Breaking News:Dangerous Delays: What Washington State (Re)Teaches Us About Cash and Cannabis Store Robberies [REPORT]

Immigration

RSS Feed for this category

US/Mexico Drug War "Caravan of Peace" Gearing Up [FEATURE]

Aghast and appalled at the bloody results of Mexican President Felipe Calderon's war on drugs, which has resulted in at least 50,000 deaths since he deployed the military against the so-called drug cartels in December 2006 and possibly as many as 70,000, dozens of organizations in Mexico and the US announced Monday that they will take part in a "Caravan for Peace" that will journey across the US late this summer in a bid to change failed drug war policies on both sides of the border.

caravan launch at Museo Memoria y Tolerancia, Plaza Juárez, Mexico City (@CaravanaUSA @MxLaPazMx)
Led by Mexican poet Javier Sicilia, who was spurred to action by the murder of his son by cartel members in Cuernavaca in 2010, and the Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity (MPJD) he heads, the caravan will depart from San Diego on August 12 and arrive in Washington on September 10 after traveling some 6,000 miles to bring to the American people and their elected officials the bi-national message that failed, murderous drug war policies must end.

The caravan will be underway in between presidential elections in the two countries. Mexico will choose a successor to Calderon on July 1, and whoever that successor is, will be re-tooling its fight against the drug cartels. By late summer, the US presidential campaign will be in full swing, and advocates hope to have at least some impact on that as well.

The caravan builds on similar efforts last year in Mexico. Led by Sicilia and other relatives of drug war victims, one caravan of more than 500 people left Cuernavaca and traveled north through 15 cities to Ciudad Juarez, one of the epicenters of prohibition-related violence in Mexico. A second caravan left Mexico City with 700 people traveling south through 21 cities. Those caravans helped turn what was an amorphous fear and dismay among Mexicans at the violence into a political movement that has put the issue of the drug wars and their victims squarely on the Mexican political agenda.

"The war on drugs has had painful consequences for our country, such as corruption and impunity," said Sicilia at a Mexico City press conference. "The proof of this is that Mexico has seen over 70,000 deaths and 10,000 disappearances, and this is closely linked to US regional security policies, which have sparked widespread areas of violence, human rights violations, and the loss of the rule of law. The drug war has failed," he said bluntly.

"On August 12, Mexicans will come to the US and cover a route of 25 cities in one month," Sicilia continued. "Our message is one of peace, and our journey will be peaceful with an open heart and the hope of speaking with each other. We believe the harm we live is linked to the failed policies we want to change."

"Regarding policies on the war on drugs, we propose the need to find a solution with a multidimensional and international approach that places the dignity of the individual at the center of drug policy," Sicilia said. "We call on both Mexican and US civil society to open and maintain a dialogue on evidence-based alternatives to prohibition and to consider various options for regulating drugs."

Javier Sicilia on CNNMéxico
For Sicilia and the caravan, drug policy is inextricably tied to other policies and issues that affect both sides of the border. The caravan is also calling for a ban on the importation of assault weapons to the US (because they then end up being exported to Mexican criminals), a higher priority for concentrating on money laundering, an end to US immigration policies that have resulted in the militarization of the border and the criminalization of immigrants, and a refocusing of US foreign policy to emphasize human rights while suspending US military aid to Mexico.

The broad range of interrelated issues is helping build a broad coalition around the caravan. Groups concerned with the border, immigrant rights, human rights, racial justice, and labor are all coming on board.

"Forty years ago, then President Nixon inaugurated the war on drugs, and we've not won the war on drugs -- the only thing we've achieved is being the world's leader in incarceration," said Dr. Niaz Kasravi, with the NAACP criminal justice program. "Through these policies, we've also promoted violence and death for those caught up in the drug war in the US and Mexico. In the US, those who have borne the brunt of it have been people of color. The war on drugs hasn't made our communities safer, healthier, or more stable, but has resulted in the mass incarceration of people of color, a de facto Jim Crow. We are in a violent state of emergency that must end, and we stand committed to ending the war on drugs."

"We emphasize the dignity and humanity of immigrants in the US," said Oscar Chacon of the National Alliance of Latin American and Caribbean Communities (NALACC), "and when we were invited to consider joining the caravan, we identified with it as a cause of our own. We see our issues reflected throughout the caravan. Policies that emphasize militarization and authoritarianism and enforcement and punishment have human rights violations as their natural results. We see in the caravan an opportunity to write a new chapter in our initiatives to highlight the value of respect for all human life and we will use our participation to further educate Latino and immigrant communities about the relationship between policy decisions made in Washington and the sad effects they can have -- in this case, particularly for our Mexican brothers and sisters."

