Border Agent Gets 2 Years in Prison for Rough Cuffing a Drug Smuggling Suspect

A U.S. Border Patrol agent has been sentenced to two years in prison for “improperly lifting the arms of a 15-year-old drug smuggling suspect” during an arrest where border agents found more than 150 pounds of marijuana being transported by illegal immigrants across the Rio Grande.

The Washington Times reports on the Justice Department’s case, which said the agent violated the drug-smuggling teenager’s constitutional right to be free from unreasonable force:

“Agent Jesus E. Diaz Jr. was named in a November 2009 federal grand jury indictment with deprivation of rights under color of law during an October 2008 arrest near the Rio Grande in Eagle Pass, Texas, in response to a report that illegal immigrants had crossed the river with bundles of drugs.

In a prosecution sought by the Mexican government and obtained after the suspected smuggler was given immunity to testify against the agent, Diaz was sentenced last week by U.S. District Judge Alia Moses Ludlumin San Antonio. The Mexican consulate in Eagle Pass had filed a formal written complaint just hours after the arrest, alleging that the teenager had been beaten.”

Photos showed no bruises or marks that indicated a beating on the suspect’s body, other than marks from the straps of the bag loaded with drugs that the suspect had been carrying.

Diaz is a seven year veteran of the Border Patrol, and had originally been cleared of charges by Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Office of Professional Responsibility. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Texas brought charges against Diaz, however, which led to the two year sentence.

The Law Enforcement Officers Advocates Council said the government’s case was “based on false testimony that is contradicted by the facts,” and that witnesses have made contradictory claims and later admitted to having perjured themselves.

Read more here.

Mexico Police Detain 15-Year-Old in Drug Murders

Prosecutors said Saturday that a 15-year-old boy has confessed to running a drug trafficking gang on the Mexican resort island of Isla Mujeres and murdering two women who reportedly worked as drug dealers.

It was the second time in less than a year that an extremely young male has been detained as a purported drug gang killer in Mexico. Last November, soldiers arrested a 14-year-old U.S. citizen who confessed to killing four people whose beheaded bodies were found hanging from a bridge.

Mexican officials say the involvement of youths in such crimes reflects the difficulty drug cartels are having in recruiting adults, but it also raise fears that Mexico’s drug violence may have accustomed young people to extreme levels of violence.

The Isla Mujeres cases involve a youth who prosecutors in the Caribbean coast state of Quintana Roo identified only by his nickname, “El Gallito” or “The Little Rooster”.

Heavily tattooed, El Gallito appears more mature than his age, prosecutors said.

State Attorney General Gaspar Garcia Torres said the boy claimed to have been in charge of the lucrative Isla Mujeres drug market for a local gang known as “Los Pelones,” equivalent to the Bald or Shaved Heads. The gang is reputedly fighting the Zetas cartel for control of the area around the coastal resort of Cancun.

A spokesman for the prosecutors office said the boy told investigators that he and two older associates slashed the throats of the two women at a hotel on Isla Mujeres. Their women’s bodies were found before dawn Thursday, and El Gallito was detained Friday.

Read more here.

At least 40 killed in Mexican Drug Wars in 24-hour period

Fighting among the Zetas gang and other vicious drug cartels led to the deaths of more than 40 people whose bodies were found in three Mexican cities over a 24-hour span, a government official said Saturday.

At least 20 people were killed and five injured when gunmen opened fire in a bar late Friday in the northern city of Monterrey, where the gang is fighting its former ally, the Gulf Cartel, said federal security spokesman Alejandro Poire.

Eleven bodies shot with high-powered rifles were found earlier Friday, piled near a water well on the outskirts of Mexico City, where the gang is fighting the Knights Templar, Poire said. That is an offshoot of the La Familia gang that has terrorized its home state of Michoacan.

Poire said an additional 10 people were found dead early Saturday in various parts of the northern city of Torreon, where the Zetas are fighting the Sinaloa cartel headed by Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman.

“The violence is a product of this criminal rivalry … surrounding the intent to control illegal activities in a community, and not the only the earnings that come with it, but also with transporting drugs to the United States,” Poire said in a news conference.

Poire provided no more details on the killings in Torreon in the border state of Coahuila.

