Californian Wins Immigration Journalism Award

Read the panel discussion transcript

Each year the Center for Immigration Studies reviews a wide range of immigration reporting for the Eugene Katz Award for Excellence in the Coverage of Immigration. The purpose of the Katz Award is to promote informed and fair reporting on this contentious and complicated issue, and never has it been more needed.

Large media outlets have an obvious advantage in covering immigration: they have more staff and more money to devote to in-depth reporting and ongoing assignments. The recipients of the Katz Award over the past decade reflect this reality: previous winners have been from CNN, The Washington Times, The Dallas Morning News, and The Washington Post, and elsewhere. And this makes our 2006 recipient, Sara Carter of the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin of Ontario, Calif., a welcome exception.

Traveling frequently from her base in California to Arizona and Texas and Mexico, Ms. Carter broke story after story related to the dangerous conditions all along America’s southern border. While better-known media outlets only discovered the immigration crisis when millions of illegal aliens massed in the streets this spring, rare has been the week that Ms. Carter hasn’t appeared on a cable news program discussing her latest scoop. It was Ms. Carter who broke the story that our government was alerting Mexico City to the locations and membership and other details of the Minuteman Project civilian border-watch group. She also first brought word of bounties being placed on the heads of Texas sheriffs’ deputies by Mexican cartels. On the beat every week without high-profile credentials, Ms. Carter cultivated sources that led her to internal memos from the Department of Homeland Security and other documents which provide a more complete picture of the situation on the border than one finds in other newspapers, large and small, which too often regurgitate the self-serving banalities of politicians and racial-identity groups. The body of her reporting over the past year is an important example of how the public interest is served when a media outlet devotes appropriate resources to coverage of our immigration crisis.

Of course, this award recognizes not only Ms. Carter’s reporting, but also the commitment of the Daily Bulletin – with weekday circulation of approximately 75,000 – a commitment above and beyond what we’ve observed among mid-sized papers (and even many larger ones). What’s more, this was a commitment by the Daily Bulletin’s senior staff put in place well before the immigration issue heated up in December of last year with the passage of the Sensenbrenner bill in the U.S. House of Representatives. And it’s a commitment, Ms. Carter informs us, that is likely to remain in the Bulletin’s newsroom even after Congress completes its current deliberations this year.

This award is named in memory of Eugene Katz, a native New Yorker who started his career, after Dartmouth and Oxford, as a reporter for the Daily Oklahoman. In 1928, he joined the family business, working as an advertising salesman for the Katz Agency, and in 1952 became president of Katz Communications, a half-billion-dollar firm which not only dealt in radio and television advertising but also owned and managed a number of radio stations. Mr. Katz was a member of the Center for Immigration Studies board until shortly after his 90th birthday in 1997. He passed away in 2000.

More information on the Katz Award, including previous winners, is available at

The Center for Immigration Studies is a non-profit, non-partisan research institute which examines and critiques the impact of immigration on the United States. It is animated by a pro-immigrant/low-immigration vision, but offers the Katz Award not to promote any point of view but rather to foster informed decision-making on an issue so central to America=s future.

Mark Krikorian
Executive Director
Center for Immigration Studies
June 2006


Sarah Carter Articles


1. U.S. tipping Mexico to Minuteman patrols

2. Bush sends military to defend border with Mexico

3. Inquiry sought on 'tipping' of border group locations

4. Immigration cited as reason for U.S. losses

5. Cover-ups of Mexican military border crossings anger agents

6. Mexican soldiers defy border

7. Armed standoff along U.S. border

8. Alert tells of border hit man

9. Bounties put on deputies


U.S. tipping Mexico to Minuteman patrols
By Sara A. Carter, Staff Writer
Inland Valley Daily Bulletin
May 5, 2006

While Minuteman civilian patrols are keeping an eye out for illegal border crossers, the U.S. Border Patrol is keeping an eye out for Minutemen – and telling the Mexican government where they are.

According to three documents on the Mexican Secretary of Foreign Relations Web site, the U.S. Border Patrol is to notify the Mexican government as to the location of Minutemen and other civilian border patrol groups when they participate in apprehending illegal immigrants – and if and when violence is used against border crossers.

A U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesman confirmed the notification process, describing it as a standard procedure meant to reassure the Mexican government that migrants’ rights are being observed.

“It’s not a secret where the Minuteman volunteers are going to be,” Mario Martinez said Monday.

“This . . . simply makes two basic statements – that we will not allow any lawlessness of any type, and that if an alien is encountered by a Minuteman or arrested by the Minuteman, then we will allow that government to interview the person.”

Minuteman members were not so sanguine about the arrangement, however, saying that reporting their location to Mexican officials nullifies their effectiveness along the border and could endanger their lives.

“Now we know why it seemed like Mexican officials knew where we were all the time,” said Chris Simcox, founder of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps. “It’s unbelievable that our own government agency is sending intelligence to another country. They are sending intelligence to a nation where corruption runs rampant, and that could be getting into the hands of criminal cartels.

“They just basically endangered the lives of American people.”

Officials with the Mexican consulate in Washington, D.C., could not be reached for comment Monday.

Martinez said reporting the location of immigrant apprehensions to consulate representatives is common practice if an illegal immigrant requests counsel or believes they have been mistreated.

“Once an illegal alien is apprehended, they can request counsel,” he said. “We have to give their counsel the information about their apprehension, and that includes where they are apprehended, whether a Minuteman volunteer spotted them or a citizen.”

Martinez said Mexico’s official perception of the civilian groups is that they are vigilantes, a belief the Border Patrol hoped to allay by entering into the cooperative agreement.

One of the documents on the Web site, “Actions of the Mexican Government in Relation to the Activities of Vigilante Groups,” states that Mexican consulate representatives stay in close contact with Border Patrol chiefs to ensure the safety of migrants trying to enter the U.S., those being detained and the actions of all “vigilantes” along the border.