"Prior to coming here, I did not know the extent of the pain, sorrow, and suffering of the families here in Mexico," said Neill Franklin, head of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. "There are so many orphans, so many families being attacked. Families and future generations are also under attack in my country, with drive-by shootings and running gun battles in the streets of our big cities. Most of those targeted by the drug war here are blacks and Latinos; we have many broken families and communities because of these policies. This caravan will unite our people, our pain, and our solutions in an effort to save our sons and daughters."

"This is a historic moment and one of great necessity," said Ted Lewis of Global Exchange. "The caravan arrives between two presidential elections, and that's intentional, not because we have electoral ends, but because we want the message to be heard on both sides of the border. This is a truly binational effort, and it is very important that leaders on both sides of the border take this message deeply into account as they organize in Mexico a new administration and as they campaign here in the US. This issue must be dealt with now."

Also on board is Border Angels, a San Diego-based group best known for leaving caches of water in the desert to help save the lives of undocumented immigrants heading north. The group has long been critical of increased border enforcement efforts such as Operation Gatekeeper, which have pushed those immigrants away from urban areas and into harsh and unforgiving environments as they seek to make their way to a better life.

"Operation Gatekeeper has led to more than 10,000 deaths since 1994," said the group's Enrique Morones. "Two people die crossing the border every day, but they are also dying south of the border. Now, we see a new wave of migration to escape the terrible violence in Mexico, the country of my parents, and that's why we are joining this movement for peace in this historic caravan. We have told both Obama and Calderon that human rights, love, and peace have no borders. We demand peace, justice, and dignity."

"I think this will really have a significant impact," said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance. "It's going to be a pivotal moment, just a month after the Mexican elections and just a few months before the US elections. I don't think drugs will be a major issue, but it will be bubbling up from time to time."

The caravan will seek to raise awareness on both sides of the border, Nadelmann said.

"Americans need to be aware of the devastation in Mexico from the combination of US demand and our failed prohibitionist policies," he said. "It's also important that Mexicans understand the devastating consequences of the war on drugs in the US -- the arrests and incarceration, the evisceration of civil rights. This mutual understanding is a pivotal part of what we're trying to accomplish."

"I hope the message will come through that change is needed on both sides of the border," Nadelmann continued. "We've seen the failures of prohibition on both sides, but the biggest impetus has to come from the US through legal regulation of marijuana and more innovative policies to reduce demand -- not from locking up more people, but by providing effective drug treatment and allowing people addicted to drugs to get them from legal sources. We need a fundmentally different approach, and this caravan will be a leap forward in understanding the consequences of failed prohibition."

Mexico City
Mexico

Looming Dutch Khat Ban Draws Criticism, Complaints

The Dutch conservative coalition government has signaled since January that it intended to prohibit khat, the mild stimulant plant from the Horn of Africa, and now, indications are that the ban will happen soon. But the move is drawing heat from critics who charge it is based more on political considerations than hard science.

Yemeni chewing khat, 2009 (wikimedia.org)
The proposed khat ban is of a piece with the center-right government's moves to restrict access to Holland's famed cannabis coffee shops -- it plans to ban foreigners from some border coffee shops as early as next month -- and its decision to treat hashish as a hard drug.

In Holland, which has seen increasing tension around issues of immigration and assimilation, khat is used almost exclusively by the Somali immigrant community. The center-right government has argued that khat use impedes Somalis' integration into Dutch society and that 10% of the Somali community is addicted to it.

A proposal to prohibit khat awaits only a discussion -- no vote needed -- in parliament before it becomes law. While drug policy is typically handled by the Dutch justice and health ministries, the khat ban is the initiative of migration and asylum affairs Minister Gerd Leers.

"I'm involved in the ban because it appears to cause serious problems, particularly in the Somali community," he told Dutch radio in January. "They are lethargic and refuse to cooperate with the government or take responsibility for themselves or their families."

But according to the United Arab Emirates newspaper the National, scientists disagree with Leers about khat's impact and danger, and the Somali community, while cognizant of problems associated with khat use, sees the move as immigrant bashing.

"There is a sense that it may be more symbolic for political reasons rather than aimed at improving our situation," said Mohamed Elmi of FSAN, the umbrella organization of Somali associations. "You can regulate or register or you can handle the problems with distribution in another way," he said. "The Somali community has many problems that need to be tackled and I don't see them doing anything about those."

