Tomsheck’s SAREX

The SAREX program initiated by Mr. James Tomsheck in March 2011, and supervised by Janine Corrado and Jeffrey Matta at the Integrity Program Division, is another example of Customs and Border Patrol Internal Affairs breaking federal law and agency policy in the name of protecting us from alleged criminal behavior by Customs and Border Patrol employees.

SAREX, under the leadership of Mr. James Tomsheck at CBP IA, quickly went out of control, infringing upon the privacy rights of thousands of CBP employees.

As such, SAREX is one more example of Mr. Tomsheck’s poor leadership and data management while he was the senior executive at CBP IA from 2006 to 2104. Mr. Tomsheck apparently felt that his SAREX program was not bound by either federal law or federal policies and procedures.

Posted in CBP Internal Affairs

The Unusual Border Deaths

On October 25th, 2012, two illegal immigrants from Guatemala, Jose Leonardo Coj Cumar and Marco Antonio Castro, died from shots fired by a Texas Department of Public Safety Trooper.  Trooper Miguel Avila also wounded a third immigrant. What is “unusual” about this incident is that all three, Cumar, age 32, and Estrada, 29, and a third illegal immigrant who was wounded were all riding in the back of a moving truck.  And Trooper Avila, when he pulled the trigger of his rifle, fired from a hovering Texas DPS helicopter.

The Texas DPS claims that its helicopter sharpshooter was just trying to shoot the tires of the fleeing vehicle.  The truck’s driver, just 14 years of age, had refused to pull over when Texas Parks and Wildlife game wardens approached the vehicle.  Game wardens mistakenly believed the truck was full of drugs hidden under the tarp in back when, in fact, it was filled with illegal immigrants.

The second aspect of this incident which is “unusual” is that Texas DPS policy on October 25th, 2012, allowed trained snipers to shoot from helicopters at moving vehicles.  Since that time this policy has been rescinded but, according to the Texas DPS, the change in policy was not the result of the two fatalities and the wounding of a third illegal immigrant.

It is now June and this incident is indeed becoming very “unusual”.  No grand jury has as yet heard any evidence.  The District Attorney of Hidalgo County, Rene Guerra, blames the New Mexico ballistics lab for not completing forensic tests.  Guerra first announced the grand jury would hear the evidence on the deaths of Cumar and Castro in Febuary, 2013.

District Attorney Rene Guerra is the same official who made very interesting statements last Saturday night on a CNN Anderson Cooper Special  Report “The Beauty and the Priest”.  Guerra, who has been the District Attorney for Hidalgo County for 30 years, firmly believes that there is no sufficient evidence to bring to trial a priest who allegedly raped and killed a parishioner in 1960 despite what Cooper’s report asserted was new evidence.

However, in April Guerra did announce he would prosecute the 14-year-old truck driver as an adult.

Even in south Texas seven months is much too long a time to wait for justice for the two undocumented workers who are dead and the third who is wounded.

Posted in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)

Fundamentals about Immigration We Should Never Forget

There will undoubtedly be colorful debate in the Senate next month as the Judiciary Committee voted yesterday to approve the new immigration policy proposed by the Gang of Eight. The 13 to 5 bipartisan vote was no small political achievement in and of itself given the wide range of opinions on both side of the isle; the Senate committee alone faced 300 amendments to their legislation.

On the other hand, Congress and the President are in agreement that the current immigration policy in place, the 1986 artifact known as the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA), is badly broken and requires serious reform.  So it is timely to recall a few fundamental facts that get lost among all the talk by the immigration “experts”, many of whom appear to suffer from short-term memory loss.  And, as well, I offer three low-cost reforms that will greatly improve national security along our border with Mexico.

Any American historian worth their salt will remind us that we are a nation of immigrants.  Regardless of country of origin, immigrants over the course of the last three centuries have established a legacy of lasting contributions that have allowed the United States to excel on a variety of fronts.  But at the same time human nature, regardless of country of origin, has also repeated itself time and again in the form of blatant discrimination against new immigrants by those who came before them.  The Mayflower clearly must have had to been the size of the Titanic times ten to transport all of those Americans who now claim a heritage dating to Plymouth Rock.