“The Mexican consul in Presidio also contacted the chief of the Border Patrol in the Marfa Sector to solicit his cooperation in case they detect any activity of ‘vigilantes,’ and was told to immediately contact the consulate if there was,” according to the document.

“Presidio” refers to Presidio County, Texas, which is in the Big Bend region and a gateway to northern Mexico.

The document also describes a meeting with San Diego Border Patrol sector chief Darryl Griffen.

“(Griffen) said that the Border Patrol will not permit any violence or any actions contrary to the law by the groups, and he is continuously aware of (the volunteer organizations') operations,” according to the document. “Mr. Griffen reiterated to the undersecretary his promise to notify the General Consul right away when the vigilantes detain or participate in the detention of any undocumented Mexicans.”

The documents specifically named the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps and its patrols, which began monitoring Arizona’s southern border in April 2005, as well as Friends of the Border Patrol, a Chino-based nonprofit.

TJ Bonner, president of the National Border Patrol Council, a union representing more than 10,000 Border Patrol agents, said agents have complained for years about the Mexican consulate's influence over the agency.

“It worries me (that the Mexican government) seems to be unduly influencing our enforcement policies. That’s not a legitimate role for any foreign nation,” Bonner said, though he added, “It doesn't surprise me.”

Border Patrol agents interviewed by the Daily Bulletin said they have been asked to report to sector headquarters the location of all civilian volunteer groups, but to not file the groups' names in reports if they spot illegal immigrants.

“Last year an internal memo notified all agents not to give credit to Minuteman volunteers or others who call in sightings of illegal aliens,” said one agent, who spoke on the condition he not be identified. “We were told to list it as a citizen call and leave it at that. Many times, we were told not to go out to Minuteman calls.”

The document also mentions locations of field operations of Friends of the Border Patrol, which patrolled the San Diego sector from June to November 2005. Mexican officials had access to the exact location of the group founded by Andy Ramirez, which ran its patrols from the Rough Acre Ranch, a private property in McCain Valley.

Ramirez said that for safety reasons, he disclosed the location of his ranch patrol only to San Diego Border Patrol and law enforcement officials. The group did not apprehend or spot any undocumented migrants in that area.

“We did not release this information ... to the media or anyone else,” Ramirez said. “We didn’t want to publicize that information. But there it is, right on the Mexican government’s Web site, and our government gave it to them.”


Bush sends military to defend border with Mexico
By Sara A. Carter, Staff Writer
Inland Valley Daily Bulletin
May 16, 2006

President Bush has called for 6,000 National Guard troops to back up the U.S. Border Patrol at the Mexican border as part of a $1.9 billion plan to enhance security.

In a nationally televised address early Monday night, Bush said the troops would provide surveillance and support until 6,000 more Border Patrol agents are hired and trained by the end of 2008.

Bush also called for tamper-proof employment cards and stricter scrutiny and enforcement of employers who hire illegal immigrants.

“We do not yet have full control of the border, and I am determined to change that,” Bush said from the Oval Office. “Tonight I am calling on Congress to provide funding for dramatic improvements in manpower and technology at the border . . . “We must always remember that real lives will be affected by our debates and decisions and that every human being has dignity and value no matter what their citizenship papers say.”

The speech was seen as an attempt to reverse diminishing public support for immigration reform and encourage legislators to reach a consensus on the issue.

Over the past few months, nationwide rallies supporting amnesty for illegal immigrants and an outcry from citizens advocating tighter border security have had House and Senate leaders struggling to create comprehensive legislation.

The result has been a Senate stalemate. On Monday, senators once again began the debate on immigration reform.

In his speech, the president also promised more funding for local and state law enforcement officers who operate as a second line of defense for Border Patrol agents along the border.

Undersheriff Bill Gore of San Diego County said the president’s speech was a welcome call to action.

“It’s a recognition on the part of the president that the crisis on the border is worsening, and to have a meaningful immigration reform policy,” Gore said.

“The first thing you have to do is secure your border. To do that, it takes more Border Patrol agents, and that doesn't happen overnight.”

Critics who watched Bush’s address said border security must be the administration’s first priority and were angered by what they called the president’s lack of understanding about what U.S. voters want.

The speech exemplified the disconnect between the Bush administration and public sentiment, said Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank that opposes illegal immigration and amnesty.

“The president knows he has to do something to forestall further corruption of Republican support for Senate immigration reform,” Krikorian said. “This speech is purely cosmetic. It is inspired by Mary Poppins – a spoonful of enforcement will help the amnesty go down.”

The president’s speech might win support on both sides of the debate, but those pushing for secure borders are going to demand a more permanent solution, said Jack Pitney, a politics professor at Claremont McKenna College.

“They will want to see what Part 2 is,” he said. “The use of the National Guard is not something that can go on indefinitely, because there are already a lot of demands on the Guard.

“Given that so many guardsmen are in Iraq and Afghanistan, they’re stretched. And the president also needs to worry about the effect on recruitment.”

One Republican border state governor, Rick Perry of Texas, said he was glad the administration has realized the Guard has a role to play along the border.

“We have the ability to multitask,” Perry said.

Sen. Mel Martinez, a Cuban immigrant and Florida Republican, said, “The president . . . laid out his support for comprehensive reform stressing that America can be a lawful society and a welcoming society at the same time.

“We need to realize that there are two parts to this problem: securing our border and reforming our broken immigration system,” he said.

Further complicating efforts at immigration reform are July’s Mexican presidential elections.

Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, the former mayor of Mexico City, has taken a lead in the race against President Vicente Fox’s PAN party.

Many American lawmakers consider Obrador, the openly socialist leader of the PDR party, a threat to Mexico’s democratic system. Some analysts suggest Bush is pushing immigration reform to help Fox’s party before the elections.

“Obrador is certainly a concern for lawmakers, and something we are keeping our eye on,” said Rep. David Dreier, R-Glendora, chairman of the House Rules Committee.