Elmi scoffed at the government's assertion that 10% of the 25,000 Somalis in the country have a khat problem, saying the number of khat users is half that and "only a handful" are problem users.

Researchers at the Netherlands Institute for Mental Health and Addiction backed Elmi's stand. They studied khat use for the government and reported the number of problem khat users as several hundred, but added that in many of those cases, in was khat in combination with hard drugs or alcohol to blame.

"We made very different recommendations based on our study," said study coauthor Clary van der Veen. "The large group of social users is not a problem. You may need to inform them better and point out the long-term effect, just like with smoking and drinking," she said. She also questioned whether a ban on khat would truly help the integration of Somali immigrants. "In countries where khat has been banned, the integration of Somalis is not faring better," she said.

The government's ban is also drawing criticism from the former head of the Dutch police union, Hans van Duijn, who has become a prominent critic of both the Dutch government's "lurch to the right" and the war on drugs. That the idea of the ban is to help integrate Somalis was "nonsense," he said, as were government claims it was responding to pressure from other European countries where khat is illegal.

"They are using a lot of misleading arguments, such as recently when the center-right argued for a ban on the sale of hashish because it was said to benefit North-African criminal gangs and the Taliban. As if by banning the sale of hashish in Dutch coffee shops this would end," he said.

And prohibition never works, anyway, van Duijn noted. "The dealers will try hard to find a solution because they now stand to make more money, which will not benefit the user. It is a mystery to me what the benefits are."

Netherlands

Review Essay: The Border and Mexico's Drug Wars

Border Junkies: Addiction and Survival on the Streets of Juarez and El Paso, by Scott Comar (2011, University of Texas Press, 214 pp., $24.95 PB)

Border Wars, by Tom Barry (2011, MIT Press, 171 pp., $14.95 HB)

Dealing Death and Drugs: The Big Business of Dope in the US and Mexico, by Beto O'Rourke and Susie Byrd (2011, Cinco Puntos Press, 119 pp., $12.95 PB)

El Sicario: The Autobiography of a Mexican Assassin, edited by Molly Molloy and Charles Bowden (2011, Nation Books, 209 pp., $15.99 PB)

In addition to an ever-increasing death toll, now more than 50,000 since President Calderon sent in the army in December 2006, Mexico's drug wars are generating an increasing level of concern and interest in the US, including a burgeoning literature. Next week, we'll review a trio of new works that seek to describe the emergence and significance of the so-called cartels, but this week, we look at a quartet of books that focus on the drug wars (and the drug scene) along the border.

If there's anywhere in America more attuned to the Mexican drug wars -- by which I mean the prohibition-related violence among competing drug trafficking organizations, between them and Mexican law enforcement and the military, and, sometimes, even between different factions of the Mexican security apparatus -- it's El Paso, just across the Rio Grande from one of the epicenters of the drug trade and the violence, Ciudad Juarez.

That's reflected in these titles. One is written by a pair of El Paso politicians, two more are largely set in the El Paso-Ciudad Juarez bi-national metroplex, and the last covers the US border region of which El Paso is front and center. The view from El Paso, staring across the river at the killing and mayhem, can be frightening, but also enlightening.

In Dealing Death and Drugs, El Paso city council members Susie Byrd and Beto O'Rourke (he of the famous city council resolution calling for a discussion of legalization and now running for Congress) bring a home-town perspective on the drug wars, provide some lessons on the economics of the illicit marijuana business and present a concise, yet cogent, argument for legalizing weed as a means of weakening the cartels and reducing the violence.

Marijuana is critical for the cartels, Byrd and O'Rourke argue, because unlike cocaine, which must be purchased from producers elsewhere or methamphetamine, which requires imported precursor chemicals, the cartels control it from farm to market, generating profits each step of the way. They take you from the pot fields of the Sierra Madre Occidental, where a pound costs $23 to Juarez, where it goes for $73 a pound. Getting it past the border and into El Paso drives the price up to $240, and getting it past the Border Protection Service checkpoints a few miles into Texas gets it to its final US wholesale price of about $550 a pound.

US and Mexican law enforcement seized or eradicated 22 metric tons of Mexican weed in 2008, Byrd and O'Rourke note. That's as much as 90% of high end estimates of all the pot smoked in the US, which means either those estimates are way low or that the business is way profitable. And throwing billions of dollars at the problem through law enforcement hasn't helped.