Coahuila state officials said the 10 bodies in Torreon had been mutilated and left in a sports-utility vehicle. Seven of the victims were men and three were women, and all had been killed several days earlier, said Fernando Olivas, a state prosecutor’s representative in Torreon.

In Monterrey, 16 people died at the Sabino Gordo bar in the worst mass killing in memory in the northern industrial city, where violence has spiked since the Gulf and Zetas broke their alliance early last year. Four others died later at the hospital, said Jorge Domene, security spokesman for the state of Nuevo Leon, where Monterrey is located.

Domene said at a news conference that six people were wounded, two of them critically.

At least two men emerged from their vehicles and opened fire on the bar with AK-47s and AR-15s, Domene said. Several of the victims were employees of the bar, which has led police to conclude that employees were targeted, he said.

Cocaine was being sold at the bar and ziplock bags of drugs were found at the crime sce

Read more here.

Cartels threaten to kill Texas Rangers, ICE agents

A new law enforcement bulletin warns that members of drug cartels have been overheard plotting to kill federal agents and Texas Rangers who guard the border, officials in Washington reported Thursday.

The bulletin, which was issued in March, said cartel members planned to use AK-47 assault rifles to shoot agents and Rangers from across the border. It did not name the cartels.

The information was released at a hearing before a panel of the House Committee on Homeland Security. The Subcommittee on Oversight, Investigations and Management addressed “The U.S. Homeland Security Role in the Mexican War Against the Drug Cartels.”

U.S. Rep. Michael T. McCaul, R-Texas, talked briefly about the bulletin at the hearing. He said this and other findings he cited “are acts of terrorism as defined by law. The shooting of Special Agent Zapata and Avila is a game changer, which alters the landscape of United State’s involvement in Mexico’s war against drug cartels.”

He was referring to Jaime Jorge Zapata, 32, a Brownsville native and special agent with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, who was killed on Feb. 15 while on duty in Mexico. Injured in the same attack was Special Agent Victor Avila. Members of the Zetas criminal organization are suspected in the attack.

Tom Vinger, spokesman for the Texas Department of Public Safety, said Thursday in a statement: “DPS constantly keeps our officers and our law enforcement partners informed of any intelligence that suggests possible threats to their safety. However, we cannot comment on specific law enforcement bulletins.”

In a response to the threats, a U.S. Department of Homeland Security official said, “Out of an abundance of caution, we routinely share information that could impact our frontline personnel in order to ensure that they are aware of any and all threats.”

The news comes at time when ICE reportedly is having a difficult time recruiting agents willing to work in Mexico, said Luis Alvarez, assistant director for ICE International Affairs, who testified at the hearing.

Read more here.

Mexican Hypocrisy

During all of the furor over Arizona’s SB1070 immigration enforcement law last spring, one of the most egregious attacks on the sovereignty of the border state came in the form of a highly inappropriate and insulting speech by Mexican President Calderó n before the U.S. Congress.

As the Democrat dominated chamber applauded the attack on Arizona, our hapless commander in chief and his constitutionally challenged attorney general were threatening legal action despite having not taken the time to have read the 10 page bill.

Comparisons were made to Nazi Germany and liberals expressed outrage over the mere thought that Arizona police officers would be demanding to see the papers of anyone who appeared to be Hispanic. Naturally the new law (which mirrors federal statutes) included appropriate constitutional protections and did not allow for the indiscriminate checking of papers, but never-the-less the Democrats and their fellow travelers in the MSM pressed their agenda driven attack and legal action from the federal government is still ongoing.

Fast forward nine months. The UK Telegraph reports that the Mexican government of President Calderó n is instituting a high-tech new I.D. system which will be in place by 2013. The new cards which will include an iris scan, fingerprints, photo and signature are said to be 99% reliable.

“The legal, technical and financial conditions are ready to start the process of issuing this identity document,” Felipe Zamora, responsible for legal affairs at the Mexican Interior Ministry, told journalists Thursday.

The new system will be implemented gradually beginning with children over the next two years and then the adult population by 2013. The system will help the Mexican authorities to keep track of their citizens and should help Mexico to secure its borders against illegal immigration. The cost of the project is estimated to carry a price tag of $25 million.