But Dreier and some lawmakers say the president’s message has been consistent: He wants to beef up border security and reduce the growing number of illegal immigrants in the United States. The illegal immigrant population in the U.S. stands at about 12 million today, according to multiple sources, though some put the figure as high as 18 million. Roughly half a million illegal immigrants arrive in the U.S. each year.

Bush’s said a tamper-proof identity card for legal migrant workers would ultimately hold employers responsible for hiring illegal immigrants.

“ . . . we need to hold employers to account for the workers they hire. It is against the law to hire someone who is in this country illegally,” Bush said. “Yet businesses often cannot verify the legal status of their employees, because of the widespread problem of document fraud.”

He said comprehensive immigration reform must include a better system for verifying documents and work eligibility.

“A tamper-proof card would help us enforce the law, and leave employers with no excuse for violating it,” he said. “And by making it harder for illegal immigrants to find work in our country, we would discourage people from crossing the border illegally in the first place.”

Dreier agreed.

“Too many documents means too many opportunities for fraud and lax enforcement,” he said, “and we need to put a stop to it.”

A bill authored in 2004, offered by Dreier and TJ Bonner, president of the National Border Patrol Council, would have required all persons searching for employment to submit the photo identification and a tamper-proof Social Security card to prospective employers.

But Bonner said the president's proposal only would require guest workers to carry a tamper-proof ID, making enforcement difficult.

“There’s no counterfeit-proof card for anyone but the legal guest workers,” Bonner said. “But all the illegals will still use forged documents. There is still an open loophole for employers because not everybody is required to have a tamper-proof card.”

With the nation divided about immigration and recent polls showing his approval rating at 29 percent – one of the lowest in presidential history – analysts say Bush needed to make his immigration proposal to have any hope of gaining traction on the issue in the next two years.

“I think they understand the predicament they’re in,” Krikorian said of administration officials. “The president has his mind made up on this issue. The president is psychologically committed to open borders, and he just can’t understand why people don’t think the way he does.”

Krikorian added that the president has always been empowered to do more to stop the flood of illegal immigration, but hasn’t.

He pointed to a 2002 Social Security Administration report that said more than 1 million letters were sent to employers reporting failures to match their employees’ Social Security numbers with their identification.

The administration later ended the matching program, Krikorian said.

Bonner, whose union represents more than 10,000 agents, said the administration’s call for National Guard troops is nothing more than a smokescreen.

Bonner said using 6,000 troops to do the clerical work of a few hundred Border Patrol agents isn't the answer to the national security dilemma at the border.

He said tougher employer enforcement is needed, not the National Guard, and that the federal government should allocate more money for Border Patrol agents.

“This was a golden opportunity to show the American public that he was on their side,” Bonner said. “It’s unfortunate that he does not have the vision or political will to make things happen.”

American families living along the U.S. border said the time for stronger national security measures is now.

Dr. Michael Vickers, of Brooks County, Texas, said the horror his family has had to live with on their ranch bordering the Rio Grande has been ignored by the federal government for too long.

Vickers, who leads the Texas chapter of the Minuteman project, said he has lost faith in the president for whom he voted.

“I’m very, very disgusted, disillusioned and upset at how the president has handled this,” Vickers said.

He said the bodies of migrant women killed by smugglers have been found on his ranch. He also said he and his neighbors have been threatened by drug traffickers using their land to move narcotics into the country.

“This is a serious national security issue,” Vickers said. “The cost to our personal lives has been overwhelming, but the cost the country will have to pay one day if we don’t fix it will be even greater.”


Inquiry sought on 'tipping' of border group locations
By Sara A. Carter, Staff Writer
Inland Valley Daily Bulletin
May 12, 2006

Congressional leaders Thursday called on the Department of Homeland Security to investigate reports that U.S. Customs and Border Protection has given information to the Mexican government about the locations of U.S. civilian border watch groups.

California Reps. Duncan Hunter, R-El Cajon, and Darryl Issa, R-Vista, along with Texas Rep. John Culberson, R-Houston, sent a formal letter to DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff asking for a full investigation into all circumstances and events related to civilian border observation groups and the Mexican government.

The letter was in response to a story published in Tuesday’s Daily Bulletin, which reported Border Patrol officials shared civilian groups’ locations with the Mexican government when illegal border crossers were detained and at the request of the Mexican consulate, among other things.

“U.S. Customs and Border Protection on Tuesday refuted the report, calling it ‘inaccurate,’” the congressmen’s letter stated. “While that applies to those who are seeking to unlawfully enter the U.S., it must also apply to U.S. citizens who are peacefully exercising their right to protest and monitor along the border.

“We are deeply concerned that if the media reports are accurate and the Department of Homeland Security is relaying information to the Mexican government on the locations of these citizen groups, whether formally or informally, their safety is being put at risk and their peaceable goals undermined.”

The Daily Bulletin story referred to three reports regarding the activities of “vigilantes”' in the United States that are posted on Mexico’s Secretary of Foreign Relations Web site.

The third report, dated August 2005, mentioned instances of Mexican consulate officials asking U.S. Border Patrol officials to provide them with information on civilian border watch groups in the United States.

Kristi Clemens, spokeswoman for Customs and Border Protection and DHS, said the Daily Bulletin’s report was “inaccurate”' and that Border Patrol officials are not giving the location of civilian watch groups to the Mexican government.

Clemens said the United States gives information to Mexican officials under the the rules of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations of 1963, which provides foreign nationals being detained by a government the right to consular access.

In a statement released Tuesday, Clemens said, “During a detention of a legal or illegal immigrant that produces an allegation of improper treatment, Border Patrol reports the allegation and allows the appropriate consulate to interview the individual in custody.”

Mexican consulates, however, went beyond the boundaries of the Vienna Convention, asking U.S. Border Patrol officials to provide them with information on “vigilantes”' operating along the U.S. border, according to the August report.