Legalizing, regulating, and taxing the marijuana market is "the least bad" solution, Boyd and O'Rourke write. Their argument, like the book itself, is pithy, yet compelling, and, as Boyd notes in an afterword, even Calderon is starting to come around. But not yet most policymakers in the US.

With El Sicario, we take a deep, dark turn toward the underbelly of the Mexican drug wars. Border sage and drug war critic Charles Bowden and translator and Juarez body count keeper Molly Molloy bring the terrifying realities of the business into chilling focus through their interviews with a former cartel hitman now in hiding with a contract on his head. This may be the single scariest book I've read about the Mexican drug wars, not for its calm and collected accounts of horrifying acts of brutality, which can be truly stomach-turning, but for the picture it paints of absolutely corrupted and complicit law enforcement, including the military.

Can you imagine if you don't know whether that cop who just stopped you is going to write you a ticket or shoot you dead without warning, or kidnap and torture you because he's actually working for the cartels? That's the case in Mexico now. Our interlocutor in El Sicario attended the Chihuahua state police academy, rose to the rank of comandante, and underwent training by the FBI, all while carrying out killings, kidnappings, and tortures for the Juarez and Sinaloa cartels. Even more perversely, while he was running the anti-kidnapping squad for the state police, he was using police vehicles to kidnap people and transport drugs.

And he is by no means alone. According to the hit man, about a quarter of his graduating class at the police academy were on the cartel payroll -- from the very beginning of their law enforcement careers! The Mexican police are heavily salted with cartel men; it's a long-term business strategy that has paid handsomely for the cartels, but has absolutely shredded any trust the public has in state and local law enforcement there.

But it's not just rotten on the Mexican side of the border. The hit man details how he and his colleagues transported tens of millions of dollars worth of drugs across the border and how he personally paid a US Customs officer $50,000 to let cars full of drugs get through. El Sicario shows that dirty knows no borders, even if the cartels are smart enough to keep the blood-letting almost entirely south of the border.

But there are other ways US law enforcement is benefiting from the Mexican drug wars. In Border Wars, journalist and Center for International Policy analyst Tom Barry uses a series of interlocking essays to argue that since the September 2001 Al Qaeda attacks, the US has spent billions of dollars "securing the border" against a triple threat of illegal immigration, drugs, and terror, and has accomplished little good, quite a bit of bad, and plenty of stupid.

Barry opens with the death of Jesus Manuel Galindo, who died for lack of proper medical treatment in 2008 in a privately operated, publicly owned federal immigration prison in remote Pecos, Texas. He recalls that until 2006, we typically handled illegal immigration administratively, often simply deporting Mexicans back across the Rio Grande. But since then, the Bush administration began treating illegal immigration as a criminal matter, and now some 20,000 people languish in those distant prisons. Barry paints chilling, Kafkasque scenes of assembly-line "justice" where judges, prosecutors, and defense attorneys, all in the pay of the Us government, process dozens of shackled would-be immigrant laborers into the ever-expanding federal immigration detention system.

There is money to be made there, sucking off the federal teat, although more of it appears to go to lawyers, consultants, dealmakers and lobbyists than to the desperate rural towns hoping a private prison will provide them with a semblance of an economy. There's even more money to be made by border sheriffs and border state law enforcement entities in the seemingly endless billions of Department of Homeland Security dollars to fight drugs and terror.

Barry takes us to Texas and Arizona border counties where the numbers show little violent crime, but the sheriffs and politicians cry to high heaven about "spill over violence," Korans found on the border, and the threat of narco-Hezbollah conspiracies, for which there is no evidence. Some of these counties are among the poorest in the nation, lacking social and public services, yet in one of them, the sheriff's department is so awash in federal grant money that each deputy has two official vehicles, one patrol car and one SUV.

Along the way, he exposes the ugliness of border security politics and some of it practitioners, such as Govs. Rick Perry of Texas and Jan Brewer of Arizona, who use a politics of fear and hate to firm up support among their most reactionary supporters, who hype nonexistent violence on this side of the border, and who constantly tout their border security efforts "without help from Washington" even as they take in billions from Washington to pay for their loudly-touted initiatives. It's rank cynicism, opportunism, and hypocrisy at its worst, and Barry nails it.

For Barry, the central problem is our inability to enact comprehensive immigration reform, a goal always pushed further into the future as we "secure the border" first. And, he says, we have to separate national security from public safety. The gargantuan Department of Homeland Security should worry about terrorists; a separate Customs and Border Protection Service should deal with illegal immigration and drugs.