Human rights advocates have expressed concern that the new system will be used for the gathering of personal information which could be used to violate individual rights and privacy. In the meantime it will be interesting to see if the Mexican government, which has published guide books on how to illegally cross the border and elude the authorities in the United States will warn its citizens not to show their I.D. cards to the gringos in Arizona (or elsewhere).

Mexican gunman fires across border toward U.S. highway workers

At least one Mexican gunman fired a high-powered rifle across the border at four U.S. road workers Thursday in an isolated ghost town east of Fort Hancock, Hudspeth County sheriff’s officials said.

The bullets did not injure the four men.

Mike Doyle, chief deputy of the Hudspeth County Sheriff’s Office, said a rancher spotted a white pickup fleeing the area on the Mexican side at 10:30 a.m. — the time the shots were fired.

The bullets stuck private land along the unpaved Indian Hot Springs Road, which is about half a mile from the border fence. Hudspeth County borrowed the land to store gravel and rocks used for road construction. The workers were filling a hole left last year by rainstorm damage.

The ghost town of Fort Quitman is 25 miles east of Fort Hancock and 80 miles southeast of El Paso. Fewer than a dozen ranchers raise cattle in the remote area.

Doyle said the gunman might have shot at the road workers to distract them or get them to flee.

“Maybe they were trying to get them outside this area,” he said.

Doyle said the sheriff and the Texas Rangers at this point are assuming the bullets were fired from Mexico. He said one of the county workers said he heard eight shots that “sounded like high-powered rifles.”

On the Mexican side, the nearest community is Banderas, but there are roads that connect to Ojinaga, right across from Presidio, and also to Juárez.

Read more here.

Drug Killings Make 2010 Deadliest Year for Mexico Border City

The embattled border city of Ciudad Juarez had its bloodiest year ever with 3,111 people killed in drug violence, an official said Saturday.

The city across from El Paso, Texas, has seen its homicide rate soar to one of the highest in the world since vicious turf battles broke out between gangs representing the Juarez and Sinaloa cartels in 2008.

That year, 1,587 people were killed in drug violence, and the toll increased to 2,643 in 2009.

Ciudad Juarez’s bloodiest month last year was October, when 359 people were killed, said Arturo Sandoval, a spokesman for prosecutors in Chihuahua state, where the city is located.

Sandoval did not give statistics on murders unrelated to the drug war.

More than 30,000 people have been killed in drug violence nationwide since President Felipe Calderon launched an offensive against the cartels after taking office in December 2006.

In the southern state of Guerrero, four members of a family were killed Saturday when gunmen opened fire at a New Year’s celebration in the town of Piedra Iman.

State investigators said the four men, ages 80, 60, 32 and 17, were slain at a party on a basketball court.

Mexico says its troops killed US man

Joseph Proctor told his girlfriend he was popping out to the convenience store in the quiet Mexican beach town where the couple had just moved, intending to start a new life.

The next morning, the 32-year-old New York native was dead inside his crashed van on a road outside Acapulco. He had multiple bullet wounds. An AR-15 rifle lay in his hands.

His distraught girlfriend, Liliana Gil Vargas, was summoned to police headquarters, where she was told Proctor had died in a gunbattle with an army patrol. They claimed Proctor — whose green van had a for-sale sign and his cell phone number spray-painted on the windows — had attacked the troops. They showed her the gun.

His mother, Donna Proctor, devastated and incredulous, has been fighting through Mexico’s secretive military justice system ever since to learn what really happened on the night of Aug. 22.

It took weeks of pressuring U.S. diplomats and congressmen for help, but she finally got an answer, which she shared with The Associated Press.

Three soldiers have been charged with killing her son. Two have been charged with planting the assault rifle in his hands and claiming falsely that he fired first, according to a Mexican Defense Department document sent to her through the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City.

It is at least the third case this year in which soldiers, locked in a brutal battle with drug cartels, have been accused of killing innocent civilians and faking evidence in cover-ups.

Such scandals are driving calls for civilian investigators to take over cases that are almost exclusively handled by military prosecutors and judges who rarely convict one of their own.