“The mission of the consulate is to protect the Mexican citizen if they need protection,”' said Rafael Laveaga, spokesman for the Mexican Embassy in Washington, D.C. Laveaga added that his government only received the information required by the Vienna Convention.

Border Patrol agents, interviewed by the Daily Bulletin, said they were not surprised by Mexico's report and added that the Mexican consulate would normally request information from the agency and that U.S. officials would acquiesce to their requests.

On Thursday, the union chapter representing Border Patrol agents in Tucson, Ariz., issued a statement regarding the Mexican reports. “This Local has nothing to do with any alleged management directives to report the location of the Minutemen volunteers to the Mexican government,” according to Local 2544’s statement.

TJ Bonner, president of the National Border Patrol Council, which represents more than 10,000 border agents, said he has no doubt officials share information with the Mexican government and that line agents have been complaining for years about the issue.

Scott James, a former Border Patrol agent stationed in the Tucson sector, said he resigned after eight years in February for that very reason.

James said that agents in his sector were continuously having to deal with the demands of the Mexican consulates, who he said eventually moved into a Border Patrol office at the Nogales station.

James added that roughly half a dozen Mexican consular officials shared the Border Patrol office and were privy to agents’ investigations because of the close contact.

“Of course (Border Patrol officials) are going to deny they are sending information to the Mexican government,”' James said. “I don’t think anyone is going to believe their denials. There were directives not to talk to civilian border groups, but if you have any contact with a civilian border group you were supposed to contact your supervisor immediately and report it.”

James said he believed the congressmen's request for Chertoff to look into the report is a step in the right direction but said he worried an in-house investigation would not be sufficient.

“I hope there’s more than a hearing but a full-blown investigation,”' he said. “I hope it doesn’t end there. The federal government has no business sharing the lawful activities of its citizens, especially with one that is riddled with corruption as Mexico is.”

Andy Ramirez, chairman of the Chino-based Friends of the Border Patrol, said he was pleased with the representatives’ call for an investigation. He said information posted on the Mexican Web site detailing the location of his volunteer group near San Diego was only given to U.S. Border Patrol officials.

“Congress needs to investigate this personally to get to the truth,” he said.

Chris Simcox, founder of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corp., a civilian border watch group, spent Thursday in Washington, D.C.

Simcox asked congressional leaders for a full investigation into the reports.

“I think it is apparent there have been years of frustration for our rank-and-file Border Patrol agents, and it’s gratifying to know that they finally have an avenue to voice their concern,” said Connie Hair, spokeswoman for Simcox’s group.

“As far as the statement of denial from the DHS, I would believe TJ Bonner and the Border Patrol agents before I would believe someone sitting behind a desk in Washington.”'


Immigration cited as reason for U.S. losses
By Sara A. Carter, Staff Writer
Inland Valley Daily Bulletin
March 22, 2006

It’s a widespread belief, one reinforced by public officials including President Bush: “Illegal immigrants do the jobs Americans won’t do.”

But it’s being challenged in a five-year study that concludes millions of undereducated Americans are without work in a labor market oversaturated by illegal immigrants.

Steven Camarota, director of the Center for Immigration Studies, a think tank that favors reduced immigration, released the findings Wednesday in Washington, D.C.

The study calls into question the theory that America is desperately short of underskilled workers, Camarota said. More importantly, he added, the research concluded that illegal immigration had a direct effect on job loss for native-born workers.

Employers who hire from the vast pool of illegal immigrants avoid paying workers’ compensation, health benefits, Social Security and a whole slew of labor law requirements, he said.

From backbreaking jobs in the meatpacking industry to janitorial work, the research showed that from 2000 to 2005, participation in the labor force by U.S.-born adults without a high school degree fell from 59 percent to 56 percent. Among U.S.-born adults with a high school degree, participation dropped from 78 percent to 75 percent, according to the study.

During the same time, the number of adult immigrant workers with a high school degree or less increased by 1.5 million people . . . rising from 15.5 percent of the work force to 17.4 percent. In a hot political climate where “guest-worker” programs are being debated on Capitol Hill and anti-immigrant groups are protesting outside day labor centers across Southern California, the study’s release comes as immigration is taking center stage.

Senate and congressional debates rely heavily on unsubstantiated information about the labor market and illegal immigration, Camarota said.

“There is nothing wrong with immigration; it’s a very powerful force in the United States labor market,” Camarota said. “But the idea that immigrants are doing the jobs Americans won’t do is absurd on its face. There are no such jobs that Americans won’t do, because most of the jobs in America are done by native-born [residents].”

The number of American-born high school dropouts with jobs declined from 2000 to 2005 by 1.3 million, the study estimated. Census data collected in the study revealed that 4 million Americans between the ages of 18 to 64 with a high school education or less are unemployed, while 19 million others are not in the labor force.

However, Jared Bernstein of the Economic Policy Institute, who has conducted similar research into income and wage inequality, said the issue is not necessarily illegal immigration, but a sign of the U.S. market underperforming.

Bernstein said the lack of job creation in the U.S. over the past five years has contributed to the growth of unemployment for all unskilled laborers.

The overall weak demand for labor, outsourcing of U.S. jobs and low minimum wage contributes more to job loss among Americans than illegal immigration, Bernstein added.

Bernstein did not dispute the report’s findings but did disagree with its conclusion.

”This is more of a sign of a labor market underperforming in general than an immigrant group doing better,” Bernstein said. “But the deterioration is worse for native than foreign-born. It’s a pretty tough labor market for everybody.”

Sens. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass, and John McCain, R-Ariz., have proposed a guest-worker program that would admit 400,000 foreign workers annually. The Bush administration is looking for an open-ended guest-worker plan.

President Bush proposed that a guest-worker program "match willing foreign workers with willing U.S. employers when no Americans can be found to fill the jobs. The program would be open to new foreign workers and to the undocumented men and women currently employed in the U.S."

