Soldiers Raid Tijuana Drug Cartel - 6/23/2008
-- Mexican Smugglers Make US Lands Unsafe - 6/20/2008
-- The cost of hiring 126 illegal aliens: $6.8 million - 5/30/2008
-- US Warns Tourists about Mexico Border - 5/17/2008
Raid Tijuana Drug Cartel at Baptism Party
CNSNews.com June 23, 2008
Tijuana, Mexico (AP) - Mexican soldiers captured at least 10 suspected members of a Tijuana-based drug cartel in a raid on a child's baptism party in this border city, officials said Sunday.
A total of 61 people were arrested in the sweep late Saturday, including the band hired to play the party and three city police officers, Baja California state police spokesman Agustin Perez told The Associated Press.
Authorities had been tracking the movements of suspected members of the Arellano Felix drug cartel for days and acted "at a moment when they were vulnerable," the spokesman said.
Perez denied initial Mexican military reports that alleged cartel cell leader Filiberto Parra Ramos could be among those arrested.
The Arellano Felix cartel dominates the drug trade along the U.S.-California border.
President Felipe Calderon has deployed 25,000 troops across Mexico to wrest back territory from well-armed drug gangs, which have fought back with bold attacks.
(Copyright 2008 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)
Copyright 1998-2006 Cybercast News Service
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Smugglers Make US Lands Unsafe
By Penny Starr CNSNews.com Senior Staff Writer June 20, 2008
(CNSNews.com) - Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne has said that drug traffickers sneaking into the United States from Mexico through U.S. lands administered by his department have made some of those lands unsafe for American families.
As reported by Cybercast News Service last month, the State Department similarly issued a largely unpublicized travel alert for the Mexican side of the border on April 14, warning would-be tourists that the "equivalent to military small-unit combat" was taking place there and that "dozens" of Americans had been "kidnapped and/or murdered" in Tijuana alone in 2007. (See story)
As Cybercast News Service subsequently reported, State Department records indicate that 128 Americans have been murdered in Mexico over the past three years. (See story) And because the State Department headquarters in Washington does no centralized monitoring of how the Mexican justice system handles those murder cases, it cannot say whether anyone has ever been arrested or convicted for any of them. (See story)
Even before the State Department issued its travel alert for Mexico, however, Interior Secretary Kempthorne had stated -- again, with almost no publicity -- that some of the lands administered by his department on the U.S. side of the Mexican border have become dangerous places where "families can no longer live or recreate without fear of coming across drug smugglers."
"Unfortunately," an Interior Department spokesperson told Cybercast News Service on Thursday, "DOI lands make up approximately 40 percent of the Southwest border, and I think there has been a shift in some of those illegal activities, particularly drug-trafficking crossings, to those lands because they tend to be less populated.
"It's becomes more of a prime location for people to come through," he added, "and the net result has been an increase in violence."
Larry Parkinson, Interior's deputy assistant secretary for law enforcement, told Cybercast News Service Thursday that criminal activity along the U.S.-Mexico border has increased over the past seven years as criminals seek more remote locations to cross into the U.S.
"On the law enforcement side, it's our biggest challenge," Parkinson said.
The Department of Interior's Southwest Borderlands Web page warns visitors about criminals and criminal activities in national parks, wildlife refuges and recreation areas near the Mexican border. Five Indian tribes have land bordering Mexico.
"Once pristine landscapes on the U.S. Southwest border have become dangerous corridors for drug smuggling operations and other illegal activities that threaten Indian communities, public land stewards and recreational visitors," the Web site says.
"Drug smugglers establish observations posts on public lands, and carry assault weapons, encrypted radios, night vision optical equipment and other sophisticated devices," it says. (See Web site)
The Web site also indicates that human and drug traffic has increased over the years.
"Last year, nearly 200,000 illegal entrants into the United States were apprehended on public lands in the Southwest, an 11-fold increase since 2001, as illegal activity shifts from increasingly well-protected urban areas to more rural outposts," the Web site states.
The site reports that in 2007, law enforcement seized nearly 3,000 pounds of cocaine and 740,000 pounds of marijuana.
In February, Secretary Kempthorne announced that his department was seeking an $8 million increase in its budget for law enforcement and "to remediate the environmental impacts of these illegal activities" along the Mexican border.
"Times have changed along our international border with Mexico," Kempthorne said. "Our employees, residents and visitors face daily dangers. In many locations families can no longer live or recreate without fear of coming across drug smugglers. Residents of Indian communities are especially hard hit by rampant illegal activity and unsafe living conditions."