“I hate the fact that he died alone and in pain an in such an unjust way,” Donna Proctor, a Queens court bailiff, said in a telephone interview with the AP. “I want him to be remembered as a hardworking person. He would never pick up a gun and shoot someone.”

President Felipe Calderon has proposed a bill that would require civilian investigations in all torture, disappearance and rape cases against the military. But other abuses, including homicides committed by on-duty soldiers, would mostly remain under military jurisdiction. That would include the Proctor case and two others this year in which soldiers were accused of even more elaborate cover-ups.

The first involved two university students killed in March during a gunbattle between soldiers and cartel suspects that spilled into their campus in the northern city of Monterrey. Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission said soldiers destroyed surveillance cameras, planted guns on the two young men and took away their backpacks in an attempt to claim they were gang members. The military admitted the two were students after university officials spoke out.

In that case, military and civilian federal prosecutors are conducting a joint investigation into the killings. The military, however, is in charge of the investigation into the allegation of crime-scene tampering.

In the second case, two brothers aged 5 and 9 were killed in April in their family’s car in the northern state of Tamaulipas. The rights commission said in a report that there was no gunbattle and that soldiers fired additional rounds into the family car and planted two vehicles at the scene to make it look like a crossfire incident. The Defense Department stands by its explanation and denies there was a cover-up.

Read more here.

‘Anchor Baby’ Constitutional Amendment to Face Scrutiny in Congress

The end of the year means a turnover of House control from Democratic to Republican and, with it, Congress’ approach to immigration.

In a matter of weeks, Congress will go from trying to help young, illegal immigrants become legal to debating whether children born to parents who are in the country illegally should continue to enjoy automatic U.S. citizenship.

Such a hardened approach — and the rhetoric certain to accompany it — should resonate with the GOP faithful who helped swing the House in Republicans’ favor. But it also could further hurt the GOP in its endeavor to grab a large enough share of the growing Latino vote to win the White House and the Senate majority in 2012.

Legislation to test interpretations of the 14th Amendment as granting citizenship to the children of illegal immigrants will emerge early next session. That is likely to be followed by attempts to force employers to use a still-developing web system, dubbed E-Verify, to check that all of their employees are in the U.S. legally.

There could be proposed curbs on federal spending in cities that don’t do enough to identify people who are in the country illegally and attempts to reduce the numbers of legal immigrants.

Democrats ended the year failing for a second time to win passage of the Dream Act, which would have given hundreds of thousands of young illegal immigrants a chance at legal status. House Republicans will try to fill the immigration reform vacuum left by Democrats with legislation designed to send illegal immigrants packing and deter others from trying to come to the U.S.

Democrats, who will still control the Senate, will be playing defense against harsh immigration enforcement measures, mindful of their need to keep on good footing with Hispanic voters. But a slimmer majority and an eye on 2012 may prevent Senate Democrats from bringing to the floor any sweeping immigration bill, or even a limited one that hints at providing legal status to people in the country illegally.

Read more here:

Mexicans March in Support of ‘Craziest’ Drug Lord

A peace march called by local authorities in western Mexico turned into a show of support for a slain drug lord Sunday, with adults and children carrying signs lauding the capo known for handing out Bibles to the poor.

Hundreds of people turned out for the march in Apatzingan, the birth place of La Familia cartel leader Nazario Moreno, who was known as “The Craziest One” and reputedly indoctrinated his gang members in pseudo-Christian ideology.

The government says Moreno was killed in Apatzingan on Thursday in a shootout with federal police. The hunt for Moreno and other La Familia leaders set off two days of battles in key parts of Michoacan state, with cartel gunmen using torched cars and buses to blockade highways. At least 11 other people were killed, including a baby and a teenage girl.

The Apatzingan government convoked the march to call for peace and demand that federal troops and police leave the city. But local officials quickly distanced themselves from the event after people showed up with the pro-Moreno signs.

One man held up a sign that said: “Nazario will always live in our hearts.” A boy in a checkered shirt held another saying “Mr. Nazario, for students your ideals live on.” A little girl in pigtails held a sign reading “La Familia Michoacana is more than one state.” A woman held one high over her head proclaiming: “Long live La Familia Michoacana.”

Read more here.