The administration’s proposal falls in line with what the Mexican government has been seeking for a guest-worker program, said Raphael Laveaga, in an earlier interview. Laveaga, spokesman for the Mexican Embassy in Washington, D.C., said both nations must work together to create a guest-worker program.

”We are neighbors and friends,” Laveaga said. “A guest-worker program that takes into consideration the needs of both nations is important in combating the issues of migration.”

The proposals have led to the organization of hundreds of anti-illegal immigrant groups across the United States, from the Minuteman civilian border watch groups to Friends of the Border Patrol, chaired by Andy Ramirez of Chino. These groups argue that guest-worker programs should not be considered until the southern border with Mexico is secured.

“President Bush outsources high-tech jobs and imports illegal immigrant labor,” Ramirez said. “The question is, what happens to middle-class America?”

Camarota argues against the administration’s stance for a guest-worker program, saying it harms the American worker. He added that cultural misperceptions of what illegal immigrants are willing to do, along with cost-cutting by employers, contribute to the growing number of illegal immigrants being hired in the United States.

Unemployment remains relatively high for some native-born groups . . . 9.3 percent for African-Americans and 12.7 percent for white teenagers, the study finds.

“If you flood the bottom of the labor market, it doesn’t matter what laws you pass, they are unenforceable . . . the supply and demand will be overwhelming," Camarota said. “It always trumps labor laws.”


A study released Wednesday by the Center of Immigration Studies challenges the notion that illegal immigrants are doing the jobs Americans won't do. It concluded that undereducated native-born Americans are without work partly because the labor market is oversaturated by illegal immigrants.

* Some of the occupations most affected by immigration include maids, construction workers, dishwashers, janitors, painters, cabbies, groundskeepers and meat/poultry workers. Workers in these occupations are overwhelmingly native-born.

* The workers themselves are not the only thing to consider: Nearly half of American children younger than 18 are dependent on a less-educated worker, and 71 percent of children of the native-born working poor depend on a worker with a high school degree or less.

* Native-born teenagers [15 to 17] also saw their labor force participation fall from 30 percent in 2000 to 24 percent in 2005.

* Wage data show little evidence of a labor shortage. Wage growth for less-educated natives has generally lagged.

Source: Center for Immigration Studies


Cover-ups of Mexican military border crossings anger agents
Sara A. Carter, Staff Writer
Inland Valley Daily Bulletin
January 26, 2006

Border Patrol agents and other law-enforcement officials are angry that Mexican and some U.S. officials refuse to acknowledge that Mexican soldiers are crossing into the United States.

Some officials suggested Wednesday that the confrontation between Texas law officers earlier this week was with drug smugglers, not Mexican soldiers assisting narcotics traffickers across the Rio Grande.

But a Border Patrol agent who spoke on condition of anonymity said continuous cover-ups by Mexican and U.S. officials have put many agents and Americans’ lives in danger.

“I think it shows how desperate the situation has become. I think it’s insulting to expect Americans to believe what (Homeland Security Secretary Michael) Chertoff and the Mexican government are saying,” the agent said Wednesday.

“Isn’t it the most reasonable explanation that if men are dressed as soldiers, with military vehicles and mounted machine guns that these guys are soldiers not some cartel trying to ruin diplomatic relations?”

Photos of what appeared to be Mexican troops in the United States during Monday’s incident shocked many Americans, although Mexican officials denied the military was involved.

But to many Mexicans it offered further proof that drug traffickers run rampant in the border area in military-style vehicles, wearing uniforms and, in some cases, using military firepower.

“It is known that these are drug traffickers using military uniforms and they were not even regulation military uniforms,” said Mexican presidential spokesman Ruben Aguilar.

T.J. Bonner, president of the National Border Patrol Council, a union, said the was insulted by the U.S. government's lack of response to the serious nature of the incursions.

“I don’t believe they are rogue elements because of the markings of the vehicles and because of the insignias on their uniforms, and further, we’ve caught them in the past,” Bonner said.

“Mexico is being less than honest with us. I don’t understand what the U.S. interest is in aiding and abetting what is going on at the border. I don’t have faith that it will stop before some of our law-enforcement officers are murdered in the line of duty.”

A U.S. law-enforcement official speaking on condition of anonymity said the FBI and other agencies found no evidence the uniformed men involved in Monday’s incident were Mexican soldiers.

But Hardrick Crawford Jr., a former special agent who was in charge of the FBI’s El Paso, Texas, office, said he covered numerous narcotics cases along the border and documented military incursions since the mid-‘90s. He said he expected both governments to deny the incursions.

“It’s an embarrassment to both countries for the truth of these incursions to come out,” Crawford said.

“I was concerned about the incursions on the border when I first got to El Paso,” he said. “I wanted agents to go interview every rancher and resident in the area, and I wanted the military incursions to be documented. I thought this would be important information but many people didn't do anything about these incursions.”

Crawford added that investigations in Mexico were difficult to conduct because the honest Mexican residents didn't want to put their own lives in danger by giving law-enforcement officials information on the drug cartels.

“The drug trade is too lucrative,” Crawford added. “Mexican soldiers and police officials are paid little. So it’s just too tempting. With the increased efficiency and effort along the border, narcotics traffickers can bring in whatever they want. And if you go against them they’ll kill you.”

This week’s standoff comes at a time of rising anger over border security, with the United States considering extending a wall along its 2,000-mile-long frontier with Mexico an idea Mexicans resent.

“We have communicated at the diplomatic level with the government of Mexico on the matter and requested that they investigate the matter and that U.S. authorities are already investigating the incident,” State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said in a statement.

The Mexican government also cited its long-standing policy that its soldiers must stay away from the border unless they have special authorization.

Rick Glancey of the Texas Border Sheriffs’ Coalition said the confrontation began 50 miles east of El Paso when state police tried to stop three sport utility vehicles on Interstate 10. The vehicles made a quick U-turn and headed south toward the border, a few miles away.