But rarely, in spite of the viciousness of the stereotypes frequently directed at recent immigrants, have we made it so difficult, legally or illegally, for a fair shot at the American Dream. Those in Mexico who cannot qualify for the relatively small number of legal visas, nor bribe their way by way of the mordida, literally the bite, now face 24,000 Border Patrol Agents, drones, a 650 mile long wall that is in many places more than 20 feet high, sophisticated camera and sensor systems, and excruciating death from heat exhaustion.  Last year 463 illegal immigrants died just trying to illegally cross the Mexican border

A good part of this discrimination is the legacy of IRCA and the unwillingness of our national politicians to tackle a massive problem that simply will not go away.  Since President W. Bush was close to a labor management deal just before the events of 9/11, federal immigration initiatives have been few and far between.  One result of this federal lethargy is that state legislatures eventually moved into the political void.  But local politicians’ slew of legal answers to broken federal policy, beginning in Arizona and quickly spreading to both other border and non-border states, did little but further damage our weak economy and generate even more stereotypes about recent immigrants.

It is the so-called Dreamers, the children of illegal immigrants, who best seized the imagination of many Americans by simply revealing the core humanity of their lives in their new country.  Risking immediate deportation by identifying themselves as illegal, these sons and daughters of immigrants-who never themselves chose to immigrate-bravely began telling their individual stories to anyone who would listen.  Frequently crossing the border before they reached the age of ten, these children criminalized worked hard in public school to learn English and get good grades but then, after graduating from high school, ran squarely into a wall as thick as any concrete border buttress.  Coming out of the shadows en masse, all that these children of illegal immigrants asked for was a chance to continue to work hard and to build a secure, safe, and legal life in a place far different than their country of origin.

The story of the Dreamers, and the Obama’s presidential mandate allowing them to legally remain two years within our borders, is a story that most Americans found not just credible but compelling.  Again, unless you are a Native American or brought here as a slave, how could the personal stories of Dreamers not undermine the stereotypical sludge thrown at this generation of new immigrants? Dreamers were able to humanize the impact of bad federal immigration legislation and, in so doing, demonstrate that IRCA excelled at wasting human lives in a country whose history is filled by achievements of immigrants from Albert Einstein to Arnold Schwarzenegger.

As a nation of immigrants we should be proud of this legacy of achievements and contributions.  Next month when the Senate debates immigration reform, let us constantly remind our elected politicians of their responsibility to negotiate new immigration laws finally bringing sanity and fairness to all Americans and, as well, to those who would choose to become new Americans.

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Posted in Immigration

Seguridad en la Frontera: ¿Habrá sido real la balacera que mato a 40 en la Frontera de México?

Por Lee Maril (Traducido por Juan F. López)

Parece ser que solamente en la imaginación de los políticos en Washington es donde la violencia por el tráfico de drogas termina en la frontera de México. Un ejemplo: reporteros mexicanos, por miedo a perder sus vidas y temor por la seguridad de sus familiares, se han convertido cada vez más reacios a dar cobertura a la violencia y caos causado por los carteles de drogas.  Lo que ha ocurrido en meses recientes es que reporteros americanos en las ciudades de la frontera americana también hayan parado de reportar sobre la violencia relacionada a los carteles de drogas por las mismas razones que sus contrapartes mexicanas.

Mientras diferentes comités en el Senado y la Casa de Representantes continúan negociando las nuevas legislaciones de inmigración, el domingo, 10 de marzo, hubo una masacre en Reynosa, la cual debería darles un sentido de pausa a todos, incluyendo los más acérrimos defensores que dicen que la frontera mexicana es “segura”.    Reynosa es la ciudad gemela en la frontera de McAllen en el sur de Texas.

Ildefonso Ortiz reporto en el Brownsville Herald el 11 de marzo del 2013 que, “Miedo y pánico han llenado las calles de Reynosa el domingo en la noche cuando personas armadas batallaron durante una balacera de tres horas que vio armas automáticas  y granadas ser usadas”.  De acuerdo al mismo reportero, “Sorpresivamente, la autoridades mexicanas estuvieron ausente por la mayor parte del melé.”