When Kempthorne testified before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on the Interior on April 15, he repeated the point: "There are significant areas along the border that are not safe for American families to visit, to spend an overnight camping opportunity because of the drug smuggling that's taking place by the national drug cartels," Kempthorne told the committee.
Some $2 million of the $8 million Kempthorne is requesting will be used to repair environmental damage done by illegal entrants and drug smugglers.
"The illegal traffic has resulted in significant theft and vandalism and physical damage to public land resources, sensitive fish and wildlife habitat and valuable archeological sites," the website states.
Parkinson said despite the increased violence on public lands, he believes the U.S. is "in the process" of securing the border. He cites, for example, that from Oct. 1, 2007 to May 2008, apprehensions were down 14 percent on the border between Mexico and Arizona.
"Some of the security efforts are beginning to turn the corner," Parkinson said.
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The cost of hiring 126 illegal aliens: $6.8 million
May 30, 2008 By Kelly Cramer From MCDC [Contributor: MM Shirl]
A family owned commercial fishing business in Virginia and two of its owners paid $6.8 million in fines and forfeitures after pleading guilty to hiring 126 illegal aliens to work on their boats.
The charge is a misdemeanor and federal prosecutors had recommended home confinement in addition to the monetary penalties, but U.S. District Judge Raymond A. Jackson sentenced Yvonne Michelle Peabody, the company’s vice president, to three months in prison.
At the sentencing hearing last month, the judge said he was making an example out of Peabody, who had served on the Mid-Atlantic Fisheries Council’s law enforcement subcommittee at the same time illegal aliens had been working on the family’s eight scallop boats.
She paid a $50,000 fine and will also spend an additional four months on home confinement after her release. Her father, William Peabody, will serve five months of home confinement and paid $100,000 in fines.
Hiring undocumented workers or foreign crew already in the United States on a B1/B2 visa who are or were employed by another megayacht at the time of their entry is prevalent in the yachting community. The prosecution of the Peabodys is a reminder that when federal authorities choose to enforce the law, the penalties can be stiff.
John E. Holloway, the Peabodys’ attorney, had argued in court that the "government took a permissive approach to the presence of illegal aliens on commercial fishing vessels."
The IRS mailed notifications that some of the alien registration numbers or social security numbers workers had provided the Peabodys could be fakes. Also, U.S. Coast Guard officials boarded the Peabodys’ boats at least 13 times from 2003 to 2007 and issued only warnings when illegal aliens were found aboard.
Miami attorney Michael T. Moore said he hasn’t seen this severe of a punishment in a case like this before.
"Illegal aliens are under the screen and that is very, very frustrating for the Department of Homeland Security," Moore said. "The fundamental confusion that most people make is they get lost in the weeds over the flag, but you never can violate the immigration laws of the United States no matter the flag."
The yachting community is as vulnerable to the same kind of prosecution in the event the U.S. government decided to enforce the immigration laws, Moore said. But he also cautioned against drawing too many parallels to the Peabody case for a few reasons, chiefly because of how the Peabodys caught the attention of law enforcement.
Prosecutors became interested in the Peabodys only after Yvonne Peabody’s boyfriend, a chief petty officer in the U.S. Coast Guard, got into trouble at work for e-mailing her confidential Coast Guard information.
According to court documents, in 2004 Yvonne Peabody asked boyfriend Morris Wade Hughes to send her a Coast Guard picture showing areas closed to commercial fishing. Hughes then accessed a government database, downloaded the picture and sent it to her.
The picture was not classified information, but Hughes’ superiors were not happy when they found out about it. They launched an investigation into Hughes that uncovered the illegal aliens working for the Peabodys.
In December, Hughes was indicted on seven charges, including unlawful access to a government computer, conspiracy to defraud the United States, and unlawful disclosure of confidential information. At his February trial, prosecutors called to the stand Yvonne Peabody to testify against Hughes, who had also been charged with sending her information about the investigation into her family’s business.
The Peabodys cooperated with prosecutors and worked out a plea deal, agreeing to the hefty fines and forfeitures.
A jury convicted Hughes of three misdemeanors for passing along confidential information to Yvonne Peabody. But he was acquitted of the more serious conspiracy charge, which was a felony. He is scheduled to be sentenced later this year.
Moore also said Newport News, Va., where the Peabodys’ business was based, is a tougher port because of its proximity to the U.S. Navy base in Norfolk.