Crossing the border, one SUV got stuck crossing the Rio Grande, and men in a Humvee tried in vain to tow it out. Then a group of men in civilian clothes began unloading what appeared to be bundles of marijuana and torched the SUV before fleeing.

The Mexican army press office said it had no information on Monday’s incident.

Mexico’s Foreign Relations Department said in a statement that the confrontation, in which no shots were fired, could have been staged to “damage the image of our armed forces and bilateral cooperation.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


Mexican soldiers defy border
Sara A. Carter, Staff Writer
Inland Valley Daily Bulletin
January 15, 2006

The Mexican military has crossed into the United States 216 times in the past nine years, according to a Department of Homeland Security document and a map of incursions obtained by the Daily Bulletin.

U.S. officials claim the incursions are made to help foreign drug and human smugglers into the United States. The 2001 map, which shows 34 of the incursions, bears the seal of the president's Office of National Drug Control Policy.

The document states that since 1996, Mexican military personnel have crossed into the following sectors:

–San Diego County, 17 times

–El Centro, Calif., 58

–Yuma, Ariz., 24

–Tucson, Ariz., 39

–El Paso, Texas, 33

–Marfa, Texas, eight

–Del Rio, Texas, three

–Laredo, Texas, six

–Rio Grande Valley, Texas, 28.

White House officials would not comment on the map and referred questions to officials at the Department of Homeland Security.

Kristi Clemons, a spokeswoman for the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, would not confirm the number of incursions, but said Saturday the department is in ongoing discussion with the Mexican government about them.

“We - the Department of Homeland Security and the CBP (U.S. Customs and Border Protection) - are determined to gain control of the border and will continue to collaborate with our partners on the border,” Clemons said.

Border Patrol agents say they for several years have reported sightings and confrontations with Mexican military inside the United States, which the Daily Bulletin documented last year in its Beyond Borders series about immigration.

“We’ve had armed showdowns with the Mexican army,” said a border agent who spoke on condition of anonymity. “These aren't just ex-military guys. These are Mexican army officials assisting drug smugglers.”

In one 2000 incident, more than 16 Mexican soldiers were arrested by border agents in a small town west of El Paso, in Santa Teresa, N.M., after Mexican soldiers fired on the agents, said T.J. Bonner, president of the National Border Patrol Council.

None of the agents was injured in the gunbattle, and U.S. State Department officials forced the border agents to release the soldiers and return them to Mexico with their weapons, Bonner added.

“If (Mexico) is going to put military across our border to threaten our guys, and if their own government can’t control it, then we should be treating this as an act of war,” he said.

Mexican government officials said they have neither seen the report nor map and dispute the findings, stating that at no time in recent years have military personnel crossed the border into the United States.

“I strongly deny any incursion by the Mexican military on United States soil,” said Rafael Laveaga, spokesman for the Mexican Embassy in Washington, D.C.

“When it comes to Mexican military on the southern side, I have no reports of them crossing into the United States. That would mean that the patrol got lost or lack of expertise and orientation. This could be smugglers with fake uniforms as a tactic to confuse the authorities.”

Laveaga added that Mexico’s law enforcement agencies work closely with the FBI, Office of National Drug Control Policy and other U.S. agencies to assist in the capture of drug cartel members.

Further, Laveaga contended that wealthy smugglers can afford fake uniforms and camouflage their vehicles to resemble those of the military.

“Some incursions do occur by smugglers both on the northbound and southbound sides of the border,'' Laveaga said. “Whenever these incidents occur, both governments have a mechanism to communicate with each other to let each other know what’s going on.”

In the Tucson sector – where many border agents reported run-ins with Mexican military – the U.S. Department of Customs and Border Protection formally issued a card to agents with tips on how to deal with incursions by Mexican soldiers. The Daily Bulletin first reported on the card last year.

The “Military Incursion” card states that “Mexican military are trained to escape, evade and counter-ambush if it will effect their escape.”

Further, the card asks agents who come across Mexican soldiers to keep a low profile and use shadows to camouflage and hide.

Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., said the numbers show that suggestions for increasing Border Patrol resources or building a fence along the border won’t do enough to secure it.

“It is a military problem,” said Tancredo, who supports immigration reform. “We should commit the military to the border – tomorrow. I mean, with armor and weapons.”

Speaking by phone from El Paso, the congressman recalled his own confusion and disbelief when Border Patrol officials first told him of the incursions several years ago.

But the more time he spent at the border, the more he realized how serious the problem is, Tancredo said.

“Down here, there are war stories where you have Mexican military pulling up when drug traffickers are coming across, cocking their weapons, challenging our guys,” he said “Shots have been fired . . . This is a problem here. I don’t think anybody understands it unless they’re here.”

Lt. George Moreno, who has been with the Imperial County Sheriff's Department for 20 years, said he was surprised to hear about the 22 Mexican incursions reported during 2002 in the El Centro sector, just east of San Diego.

“I’ve heard rumors that it’s been happening,” Moreno said. “A lot of these types of incidents are dealt with at a federal level. It’s not brought down to our level unless it really concerns us.”

Border Patrol agents also are the target of the international Mara Salvatrucha street gang, whose members Mexican smugglers plan to bring across the border and pay to kill U.S. agents, according to a confidential Homeland Security alert obtained by the Daily Bulletin last week.

Staff Writers Mason Stockstill and Wendy Leung contributed to this report.


Armed standoff along U.S. border
By Sara A. Carter and Kenneth Todd Ruiz, Staff Writers
Inland Valley Daily Bulletin
January 24, 2006

Mexican soldiers and civilian smugglers had an armed standoff with nearly 30 U.S. law enforcement officials on the Rio Grande in Texas Monday afternoon, according to Texas police and the FBI.

Mexican military Humvees were towing what appeared to be thousands of pounds of marijuana across the border into the United States, said Chief Deputy Mike Doyal, of the Hudspeth County Sheriff’s Department.