Una fuente sobre la misma historia, un “oficial de la ley de Tamaulipas”, asegura que más de tres docenas de hombres murieron en la balacera y que es posible que otros hayan sido matados pero los criminales envueltos recogieron los cadáveres de sus compañeros armados.

Por el contrario, la Oficina de Procuraduría de Tamaulipas, de acuerdo a la misma historia, declaró que dos inocentes murieron el domingo y otro tuvo heridas.  También declaró que siete miembros del cartel fueron arrestados junto a veintidós vehículos que estuvieron involucrados en la balacera.

Mientras hay un número de blogueros que aparentan validar el alto número de muertos de Reynosa, absolutamente no hay ninguna historia al día de hoy en los diarios mexicanos u otros medios cual de credibilidad a este evento.  En los medios americanos solo hay un reporte de Ildefonso Ortiz.  Y nada más.  El público es dejado a seleccionar su historia:  murieron dos espectadores y un tercero fue herido durante el incidente en Reynosa o la escala de la violencia relacionada a las drogas en esta ciudad de la frontera se parece a la guerra de Siria.

La ausencia de reportajes completos y con credibilidad en los medios mexicanos no es inusual.  Por años los narcotraficantes han matados a muchos y todos los reporteros mexicanos que han reportado honestamente sobre el alcance y profundidad de la violencia de los carteles de drogas y su influencia en la sociedad mexicana.  El resultado final es que pocos reporteros mexicanos se sienten seguros de reportar lo que ocurrió el pasado domingo en la noche por miedo de sus vidas y las de sus familiares.  Más de un reportero de Reynosa se ha mudado a McAllen por razones de seguridad.

Pero lo que ha ocurrido en meses recientes es que reporteros americanos localizados en ciudades de la frontera americana también han dejado de reportar sobre la violencia relacionada a los carteles de drogas por las mismas razones que sus contrapartes.  Los reporteros americanos han parado de cruzar la frontera a ciudades como Reynosa por miedo a perder sus vidas en México y de la misma manera, cuando regresan al lado de la frontera americana.  La violencia por el tráfico de drogas para en la frontera mexicana, al parecer, en la imaginación de los políticos en Washington.

Ausentes también, han sido los reporteros regionales y nacionales que por alguna razón han decidido no reportar lo que sucedió la noche del domingo en Reynosa.  En ningún lugar del New York Times o del Washington Post, por ejemplo, aparece alguna mención de esta historia.  Los medios electrónicos han sido igual de silenciosos.

El resultado final de la casi completa ausencia de reporteros profesionales, mexicanos y americanos, es que lo que sea que haya ocurrido el pasado domingo en Reynosa ha sido, hasta el día de hoy, perdido para la conciencia humana y la memoria… como si no hubiese ocurrido.  Lo único que tenemos, aparte de la única historia por el reportero Ildefonso Ortiz, es una serie al azar de historias de blogueros, las cuales su confiabilidad siempre se cuestiona.  A la misma vez que la Seguridad de la Frontera ha subcontratado un métrica para que al fin y al cabo mida cuan “seguro” es nuestra frontera del sur con México, la realidad en la tierra sigue desafiando la lógica como la conocemos.  ¿Cómo puede alguna medida de seguridad, sin importar cuán decorado y matemáticamente complejo es, medir certeramente lo que está ocurriendo en la frontera cuando no hay,  por la casi completa ausencia de los medio profesionales, manera de separar los hechos de la ficción?

¿Que realmente sucedió el pasado domingo en Reynosa?  ¿Fue una masacre más allá de la imaginación o simplemente la muerte de dos espectadores?

Lo que haya pasado, importa.  Y nuestros políticos de ambos partidos deben considerar este vacío real de la verdad cuando escriben, negocian y debaten las nuevas legislaciones para arreglar nuestro quebrado sistema de inmigración.

Posted in Drug Cartels, En Espanol (Spanish Translations)

Mexican Border Deaths are a National Disgrace

The Border Patrol reported last week that 477 immigrants died attempting to gain illegal entry along our Mexican border.  According to the Border Patrol, this is a 27% increase over the preceding year.

Although fewer undocumented immigrants are seeking entry along our southern border, they have been strategically funneled to the “easiest” places to cross.  A number of traditional crossing areas have been fortified, sophisticated technology put in place to surveil potential crossers, and additional agents reassigned to the sectors.  In this and other ways illegal immigrant flows are directed to specific border areas including the Lower Rio Grande Valley of  south Texas.

The Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas saw the highest rise in immigrant fatalities according to the Border Patrol.  Individuals die in the Valley primarily because of heat exhaustion.  Frequently left to fend for themselves by their coyotes, they suffer from the heat and lack of water.  The same may be said for the region around Nogales where even those with enough water may die within 48 hours of exposure to the heat.  Particularly vulnerable are the elderly and children.

The Border Patrol statistics are an under-count of all those who annually die while trying to illegally cross our Mexican border.  All bodies or remains of bodies are not found for a variety of reasons including wild animals spreading the bones of the dead far from known trails.  Troubling also is the collection of these data are not meticulously gathered by an outside, independent agency with no self-interest in keeping the numbers low.

To its credit, the Border Patrol rescues hundreds of immigrants each year.  For this it should be commended but, at the same time, more resources must be devoted to saving lives along the borderline.

Although people keep dying along our southern border, is no one to blame?  For more than fifteen years, since data were first collected, more than 6,000 individuals have died while crossing the border.  We can do much better than this.  While our politicians negotiate new immigration laws, we can greatly reduce the number of deaths along our border if we demand more resources to save lives.

Every one of these deaths is a national disgrace that no American should tolerate.

Posted in Customs and Border Protection, Uncategorized

Was Reynosa Massacre Real?

According to the McAllen Monitor as reported by Ildefonso Ortiz on 3/11/13, “Fear and panic filled the streets of Reynosa on Sunday night as rival gunmen battled during a three-hour firefight that saw automatic weapons and grenades used.” According to this same reporter, “Surprisingly, Mexican authorities were absent for most of the melee.”

A source for this same story, a “Tamaulipas law enforcement official,” claims that more than three dozen men were killed in the shootout and that it is possible others were killed but the criminals involved retrieved the bodies of their fellow gunmen.

In sharp contrast, the Tamaulipas Attorney General’s Office, according to this same story, stated that two bystanders were killed Sunday night and one other person injured.  It also stated that seven cartel members were arrested along with 22 vehicles involved in the shootout.

The public is left to pick their story: either two bystanders were killed and a third injured during this incident in Reynosa, or the scale of the drug-related violence in this border city resembled the Syrian war.

The absence of full and creditable reporting in the Mexican media is not unusual.  For years the narco-trafficantes have been killing any and all Mexican journalists who report honestly about the scope and depth of the violence of the drug cartels and their influence throughout all of Mexican society.  The end result is that there are few Mexican journalists who feel secure enough to report on last Sunday night in Reynosa for fear of their own lives and the lives of their family members.  More than one Reynosa journalist has relocated to McAllen for reasons of safety.

Absent, too, are our own regional and national journalists who have, for whatever reasons, chosen not to report on whatever happened Sunday night in Reynosa.  Nowhere in the New York Times or the Washington Post, for instance, is there any mention of this story.  The electronic media have been just as silent.

The end result of the almost complete absence of professional journalists, both Mexican and American, is that whatever happened in Reynosa last Sunday night is, at least to date, lost to human conscience and memory…as if it never happened.   What we are left with, aside from the one story by reporter Ildefonso Ortiz, is a random series of eyewitness accounts by bloggers, the reliability of which always is in question.

What really happened last Sunday night in Reynosa?  Was it a massacre beyond the imagination or simply the random deaths of two bystanders?

What happened, whatever it was, matters.

Posted in Drug Cartels

Napolitano Declares El Paso Border Is Safe

Yesterday Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano declared the border at El Paso safe.  She relied on the statistics provided to her by Customs and Border Patrol as well as a national survey ranking El Paso as the “safest big city”.

There is little doubt that, on top of the recession, far fewer undocumented workers are illegally attempting to enter our country by way of the Mexican border.  CBP statistics over the last five years show a marked decline explained at least in part by an huge increase in the number of agents patrolling the line, a new border wall erected in strategic places along the border, and the increased use of surveillance drones.