"The standard of success for our border policy shouldn’t be how completely sealed and secured our border is," he writes, "but rather how well it is regulated. New regulatory frameworks for immigration and drug consumption are fundamental prerequisites for a more cost-effective border policy." And a more sane and human one. 

Finally, with Border Junkies, University of Texas-El Paso borderlands historian Scott Comar takes us back to "the good old days" in Juarez, a decade ago, before the city earned its blood-drenched reputation. In an eye-opening work of auto-ethnography, Comar tells mainly his own story of his descent into abject addiction, in which he moved with appalling speed from owning his own moving truck to panhandling on the streets to feed his habit.

In telling his own story, though, Comar unveils a never-before-written-about world, that of the street junkies of Juarez. His account, based largely on his journal entries, details the day-to-day struggle of the border junkies, the strategies they adopt to survive and score -- and not necessarily in that order -- the kinship and friendship networks that envelop them, the heroin distribution systems that feed their insatiable appetites. For those with a taste for anthropological examinations of the junkie life, this is fascinating stuff, right up there with the work of Philippe Bourgois.

Border Junkies is notable in one other respect: I don't think there is one mention of the cartels in it. Comar recounts constant harassment by the Juarez police (and the El Paso police, too) and petty corruption, he mentions that some of his fellows belonged to gangs, though only passingly, but the existence of the cartels, the source of their dope, is so distant from their daily lives that it is as if they don't exist.

Of course, that was before the death toll in Juarez started climbing to thousands every year. Now those street gangs that in Comar's time seemed to be engaged mainly in minor thuggery, a little smuggling, and posing with pistols have, in the pressure cooker of the Mexican drug wars, morphed into true killing machines like Barrio Azteca, the Artist Assasins, and La Linea. Those guys who quietly peddled smack on the corners or out of their houses in Comar's day died by the hundreds when the violence swept through just a few years later.

Wretched as the border junkie's existence is, it is doable. Comar did it for three years, commuting over the river to panhandle in El Paso, then back across to cop and nod. It was a gritty, miserable existence, but Comar makes it seem almost routine, banal. And, along the way, he has some interesting things to say about addiction and recovery, too.

Perhaps it's fitting to end with the image of the junkie straddling the border, because the root causes of Mexico's drug wars certainly do. Whether it's America's never-ending appetite for Mexican weed, the cartels' addiction to money and power, their alcohol and cocaine-numbed killers, or border state and federal law enforcement's addiction to immigration/drugs/terror funding booty, it's all entangled there on the line.

Mexico may be another country and, thankfully, the violence, at least, remains on that side so far, but we are all in this together. Legalizing marijuana or even ending drug prohibition in the US won't make the cartels magically disappear, but failing to do so will only ensure that they grow ever more entrenched, while continuing to provide sustenance to malign political forces and authoritarian, if not downright Orwellian, policing tendencies here.

High-Ranking RI Lawmaker Faces Drug Charge

Localização: 
RI
United States
State Rep. Robert Watson (R-East Greenwich), the House Minority Leader, who criticized the Legislature by invoking the image of pot-smoking immigrants is facing drug charges in Connecticut.
Publication/Source: 
The Associated Press
URL: 
http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5hQZTY6cZDqZGZoIuK0j-liVXqnNw?docId=752ae20652cb4175b982874a8adfb094

230,000 Displaced by Mexico Drug Prohibition War, Half May Have Come to the United States

Localização: 
Mexico
A new study by the Swiss-based Internal Displacement Monitoring Center that at least 230,000 people have been displaced in Mexico because of drug prohibition violence and that about half of them may have taken refuge in the United States.
Publication/Source: 
Fox News (US)
URL: 
http://www.foxnews.com/world/2011/03/25/report-230000-displaced-mexico-drug-war-1121351146/

Agent Fired for Legalization Views Sues Border Patrol

The US Border Patrol is being sued by a former agent who was fired in 2009 after expressing opinions in support of drug legalization and of sympathy for illegal immigrants to a coworker. In a lawsuit filed in US district court for the Western District of Texas in El Paso last week, former agent Bryan Gonzalez, 26, alleges he was fired for exercising his First Amendment rights to free speech.

Bryan Gonzalez (r) graduates from the Border Patrol Academy (Image courtesy Bryan Gonzalez via ACLU-NM)
Gonzalez was fired just before finishing his two-year probationary period with Customs and Border Protection's El Paso sector. That sector includes New Mexico and West Texas, and the ACLU of New Mexico (ACLU-NM) has taken up Gonzalez' case.