Mexican Army troops had several mounted machine guns on the ground more than 200 yards inside the U.S. border – near Neely's Crossing, about 50 miles east of El Paso – when Border Patrol agents called for backup. Hudspeth County deputies and Texas Highway patrol officers arrived shortly afterward, Doyal said.

“It’s been so bred into everyone not to start an international incident with Mexico that it’s been going on for years,” Doyal said. “When you're up against mounted machine guns, what can you do? Who wants to pull the trigger first? Certainly not us.”

An FBI spokeswoman confirmed the incident happened at 2:15 p.m. Pacific Time.

“Bad guys in three vehicles ended up on the border,” said Andrea Simmons, a spokeswoman with the FBI’s El Paso office. “People with Humvees, who appeared to be with the Mexican Army, were involved with the three vehicles in getting them back across.”

Simmons said the FBI was not involved and referred inquiries to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

ICE did not return calls seeking comment.

Doyal said deputies captured one vehicle in the incident, a Cadillac Escalade reportedly stolen from El Paso, and found 1,477 pounds of marijuana inside. The Mexican soldiers set fire to one of the Humvees stuck in the river, he said.

Doyal’s deputies faced a similar incident on Nov. 17, when agents from the Fort Hancock border patrol station in Texas called the sheriff’s department for backup after confronting more than six fully armed men dressed in Mexican military uniforms. The men – who were carrying machine guns and driving military vehicles – were trying to bring more than three tons of marijuana across the Rio Grande, Doyal said.

Doyal said such incidents are common at Neely’s Crossing, which is near Fort Hancock, Texas, and across from the Mexican state of Chihuahua.

“It happens quite often here,” he said.

Deputies and border patrol agents are not equipped for combat, he added.

“Our government has to do something,” he said. “It’s not the immigrants coming over for jobs we’re worried about. It’s the smugglers, Mexican military and the national threat to our borders that we’re worried about.”

Citing a Jan. 15 story in the Daily Bulletin, Reps. David Dreier, R-Glendora, and Duncan Hunter, R-San Diego, last week asked the House Judiciary Committee, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, the House Homeland Security Committee and the House International Relations Committee to investigate the incursions. The story focused on a Department of Homeland Security document reporting 216 incursions by Mexican soldiers during the past 10 years and a map with the seal of the president’s Office of National Drug Control Policy, both of which were given to the newspaper.

Requests by Dreier, chairman of the House Rules Committee, and Hunter were made in jointly signed letters.

On Wednesday, Chertoff played down the reports of border incursions by the Mexican military. He suggested many of the incursions could have been mistakes, blaming bad navigation by military personnel or attributing the incursions to criminals dressed in military garb.

Mexican officials last week denied any incursions made by their military.

But border agents interviewed over the past year have discussed confrontations those they believe to be Mexican military personnel.

“We’re sitting ducks,” said a border agent speaking on condition of anonymity. “The government has our hands tied.”


Alert tells of border hit man
By Sara A. Carter and Kenneth Todd Ruiz, Staff Writers
Inland Valley Daily Bulletin
March 23, 2006

Texas sheriffs, meeting to discuss border issues Thursday, got another reminder of just how dangerous the border areas of their state have become.

News of the threat came in a confidential Homeland Security safety alert, which the Daily Bulletin obtained. The intelligence officer who authored the alert said the information came from a reliable source.

The “For Official Office Use Only” memorandum was released to law-enforcement officials Monday, according to the alert.

“We take it seriously, but we have to take it alone because we can’t get the Department of Homeland Security to back us,” said Sheriff Arvin West, with the Hudspeth County Sheriff’s Department, who attended the sheriffs’ meeting in El Paso. “I’d like for the general public to pray for us.”

The alert said that on March 15 and 17, a Marfa sector intelligence unit received information that the nine illegal immigrants lived in the remote Terlingua/Study Butte area, just west of Big Bend National Park along the Texas border.

Six of the nine were identified by an informant, but all are being sought by officers, said a law-enforcement official under condition of anonymity.

According to the alert: “The identified subjects said that the reason for the threat is to make a statement ‘that it is dangerous’ for law-enforcement officers working in the area.”

The alert warned that “agents and all law-enforcement officers patrolling the Terlingua, Lajitas and Big Bend area should be made aware of the threat.”

Nearly 50 Texas sheriffs and deputy sheriffs shared this and other confidential law-enforcement information Thursday in preparation for today's meeting with sheriffs' officials from all 24 counties along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Members of the Texas Sheriff’s Border Association, an organization of 16 Texas border sheriff’s departments that operate as a second line of defense along the border, are planning to expand their organization in an attempt to force the federal government to take control of what “is an out of control” situation.

“Initially it was just us – the Texas sheriffs,” said El Paso County Sheriff Leo Samaniego, who celebrated his 50th year in law-enforcement Thursday. “But this is a serious national security issue and it involves everyone. We are going to work together with sheriffs from as far away as California to ensure the safety of our borders.

“We are also going to work together toward the passage of the border security bill which also requires the federal government to take responsibility for the U.S. borders.”

The Texas group is expected to discuss similar issues with other sheriffs at today's meeting. The meeting is expected to be the first step in the formation of a Southern Border Coalition – which will include the 24 border counties – to address growing violence along the border.

“If we don’t control it now, we may be looking at something far worse in the future,” said Terry Crawford, from Uvalde County, which is 25 miles from the border and west of San Antonio.

Crawford said his county is a main thoroughfare for drug traffickers and migrants who make it across the border. “Hopefully we’ll make enough noise that the federal government will do something about these drug traffickers and protect the people living on both sides of the border,” he said.

Information obtained by the Daily Bulletin from members of the coalition suggests that growing corruption and deadly battles fought by narcotics traffickers on the south side is spilling across the border.

In particular, this is happening in Webb County, which is across the Rio Grande from Nuevo Laredo, where violence and death have grown to almost unbearable numbers, said Sheriff Rick Flores.

