzpah? The government of Mexico filed a brief in support of the American Civil Liberties Union's (among others) lawsuit that succeeded in a federal court ruling Wednesday in blocking portions of Arizona's new law. What is absolutely over the top is that Mexican foreign policy is rooted in the principles of sovereignty and nonintervention. The hypocrisy is so outrageous it leaves one breathless.
Another factor also bears upon the problem. Although I do love Mexicans – I believe they are the most gracious and hospitable people in the world – they have grown up in an environment and a society that encourage and reward those who break the law, stoically enduring a nonfunctioning system of justice. Corruption is largely an accepted and recognized way of life. Why should they pay attention to a border if they don't pay attention to other rules and regulations? Mexican authorities of all shapes and sizes have reinforced, in the minds of ordinary Mexican citizens, reasons not to follow the law. Why wouldn't they pay a bribe to get past the authorities?
We're all for immigration – it just has to be done properly, formally and legally. I'm fortunate to be married to a beautiful and loving woman who was born in Argentina, immigrated legally, went through the process and is now a U.S. citizen. As former Ambassador Jose Sorzano has emphasized time and again, Americans are all for those wanting to get in – just wait your turn in line.
Is the immigration system in need of reform and improvement? Absolutely. If the immigrant arrived illegally and truly desires to be a citizen, he A) doesn't get to join the legal-immigrant-aspirant line but rather enters an illegal-immigrant line and B) pays a fine of $10 per day from the date of his arrival. Breaking the law doesn't put you in front of those who are following the law, and must not be rewarded. But if you can prove how long you've been here, and you are willing to pay a yearly $3,650 fine, you go to the head of the illegal line.
Let's stop feeling guilty for the success of our economic system and put the blame where it belongs – and that is on the governments south of the border.
(CBS) The judge didn't strike down the entire law. So what does it mean?
U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton struck down every section the Obama administration cared about: a complete victory says CBS News chief legal correspondent Jan Crawford.
She has ruled that the power to regulate immigration lies exclusively with the federal government, and that the Arizona law will burden legal aliens and U.S. citizens.
She said she recognized Arizona had significant interests in confronting illegal immigration and problems with crime but Arizona still couldn't step into the federal government's role.
The judge also cautioned that the Arizona law would increase the "intrusion of police presence into the lives of legally-present aliens, and even United States citizens."
So this now puts the pressure on the federal government — and the White House — to take responsibility and do something to fix immigration.
But the fight in the states isn't over.
Twenty states are now considering similar laws…and this is just one judge's ruling.
In one state.
It doesn't bind Texas or New Jersey or any other state, although it will put at damper on those efforts.
And at some point we're going to get a final answer.
This will be appealed, probably up to the Supreme Court.
Politically, what does this mean?
This is the best news the Obama administration has gotten in a long time and there's huge relief in the Justice department. The ruling was a slam dunk.
And now Arizona has to appeal since the administration isn't going to drag Arizona into the federal appeals courts.
Some groups on the right are furious about the ruling and they say they will keep the heat on illegal immigration.
But this is a difficult political issue because Republicans risk alienating a key voting bloc.
(Reuters) – Nicaraguan mother Lorena Aguilar hawks a television set and a few clothes on the baking sidewalk outside her west Phoenix apartment block.
A few paces up the street, her undocumented Mexican neighbor Wendi Villasenor touts a kitchen table, some chairs and a few dishes as her family scrambles to get out of Arizona ahead of a looming crackdown on illegal immigrants.
"Everyone is selling up the little they have and leaving," said Villasenor, 31, who is headed for Pennsylvania. "We have no alternative. They have us cornered."
The two women are among scores of illegal immigrant families across Phoenix hauling the contents of their homes into the yard this weekend as they rush to sell up and get out before the state law takes effect on Thursday.
The law, the toughest imposed by any U.S. state to curb illegal immigration, seeks to drive more than 400,000 undocumented day laborers, landscapers, house cleaners, chambermaids and other workers out of Arizona, which borders Mexico.
It makes being an illegal immigrant a state crime and requires state and local police, during lawful contact, to investigate the status of anyone they reasonably suspect of being an illegal immigrant.
The U.S. government estimates 100,000 unauthorized migrants left Arizona after the state passed an employer sanctions law three years ago requiring companies to verify workers' status using a federal computer system. There are no figures for the number who have left since the new law passed in April.
Some are heading back to Mexico or to neighboring states. Others are staying put and taking their chances.
In a sign of a gathering exodus, Mexican businesses from grocers and butcher shops to diners and beauty salons have shut their doors in recent weeks as their owners and clients leave.
On Saturday and Sunday, Reuters counted dozens of impromptu yard sales in Latino neighborhoods in central and west Phoenix/
"They wanted to drive Hispanics out of Arizona and they have succeeded even before the law even comes into effect," said Aguilar, 28, a mother of three young children who was also offering a few cherished pictures and a stereo at one of five sales on the same block.