"Firing a public servant because of their political opinions is an egregious violation of the First Amendment," the ACLU-NM said in a press release. "We cannot require nor should we expect uniformity of thought within our law enforcement institutions. Purging the ranks of government employees who fail 'ideological purity' tests is about as un-American as it gets."

According to the ACLU-NM, things went south for Gonzalez after a conversation with a coworker: "Gonzalez pulled his vehicle up next to a fellow CBP agent who was in the same vicinity," the group said. "In the course of a casual discussion concerning the drug-related violence in Mexico, Gonzales remarked that he believed that legalization of drugs would be the most effective way to end the violence. He also related to the other agent that, as a former dual US-Mexican citizen, he understood the economic factors that drive migrants to cross the border without documentation to seek work," the group explained.

"Word of Gonzalez’s opinions on these matters quickly spread to his supervisor, who informed the Joint Intake Command in Washington, DC. Internal Affairs launched an investigation soon after, and the Border Patrol terminated Gonzalez in October 2009," the ACLU-NM noted.

In his termination letter, the agency wrote that Gonzalez held "personal views that were contrary to the core characteristics of Border Patrol agents, which are patriotism, dedication, and esprit de corps."

"I was terminated not because my service was inadequate, but because I hold certain opinions that are shared by millions of my fellow Americans," said Gonzalez. "I am no less patriotic or dedicated to excellence in my work because I respectfully disagree with some of our current border enforcement policies. It was wrong for the US Border Patrol to retaliate against me for exercising my free speech rights guaranteed by the very Constitution I swore to uphold."

Gonzalez is gaining support from at least one law enforcement group. Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP). LEAP issued a statement Tuesday saying it stood by Gonzalez.

"There's no doubt that the so-called 'war on drugs' is a gigantic failure and that it causes violence, hurts our economy and forces dedicated law enforcers to risk their lives in the line of fire for a lost cause," said Terry Nelson, a former US Border Patrol agent who is now a board member for LEAP. "But whether you think we should legalize drugs or not, you have to support the right of brave law enforcers like Bryan Gonzalez to exercise the First Amendment and share their views on policies that impact them on a daily basis."

Gonzalez and the ACLU-NM are asking the court to find that the Border Patrol violated his First Amendment free speech rights and are seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.

El Paso , TX
United States

Mexico Massacre: How the Drug War is Pushing Cartels Into Human Trafficking

Localização: 
Mexico
Drug traffickers are increasingly diversifying their illicit activities and targeting more than just rival criminal gangs.
Publication/Source: 
The Christian Science Monitor (MA)
URL: 
http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Americas/2010/0830/Mexico-massacre-How-the-drug-war-is-pushing-cartels-into-human-trafficking

Mexico Drug War Update

by Bernd Debusmann, Jr.

Mexican drug trafficking organizations make billions each year smuggling drugs into the United States, profiting enormously from the prohibitionist drug policies of the US government. Since Mexican president Felipe Calderon took office in December 2006 and called the armed forces into the fight against the so-called cartels, prohibition-related violence has killed more than 28,000 people, the government reported this month. The increasing militarization of the drug war and the arrest of dozens of high-profile drug traffickers have failed to stem the flow of drugs -- or the violence -- whatsoever. The Merida initiative, which provides $1.4 billion over three years for the US to assist the Mexican government with training, equipment and intelligence, has so far failed to make a difference. Here are a few of the latest developments in Mexico's drug war:

municipal building, San Fernando, Tamaulipas
Thursday, August 19

In Ciudad Juarez, 12 people were killed in various parts of the city. In one case, a man on a bus was killed after being shot by another passenger, who was apparently following him and waiting for an opportune moment to strike. In another incident, a group of armed men stormed a house, killing one man and leaving a woman and a child wounded.

Friday, August 20

In Monterrey, two private security guards were killed after a shootout in front of the prestigious American School Foundation, known for educating the children of many wealthy locals and those of American expatriates. The gun battle apparently began after the guards had a verbal altercation with a group of armed men who were driving near the school. Four guards who disappeared under unclear circumstances during the gunfight turned up safely on Friday. It is unclear whether the men fled or were kidnapped by the gunmen, as has been reported in the Mexican media.

Saturday, August 21

In El Paso, a bullet fired during a gunfight in Ciudad Juarez struck a building belonging to the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP). At least eight rounds fired in Ciudad Juarez have struck buildings in El Paso in recent weeks.