The violence is spilling into Laredo, Texas, where a number of murders in his county over the past year may be attributed to the Zetas, he said. The Zetas are former elite Mexican anti-drug agents who joined the Gulf Cartel, one of the most powerful drug trafficking organizations along the border.

Since January, 55 people have been murdered in Nuevo Laredo. Many of them were tortured, and almost all the cases lead back to the drug cartels, Flores said.

If the rate of murders in Nuevo Laredo continues at the same rate since January, Flores said, the number of deaths is expected to surpass 200 before the end of the year. Last year there were 176 murders.

Continuing threats to news organizations inside Mexico and along the border have forced Mexican editors to bar reporters from covering stories, Flores said. Some reporters on the U.S. side of the border are also fearful of retaliation from the Mexican cartels.

The Gulf Cartel is a “bottomless pit” of money in Nuevo Laredo with infinite resources that stretch far into the United States, Flores added.

“I’m really worried about who the narcotraffickers are smuggling into the United States,” Flores said. “Our intelligence suggests that for the right price, the cartels could be bringing in people with terrorists ties into this country. This is a national security issue through and through.”

On Thursday, Nuevo Laredo Police Chief Omar Pimentel, 38, resigned. He signed a letter of resignation Wednesday, just hours after police found three charred bodies dumped by the side of a road leading into the city, said West, who received the information along with other sheriffs on Thursday.

“I’m surprised he lasted as long as he did,” West said. “In fact, I’m surprised he came out alive. Once again, this is an example of the growing corruption in Mexico. And it is because of the typical denial from both governments to step in and do what’s right.”


Bounties put on deputies
Sara A. Carter, Staff Writer
Inland Valley Daily Bulletin
February 24, 2006

Texas sheriff also describes threats made against families

Sheriff’s deputies in Texas’ Hudspeth County have had bounties placed on their heads, and their families have been verbally threatened by men suspected of belonging to one of Mexico’s most dangerous drug cartels.

The deputies, some of whom testified last week before a House subcommittee in Washington, D.C., said they will not back down despite the threats by smugglers over enforcement actions along the border.

“We’ve placed guards at the schools for the children of the deputies just for precaution,” said Sheriff Arvin West, of Hudspeth County.

“These men didn’t just threaten our deputies but their wives and children. There is no doubt in my mind that the cartels have bought off Mexican military and government officials. Now they're trying to scare us . . . it’s not going to happen,” he said.

The suspected drug runners are believed to be connected to cartels in Juarez, in the Mexican state of Chihuahua, West said. Informants who have spoken to him from the Mexican side of the border said deputies have bounties on them as high as $100,000, West said.

“Unfortunately, how do we verify that?” he added. “All we can do is protect one another. I don’t know what more we can do except hope our government is listening and does something about it.”

Three weeks ago, Department of Public Safety troopers and Hudspeth deputies took photographs and videotaped an armed standoff with men, dressed in Mexican military uniforms, assisting civilian-dressed drug smugglers across the Rio Grande.

“They certainly aren't happy with the truth coming out,” West said. “But we’re going to stay here, and they’re not going to intimidate us from doing our jobs.”

Texas Gov. Rick Perry has allocated additional manpower to the sparsely populated county since the last recorded incursion by smugglers on Jan. 23 near Sierra Blanca, West added. Sierra Blanca, the county seat of Hudspeth County, is about 50 miles east of El Paso.

One deputy, who spoke under condition of anonymity, said his wife was approached by men who told her to keep her husband away from the Rio Grande or “they would pay a high price.” The Rio Grande, which is now only 200 yards wide and only 3 to 5 feet deep, is easily crossed by drug smugglers bringing narcotics into the United States.

At the home of another deputy the stakes got much higher, West said.

Suspected drug runners not only warned the deputy’s wife but informed her that they knew when, where and at what time her young children attended school.

“They practically read off her children’s school schedule,” West said. “This has now become personal. We’ve had to deploy our resources throughout the county. It just strains our resources a little more, but the kids come first. But there are also people here in town who are just in as much danger as the deputies.”

The Juarez Cartel is considered one of the most notorious drug trafficking organizations along the border. The organization is connected to owners of several airline companies, which enables their leaders to fly 727s from Colombia into Juarez, according to the Drug Enforcement Agency.

Increasingly, murders in Juarez have been associated with the cartel, said Hardrick Crawford, a former special agent in charge of the El Paso FBI field office, who headed investigations into drug smuggling along the Texas border.

“I truly understand how the deputies feel,” said Crawford, whose family was also targeted by drug dealers during his investigations into drug trafficking in Miami during the 1980s.

“Intimidation is very effective for the cartels,” he said. “First they try bribery and then blackmail. When that doesn’t work, it’s intimidation and then murder. And believe me, these type of men have no problem with murder.”

The FBI El Paso field office has been notified of the threats to deputies’ families. Agents were sent to Hudspeth County last Thursday, said Andrea Simmons, FBI special agent in El Paso.

“A special agent had several meetings in Hudspeth County,” Simmons said. “At this point we do not have an active investigation, but that doesn’t eliminate the fact that it could become an active investigation.”

Simmons said the FBI has the authority to investigate under Interstate Transportation in Aid of Racketeering statute. The statute grants the bureau the ability to investigate crimes if the suspected persons crossed an international border to commit a crime.

“In this case the threat to the deputies would be the crime,” Simmons said. “Any threat or murder, including violence made after crossing an international border or across state lines falls under that statute.”

Many of the deputies live only a few miles from the border. But most feel reassured with the help they are getting from the Texas state troopers and Border Patrol agents who work along the Rio Grande, West said.

“All we can do is hope and pray nothing happens,” West said. “I hope they listen to us and put more manpower down here and stick to their guns. If this was happening in downtown Chicago or Washington, D.C., I don’t think the federal government would hesitate to protect the city – I don’t know why they've just ignored us.”

Copyright 2006, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin. Reprinted with permission.