"When we have yachts going to Newport News, we ask them: ‘Do you have to go there?’" Moore said. "We’ve had too many troubles there. I have spoken to no less than then the head guy at Homeland Security, and at that location, they are taking no prisoners."
Kelly Cramer is managing editor of The Triton. Comments on this story are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org .
6.8 million can help build the fence....IF HOMELAND SECURITY doesn't give it to Verizon and AT&T to spy on us!!
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Tourists of 'Small-Unit Combat' at Mexico Border
By Penny Starr
CNSNews.com Senior Staff Writer
May 16, 2008
(CNSNews.com) - The U.S. State Department has issued an alert, warning travelers that the "equivalent to military small-unit combat" is taking place across the southern U.S. border in Mexico and that Americans are being kidnapped and murdered there.
"Recent Mexican army and police force conflicts with heavily-armed narcotics cartels have escalated to levels equivalent to military small-unit combat and have included use of machine guns and fragmentation grenades," said the State Department alert.
"Confrontations have taken place in numerous towns and cities in northern Mexico, including Tijuana in the Mexican state of Baja California, and Chihuahua City and Ciudad Juarez in the state of Chihuahua," reads the alert. "The situation in northern Mexico remains very fluid; the location and timing of future armed engagements there cannot be predicted."
The State Department particularly urged that Americans be wary when traveling in that part of Mexico closest to the United States. "U.S. citizens are urged to be especially alert to safety and security concerns when visiting the border region," said the alert.
Murder and kidnapping of Americans has become routine in Tijuana, which sits just across the border from San Diego, California, according to the State Department, and sometimes heavily armed attackers wear the uniforms of the Mexican police or military.
"Dozens of U.S. citizens were kidnapped and/or murdered in Tijuana in 2007," says the alert. "Public shootouts have occurred during daylight hours near shopping areas. Criminals are armed with a wide array of sophisticated weapons. In some cases, assailants have worn full or partial police or military uniforms and have used vehicles that resemble police vehicles."
The alert also warns Americans to avoid areas where drugs and prostitution are evident and to "refrain from displaying expensive-looking jewelry, large amounts of money and other valuable items."
In light of this alert, which was first issued on Apr. 14, and was listed as "current as of today, Thursday May 15 17:51:35 2008" on State's Web site on Wednesday, Cybercast News Service submitted a number of questions to the State Department via e-mail, and received non-responsive answers the next day. Cybercast News Service's questions were as follows:
-- "The alert says 'attacks are aimed primarily at members of drug trafficking organizations, Mexican police forces, criminal justice officials and journalists.' Can you provide more details about who has been attacked and the result of those attacks, including injuries, fatalities and legal ramifications?
-- "The alert says violence has 'escalated to levels equivalent to military small-unit combat and have included use of machine guns and fragmentation grenades.' Can you provide more information, including the number of incidents involving these kinds of weapons and the number of weapons confiscated?
-- "The alert says that violence not related to drug trafficking has increased in Tijuana and Ciudad Jarez, with 'dozens of U.S. citizens ... kidnapped and/or murdered in Tijuana in 2007.' How many people were kidnapped or murdered and how do those numbers compare with the numbers in prior years?"
-- "The alert recommends that Americans avoid areas where prostitution and drug dealing occurs. Where are those areas?"
-- "How many incidents in 2007 and other years are recorded that show U.S. citizens being followed or harassed in the border areas, including Nuevo Laredo, Matamoros and Tijuana?"
-- "How many kidnapping cases of U.S. citizens remain unsolved?"
-- "What actions is the state department taking to reduce the violence on the border?"
The State Department's written answer to those questions is as follows:
"The State Department's Office of American Citizens Services and Crisis Management (ACS) administers the Consular Information Program, which informs the public of conditions abroad that may affect their safety and security.
"Travel Alerts are issued to disseminate information about short-term conditions, generally within a particular country, that pose imminent risks to the security of U.S. citizens. Natural disasters, terrorist attacks, coups, anniversaries of terrorist events, election-related demonstrations or violence, and high-profile events such as international conferences or regional sports events are examples of conditions that might generate a Travel Alert.
"The travel alert is a collaborative effort based on media reports and other information released within a particular country. It is provided so that American travellers (sic) can make an informed decision about their plans to visit a particular location at a particular time.
"For various reasons, American citizens often choose not to report their involvement in activities while abroad.
"Your best source for detailed statistics and information about specific locations would be from sources within Mexico."
Copyright 1998-2006 Cybercast News Service
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