Sunday, August 22

In Cuernavaca, four bodies were discovered hanging from a bridge. The bodies had been decapitated and mutilated, and their genitals had been removed. A note left at the scene indicated that the men were affiliated with American-born cartel figure Edgar Valdez Villareal, who is currently in a power struggle with Hector Beltran-Leyva for control of the Beltran-Leyva Organization. Cuernavaca has seen a dramatic surge in violence since cartel boss Arturo Beltran-Leyva was killed in December, leaving his organization leaderless.

Monday, August 23

In Hidalgo, seven bodies were discovered inside two mines that were being used as clandestine graves by suspected drug cartels. Authorities were led to the mine by several suspects arrested last week, including three police officers. In May, a similar discovery in Taxco led to the discovery of 55 bodies.

In Ciudad Juarez, five people were killed in several incidents in the city. Among the dead was a federal police officer who had been decapitated, dismembered, and whose body parts were left strewn along a highway. In another incident, a municipal policewoman was shot dead off-duty as she drove in a car with her child, who was left uninjured.

Tuesday, August 24

In Tamaulipas, 72 bodies were discovered at a farm after a gun battle in San Fernando, about 100 miles from Brownsville, Texas. The bodies were discovered by Marines acting on a tip from a man who claimed he was an illegal migrant who had been kidnapped. Initial reports suggest that the dead are mainly Central American immigrants who were killed after refusing to pay an extortion fee. Drug cartels, particularly the Zetas Organization which is powerful in Tamaulipas, have increasingly begun kidnapping migrants in addition to narcotics smuggling.

Near Acapulco, two bodies were discovered hanging from an overpass bridge on the highway from Chilpancingo. Their arms had been chopped off and a note was left with the bodies threatening extortionists, kidnappers, and the army.

In Mexico City, investigators from the UN and the OAS said that Mexico was the most dangerous place for journalists in the Americas. Some 60 journalists have been killed in the country since 2,000, according to the National Human Rights Commission.

Wednesday, August 25

In Sinaloa, three young men were found dead inside a car near the town of Las Palmas. All three had been reported missing on Sunday. At least one of the bodies, found in the trunk of the car, had signs of torture. All three had been shot.

Total Body Count for the Week: 301

Total Body Count for the Year: 7,331

Read the previous Mexico Drug War Update here.

San Fernando, TAM
Mexico

Drug Offenses 1/3 of US Criminal Deportations, DHS Says

Update: When published, this article incorrectly reported that aliens in the US face deportation for even a single marijuana possession misdemeanor. No, it takes two misdemeanor marijuana possession offenses to do that. We have modified the article accordingly. 

The United States last year deported more than 128,000 foreigners for committing crimes in the US, with people convicted of drug offenses making up nearly one-third of the total, according to a Department of Homeland Security report released last week. Some 37,000 foreign nationals were deported for drug offenses in fiscal year 2009, the report found, or 29.6% of all those deported under the criminal alien removal program.

Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) photo
Under US immigration laws non-citizens can be deported for any drug offense, except the simple possession of marijuana--although a second pot possession offense qualifies as deportable. The report supplies no breakdown of how many people were deported for which drug offenses.

The number of people deported for drug offenses was nearly double the second and third place offense categories. More than 20,000 people were deported for traffic violations and more than 19,000 were deported for immigration offenses.

Persons convicted of what are commonly considered serious crimes (assault, larceny, burglary, robbery, fraud, sexual assault) made up only 20.7% of those deported. "Family offenses" accounted for another 2%, while the category "other" included 16.5%.

Overall deportations are down from last year, with 290,000 people being removed by July 22, the agency reported. At the same time last year, 322,000 had been deported. But the percentage of people deported for committing crimes is up to nearly 50% this year, compared to 30% for the same period last year.

The Obama administration's push against criminal immigrants has been criticized both by advocates of tougher immigration policies, who applaud the crackdown on criminals but want to see it extended to non-criminal aliens, and by immigration rights activists for deporting more people than the Bush administration and deporting people, including some who have spent their entire lives here, for minor criminal offenses.

Washington, DC
United States

Congress Approves $600 Million for More Cops, Drones on Mexico Border [UPDATED]

(This is an updated version, posted August 11, of an article originally published on August 7.)

Acting to fulfill a June request from President Obama, the Senate last Thursday approved spending $600 million to increase the law enforcement presence on the US-Mexico border. The House earlier approved a $701 million version of the bill, and Tuesday moved on a voice vote to accept the Senate version.

military drone planes
The Obama request was largely a response to the meltdown over immigration in Arizona and calls to "secure the border" from Republicans. It also reflected heightening concern about the prohibition-related violence bloodying the Mexican side of the border. Last year, Obama had vowed to pass comprehensive immigration reform, but at this point, all that's left is more money for law enforcement.

