Border wars weekly: A roundup of all the news that pushes the boundaries

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Arizona goes to trial

The federal government filed a lawsuit this week against the state of Arizona that seeks to overturn its recently passed anti-illegal immigration law. The government is arguing that it alone holds the power to “regulate immigration matters.” But Governor Jan Brewer blasted the lawsuit, saying, “As a direct result of failed and inconsistent federal enforcement, Arizona is under attack from violent Mexican drug and immigrant smuggling cartels. Now, Arizona is under attack in federal court from President Obama and his Department of Justice”

As the largest gateway in the U.S., Arizona faces ever-increasing numbers of kidnappings and murders carried out by illegal immigrants, making it a personal issue for many Arizonians. With this in mind, state Democrats are requesting that the government hold off on the lawsuit until next year, hoping to keep their seats after the elections.

Borderline legislation

Last week, Congress approved $701 million in appropriations going towards border security and law enforcement. The funding will send 1,200 more border patrol agents and 500 customs agents.

This emergency funding was passed shortly after Obama’s highly criticized speech, in which he called for $500 million in emergency border security, as well as the 1,200 agents approved by Congress. Governors Jan Brewer (AZ) and Rick Perry (TX) quickly released statements against the president’s speech, both demanding more law enforcement personnel than proposed in the address.

Seizing is believing

Border Patrol’s been staying busy this past week as hoards of smugglers attempt to make their way across the border. On Friday, July 2, U.S. Customs and Border Protection announced that the agency seized more than $36.6 million of narcotics, currency and ammunition last week. One of the most productive seizures took place in Falfurrias, TX, where agents found 14,000 pounds of marijuana in one day. The CBP also prevented a number of convicted criminals from reentering the country. In one instance, agents stopped a smuggler convicted of second degree reckless homicide and robbery; another was charged with committing lascivious and lewd acts with a child under 14.

Cartel turf wars

A car involved in the cartels' shootout. AP

In a town only 12 miles south of Arizona’s border, a deadly fight broke out between the Sinaloa and Beltran Leyvas cartels, killing twenty-one and injuring six. The violent confrontation between the two gangs started over a smuggling route near the towns of Tubutama and Saric.

The northwestern region has seen a growing amount of violence in recent months. In Nogales, MX, a town adjacent to Nogales, AZ, murders have sharply increased in the past few months. According to AP, the border town that reported a total of 135 murders for 2009, has already had 131 murders since January.

Drugs, guns, and elections

A photo from Torre Cantu's funeral. AP

Polls throughout Mexico saw extremly low turnouts following recent cartel violence surrounding the elections. Chihuahua’s deputy attorney general, Oaxacan Mayor Nicolas Garcia Ambrosio, Council Member Angel Perez, and gubernatorial candidate of Rodolfo Torre Cantu were all killed last week in areas known for cartel activity.  One day after  publicly denouncing the cartels, Torre Cantu was gunned down in Tamaulipas. The candidate is the most high-profile political figure to be killed in Mexico since 1994.

Several polling places never opened on election day as poll workers opted to stay home in fear of their safety. Cartels further intimidated voters in Chihuahua City by hanging four bodies near a  polling place. In Oaxaca City, 39 people were arrested for making bombs in two separate hotels.

Sunday’s results showed in no major shifts of party power, except for one southern state. According to AP:

The Institutional Revolutionary Party, the former longtime ruling party, had hoped for significant gains Sunday to add momentum to its bid to regain the presidency in 2012, trying to capitalize on discontent over drug violence. But it appeared the PRI would not significantly improve on the nine governorships it already held among the dozen seats up for grabs.

Despite rising public frustration over drug violence, Calderon’s allies seemed likely to come away with a much needed boost by winning in the southern state of Oaxaca…

The PRI ruled the country for 71 years, until the election of Vicente Fox in 2000. Oaxaca had been under the PRI for eight decades before Sunday’s elections.