She said she had taken in just $20 as "everyone is selling and nobody wants to buy."
LEGAL RESIDENTS FLEE
Arizona straddles the principal highway for human and drug smugglers heading into the United States from Mexico.
The state's Republican governor, Jan Brewer, signed the law in April in a bid to curb violence and cut crime stemming from illegal immigration.
Polls show the measure is backed by a solid majority of Americans and by 65 percent of Arizona voters in this election year for some state governors, all of the U.S. House of Representatives and about a third of the 100-seat Senate.
Opponents say the law is unconstitutional and a recipe for racial profiling. It is being challenged in seven lawsuits, including one filed by President Barack Obama's administration, which wants a preliminary injunction to block the law.
A federal judge heard arguments from the lawyers for the Justice Department and Arizona on Thursday and could rule at any time.
The fight over the Arizona law has complicated the White House's effort to break the deadlock with Republicans in Congress to pass a comprehensive immigration law, an already difficult task before November's elections.
While the law targets undocumented migrants, legal residents and their U.S.-born children are getting caught up in the rush to leave Arizona.
Mexican housewife Gabriela Jaquez, 37, said she is selling up and leaving for New Mexico with her husband, who is a legal resident, and two children born in Phoenix.
"Under the law, if you transport an illegal immigrant, you are committing a crime," she said as she sold children's clothes at a yard sale with three other families. "They could arrest him for driving me to the shops."
Lunaly Bustillos, a legal resident from Mexico, hoped to sell some clothes, dumbbells and an ornamental statue on Sunday before her family heads for Albuquerque, New Mexico, on Monday.
"It makes me sad and angry too because I feel I have the right to be here," said Bustillos, 17, who recently graduated from high school in Phoenix.
(Reuters) – U.S. National Guard troops will begin arriving along the border with Mexico on August 1 to bolster security as the Obama administration tries to stem the flow of illegal immigrants, weapons and narcotics, officials said on Monday.
About 300 Customs and Border Protection agents and officers also will be sent to the border region, along with additional helicopters and other surveillance equipment, they said.
"The border is more resourced and more secure than it's ever been but the work continues and the challenge remains," said Alan Bersin, commissioner of the Customs and Border Protection agency.
The Obama administration has pledged to send up to 1,200 National Guard troops to the area for a year and to seek $600 million for, among other things, 1,000 new border patrol agents and unmanned aerial detection systems.
Violence along the border has been escalating in recent years. Bersin said illegal crossings have begun to fall while seizures of weapons and drugs have risen.
The largest share of the National Guard force — 524 troops — will go to Arizona, where state officials have complained bitterly about lack of security.
Legislators in Arizona have passed a strict law to try to crack down on illegal immigrants but the U.S. Justice Department is challenging it on the grounds that immigration is a federal issue.
While welcoming the Obama administration's measures, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer said it did not "appear to be enough or tied to a strategy to comprehensively defeat the increasingly violent drug and alien smuggling cartels" operating in the desert border state.
"We need the implementation of a federal plan to achieve victory over these brutal cartels and the porous nature of our open border," she said.
CHALLENGES HEAD TO COURT
The Obama administration goes to federal court on Thursday to try to block Arizona's new law, which requires state and local police to investigate the immigration status of anyone they reasonably suspect of being an illegal immigrant.
The Justice Department is among plaintiffs including civil rights and advocacy groups that have filed seven separate lawsuits seeking to block the law from taking effect on July 29.
A judge ruled on Monday that nine Latin American nations could join Mexico in a brief supporting one of the lawsuits. U.S. District Court Judge Susan Bolton agreed to let Ecuador, Argentina, Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Paraguay and El Salvador into the case, court officials said.
Arizona officials say the federal government has failed to address the problem of illegal immigration and the state had to pass its own law.
There are believed to be 10.8 million illegal immigrants in the United States, a country of more than 300 million people.
In addition to the troops, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency said it would focus more on Arizona, including opening an office to curb cross-border crime and sending more attorneys to the Tucson area to prosecute criminals who have illegally re-entered the United States.
Bersin said negotiations continued with the Mexican government about using unmanned aerial vehicles to conduct surveillance flights on Mexico's side of the border but that no agreement had yet been reached.
(CBS) New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson said Arizona'scontroversial new immigration law will spread to other states if it is not successfully challenged in federal court.
Richardson, the nation's only Hispanic governor, told CBS' "Face the Nation" that the law is bitterly divisive, and many other states will try to pass similar bills next year.
"There are at least 10 other states with bills that are out there," Richardson told host Bob Schieffer. "What you're going to see is potentially a constitutional crisis with so many states taking what should be a federal responsibility."
Richardson said he understood Arizona's "frustration" because the country does not have comprehensive immigration reform.
But J. D. Hayworth, who is running against incumbent Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) for the Republican nomination in the U.S. Senate race in Arizona, said the law is the state's attempt to enforce federal immigration policies in light of neglect from the Obama administration.