However, there are at least two factors that went unmentioned at Secretary Napolitano’s press conference in El Paso.  The first is that illegal drugs are continuing to be smuggled into this country by Mexican drug cartels.  The vital indicator of their smuggling success is the price that drug users must pay in our cities far from the border.  That price, regardless of increased confiscation of illegal drugs, remains stable suggesting that while undocumented immigrants find it more difficult to illegally cross our border with Mexico, the crime syndicates have not been deterred.

Secondly, El Paso and San Diego may be the first and second safest big cities in our country, but human smuggling thrives is other areas all along the 2,000 miles of Mexican border.  No doubt Secretary Napolitano can visit selected border cities all she wants to make claims of security and safety, but she should also visit the Lower Rio Grande Valley of South Texas along with various communities in New Mexico and Arizona.  These towns, in contrast to El Paso and San Diego, are dangerous places in which to reside.

In spite of Secretary Napolitano’s assertions yesterday, the Mexican border is far from secure for residents not residing in El Paso or San Diego.  Secretary Napolitano’s statements about border security are not only misleading, but suggest to the general public that current Congressional efforts at immigration reform need no include increased funds for the safety and security of border residents.  Such funds, contrary to Secretary Napolitano’s security declarations, are in fact vital and necessary.

Posted in Border Security

Terrorists Beware: Americans Are Training on Resiliency Modules

On the same day that terrorists eleven years ago demolished the twin towers in New York, brought havoc to the Pentagon, and downed a passenger plane in the fields of Pennsylvania, I was still thinking about Sunday’s article in the New York Times titled “How Resilient Is Post-9 America?”  In a nutshell we learn from the reporters, Thom Shanker and Eric Schmitt, that the Department of Homeland Security is new vested in all things “resilient” including as it were the very word “resiliency”.

If a population is “resilient”, goes DHS’s thought process, then it can resist the worst terrorists have to offer and bounce back, so the DHS paradigm goes, from the worst of disasters.  Like the events of 9/11.

The U.S. military is apparently trying out a “resiliency” modular education program on their soldiers and the British even have a cabinet level position in “resiliency”.

So here we go again with the Starbuck’s brew of the day.  Do the officials at DHS watch too much late night infomercials?  Do they think that the latest trendy word is going to really prop us up after a real tragedy?  Do they really think that Americans after Katrina, or the tornado victims last year in Missouri, or the Oklahomans after the Alfred P. Murrah building all would have been better off  for their “resiliency” training?  I hope not.

Can “organic” training to ward off terrorists and their ilk be far behind?  How about “sustainability” training?  Or, perhaps inevitably, organ and sustainable resilience training to counter acts of domestic and international terrorism against our country? Sounds good.  Think I’ll go email the DHS right now about my new idea and, if they don’t soon reply, continue to sustain my own personal resiliency by approaching them in another more suitably organic fashion.

Posted in Department of Homeland Security

23 en un Camión

(A favor, comparte con amigos este blog sobre temas de la frontera, la immigracion, y eventos corrientes.  Translated by Jessie Hollingsworth originally posted 7/6/12.)

Mientras el “Undocu-bus” pasó por Denver, Colorado el viernes pasado en camino a la convención democrático en Charlotte, North Carolina, una persona sana puede preguntar que es todo el político.  Puede este grupo de inmigrantes indocumentos confesados cambiar los corazones y mentes de las demócratas en su convención nacional? Y el público como millas largas a North Carolina por muchos estados que reciente han pasado leyes contra la inmigración.

Son preguntas legitimas pero por el elefante en el cuarto que nadie quiere reconocer. El monstruo invisible es el archivo de gobierno federal sobre la inmigración desde el Congreso votó a pasar el Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) de 1986.

Ambos partidos admitan nuestra política de inmigración esta roto y tiene que fijarla, pero su inactividad de legislación esta superado por la retórica.  Aquí estamos mas de veinticinco años después de la IRCA y todavía los temas de la inmigración no han desaparecidos a pesar de la perezosa del gobierno federal y las leyes de los estados como la de Arizona, que son intentos a cambiar lo que dice el Tribunal Superior es un problema nacional.

A pesar del orden ejecutivo de Obama para guardar cientos de millones de niños de estar deportado, niños que les trajeron por sus padres quien son inmigrantes ilegales, el problema fundamental que nuestros legisladores federales año después de año fallan de dirigirse, no va a desaparecer.