The Senate bill, sponsored by Sens. Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Claire McCaskill (D-MO) provides funds for purchasing more unmanned drone surveillance aircraft ($32 million), 1,000 new Border Patrol agents to form a rapid-deployment unit ($129 milllion), as well as another 250 agents each for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE ($50 million) and Border Protection ($29 million).

Then there's $10 million for investigators to stop corruption in the Border Patrol and ICE, $14 million for communications equipment for new officers, $6 million for forward operating bases near the border, $30 for border interdiction, $8 million for a federal law enforcement training center, $10 million for federal judiciary resources for increased caseloads, $196 million for the Department of Justice, $13 million for border area US Attorneys, $8 million for more US Marshals along the border, and $7 million for border processing of apprehended drug and human traffickers.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms gets $37 million in the border beef-up, the DEA gets $34 million, and the FBI gets $24 million. And then there's another $21 million for "interagency crime and drug law enforcement along the border," another $20 million for a federal prison system for immigration criminals, and, finally, $2.1 million to "expedite" the deportation of aliens along the border.

The Senate bill pays for the spending by imposing a new tax on companies that hire foreign workers. Companies affected would be those that hire more than 50 H1B or L visa foreign workers.

"What a relief that the Senate is still capable of passing measures that are really needed without playing political games," McCaskill said Thursday after the vote. "America must do a better job of securing our borders. This bill will help in a big way."

"This bipartisan effort shows we are serious about making the border more secure than ever. Now our attention must turn to comprehensive reform, which is the only way to fully address the problem of illegal immigration," said Schumer, the chairman of the Senate Immigration Subcommittee.

And so the show goes on, just as the flows of drugs and immigrants go on.

Washington, DC
United States

Drug War Issues

Criminal JusticeAsset Forfeiture, Collateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Court Rulings, Drug Courts, Due Process, Felony Disenfranchisement, Incarceration, Policing (2011 Drug War Killings, 2012 Drug War Killings, 2013 Drug War Killings, 2014 Drug War Killings, 2015 Drug War Killings, 2016 Drug War Killings, 2017 Drug War Killings, Arrests, Eradication, Informants, Interdiction, Lowest Priority Policies, Police Corruption, Police Raids, Profiling, Search and Seizure, SWAT/Paramilitarization, Task Forces, Undercover Work), Probation or Parole, Prosecution, Reentry/Rehabilitation, Sentencing (Alternatives to Incarceration, Clemency and Pardon, Crack/Powder Cocaine Disparity, Death Penalty, Decriminalization, Defelonization, Drug Free Zones, Mandatory Minimums, Rockefeller Drug Laws, Sentencing Guidelines)CultureArt, Celebrities, Counter-Culture, Music, Poetry/Literature, Television, TheaterDrug UseParaphernalia, Vaping, ViolenceIntersecting IssuesCollateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Violence, Border, Budgets/Taxes/Economics, Business, Civil Rights, Driving, Economics, Education (College Aid), Employment, Environment, Families, Free Speech, Gun Policy, Human Rights, Immigration, Militarization, Money Laundering, Pregnancy, Privacy (Search and Seizure, Drug Testing), Race, Religion, Science, Sports, Women's IssuesMarijuana PolicyGateway Theory, Hemp, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Marijuana Industry, Medical MarijuanaMedicineMedical Marijuana, Science of Drugs, Under-treatment of PainPublic HealthAddiction, Addiction Treatment (Science of Drugs), Drug Education, Drug Prevention, Drug-Related AIDS/HIV or Hepatitis C, Harm Reduction (Methadone & Other Opiate Maintenance, Needle Exchange, Overdose Prevention, Pill Testing, Safer Injection Sites)Source and Transit CountriesAndean Drug War, Coca, Hashish, Mexican Drug War, Opium ProductionSpecific DrugsAlcohol, Ayahuasca, Cocaine (Crack Cocaine), Ecstasy, Heroin, Ibogaine, ketamine, Khat, Kratom, Marijuana (Gateway Theory, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Medical Marijuana, Hashish), Methamphetamine, New Synthetic Drugs (Synthetic Cannabinoids, Synthetic Stimulants), Nicotine, Prescription Opiates (Fentanyl, Oxycontin), Psilocybin / Magic Mushrooms, Psychedelics (LSD, Mescaline, Peyote, Salvia Divinorum)YouthGrade School, Post-Secondary School, Raves, Secondary School