Un ejemplo del sistema roto? Mientras la nación puso su atención en los asesinatos trágicos en Aurora, Colorado, y Oak Park, Wisconsin, un camión chocó cerca de Berclair en el parte sur de Texas.  Cargado con 23 pasajeros, 15 murieron en el acto y 8 mas murieron en el hospital.  Todos los ocupantes son de México o Honduras.  Una goma vieja es culpado por el choque que mató a 15 inmigrantes, pero el razón real no fue un camión pero una política nacional de la inmigración que le faltó.

Este accidente evitable perece pequeño de los 62 inmigrantes ilegales abandonados en el lado de la calle cerca de Victoria, Texas en mayo, 2003. Afortunadamente ellos pusieron en el camión pudieron contactar a los autoridades.  Pero no antes la muerte de 18 personas en la camión mientras los conductores manejaban sin saber en el Highway 77.

Desde empiezo las estadísticas en las 1990s, una medida de 450 personas cada año han muerto mientras cruzando ilegalmente en la frontera del sur de los EEUU.  Es probable que sea una subestima.

La punta del iceberg, los muertes la semana pasada en el sur de Texas, como es verdad de los que asfixiaron en el carrillo, son innecesarios y trágicos.  Los problemas con nuestro sistema de inmigración son muchos aunque los políticos continúan a hacer poco en relación al tema.  El improbable “Undocu-bus” es, menos un teatro política que un intento a poner presión en los políticos para sustituir IRCA con legislación atento enfrentando los temas de inmigración que cargan nuestro país.

Posted in En Espanol (Spanish Translations), The ELECTION

23 in One Pickup Truck

As the “Undocu-Bus” passed through Denver, Colorado, last Friday on its way to the Democratic Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, a reasonable person might ask what all this political theater is really about.  Can this group of avowed undocumented workers really change the hearts and minds of the Democrats at their national convention? And the public as they travel long miles to North Carolina by way of many states which have passed recent anti-immigration laws?

These are legitimate questions but for the elephant in the room no one will acknowledge.  That invisible monster is the federal legislative record on immigration policy since the House and the Senate voted to pass the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) of 1986.

Both political parties admit our immigration policy is badly broken and must be fixed, but their legislative inaction is surpassed only by their rhetoric.  Here we are more than twenty-five years after IRCA and still all the immigration issues have not disappeared regardless of federal legislative sloth and states laws such as Arizona’s which are attempts to fix what the Supreme Court again reaffirmed recently is a national problem.

In spite of Obama’s June executive order to keep hundreds of thousands of children from being deported, children who were brought here by their parents who were illegal immigrants, the fundamental problems which our federal legislators have year after year failed to address simply will not go away.

One example of this busted immigration system?  While the nation’s attention was turned to the recent tragic shootings in Aurora, Colorado, and Oak Park, Wisconsin, a pickup truck crashed near the town of Berclair in south Texas.  Loaded with 23 passengers, 15 died at the scene while 8 others were hospitalized.  All occupants are illegal immigrants from Mexico or Honduras.  An old front tire is blamed for the truck crash killing 15 immigrants, but the real culprit is not a truck part but a failed national immigration policy.

Even this avoidable traffic accident is dwarfed by the 62 illegal immigrants abandoned by the side of the highway near Victoria, Texas, in May, 2003.  Luckily those stuffed into the back of this eighteen-wheeler were eventually able to contact authorities.  But not before 18 individuals died miserable deaths in the back of the trailer as drivers unknowingly motored by on Highway 77.

Since statistics were first kept in the mid-1990s, an average of 450 people every year have died while illegally crossing into the United States along the southern border.  Most likely this is an underestimate.

The tip of the iceberg, the deaths two weeks ago in south Texas, as is true of those who suffocated to death in the back of a tractor trailer, are as unnecessary as they are tragic.  The problems with our immigration system are many even as our federal legislators continue to do little in relation to the true scope and magnitude of the issues.  The improbable “Undocu-Bus” is, then, less political theater than a desperate attempt to pressure our politicians to replace IRCA with comprehensive, thoughtful legislation addressing all the immigration issues which burden our country.

Posted in Uncategorized