Trump’s false narrative of chaos at the border

Este artículo también está disponible en Español aquí. California is often the first state in the West to test new solutions to social and environmental problems. These days, the state is at the fore of a much more ambitious challenge, as it finds its progressive ideals — and its increasingly diverse citizenry — in frequent opposition to the policies of President Donald Trump. Every month, in the Letter from California, we chronicle efforts in the state to grapple with its role in the changing, modern West. 

In 2010, back when I covered the border region for public radio, I visited a shelter for migrants, a modest building located a mile away, just south of the fence separating San Diego and Tijuana. There, recent deportees could find a bed for a few nights after Customs and Border Protection agents released them in Mexico. That’s where I met 34-year-old Verónica Vargas, a mother of two from Los Angeles, who’d been deported after a domestic violence incident.

In Las Cruces, Sessions talks stricter immigration efforts

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions outlined the Donald Trump administration’s immigration policies and enforcement while speaking at the Southwestern Border Sheriff’s Coalition and the Texas Border Sheriff’s Coalition spring conference in Las Cruces

Sessions reiterated pledges to increase prosecutions of those who enter the country illegally in an attempt to deter others from even attempting to enter. “If you break into our country, we will prosecute you,” Sessions said. Sessions said that Trump “expects us to not just play around with this problem, but to fix it and that’s certainly my goal.”

One way he said Trump would help solve illegal immigration is by building a border wall. He said the lack of such a wall was “an open invitation to illegal crossings.”

He also praised the U.S. Attorney’s office in New Mexico, which he said “already demonstrated its effectiveness over the last two years.” He said the office’s prosecutions of illegal crossings increased seven-fold from two years ago. Sessions described several so-called “loopholes” in the immigration process, including what he called a “credible fear loophole.” He was referring to a longstanding U.S. policy that allows  people who have a credible fear of persecution or torture in their home country to gain asylum admittance.

Federal government tells border prosecutors to adopt “zero-tolerance” policy on immigration

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Friday ordered federal prosecutors on the southwest border to adopt a “zero tolerance” policy against anyone who enters or attempts to enter the country illegally, a mandate he said “supersedes” any prior directives. “To those who wish to challenge the Trump Administration’s commitment to public safety, national security, and the rule of law, I warn you: illegally entering this country will not be rewarded, but will instead be met with the full prosecutorial powers of the Department of Justice,” Sessions said in a statement. “To the Department’s prosecutors, I urge you: promoting and enforcing the rule of law is vital to protecting a nation, its borders, and its citizens.”

The directive instructs all federal prosecutors on the southwest border to prosecute all Department of Homeland Security referrals for alleged violations of federal immigration illegal-entry laws. In a one-page memo sent to federal prosecutors on the southwest border, Sessions said the goal wasn’t merely developing more immigration cases, but instead an end to the “illegality in [the] immigration system.” He added that if the new policy requires more resources, the offices should identify and request those to the Department of Justice. The mandate comes the same week President Donald Trump has assailed Democrats for supporting what he said are “catch and release” policies where individuals apprehended by the Border Patrol are released while they await a court date.

Trump to send National Guard troops to border

Under President Donald Trump’s plan to send military troops to patrol the U.S.-Mexico border, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security would consult with the governors of border states to decide how many National Guard troops are needed. Kirstjen Nielsen, the secretary of DHS, made this announcement during a White House briefing on Wednesday. NM Political Report asked Gov. Susana Martinez’s office if she supports deploying troops along the border and if she had spoken with the White House about these plans. Her office did not respond by press time despite three emails to her public information officers. A spokesman did tell the Associated Press that she supported the move.

NM Environment Review: ‘Breakdown’ in KAFB leak partnership, plus climate and Borderlands

If you want to be ahead of the curve, sign up to receive our New Mexico Environment Review email on Thursday mornings. -John Fleck is no longer with the Albuquerque Journal, but he just can’t let go of the news. On Wednesday, he published a short piece on his blog about the “breakdown” in the partnership between Kirtland Air Force Base and the New Mexico Environment Department and the Albuquerque-Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority. The Air Force is responsible for the leakage of more than 24 million gallons of jet fuel into local groundwater supplies. According to a recent memo from the water authority to the New Mexico Environment Department, which Fleck posted online, the base’s new strategic plans are “disconnected from the stated goal of protecting drinking water and the aquifer and undermine Water Authority’s ability to ensure the safety and quality of drinking water.”

Furthermore, the memo notes that the updated strategy “implies that the site is moving from an active remediation strategy to a passive remediation strategy….” The authority opposes that “as it extends the damages to water resources and places liabilities on the water users and utilities, while allowing the responsible party to take minimal efforts towards corrective action.”

Read the entire memo here.

Dunn decries ‘federal land grab’ on state land on border

New Mexico’s State Land Commissioner said he will block the United States government from accessing some state lands along the border unless they can come to an agreement on access to the area. The newly-minted Libertarian, who is running for U.S. Senate, posted signs Tuesday along a mile of state trust land along the border with Mexico. In a press release, he called the construction of fences and roads on the land a “federal land grab.”

He told the Associated Press his office would install a fence to block access to the property if his office can’t come to an agreement with the federal government. Dunn said an investigation by his office found the federal government constructed a road and a fence on a stretch of land without acquiring the necessary right-of-way. Dunn wrote to the federal government about state lands along the border, and proposed a land swap, earlier this year.

Why do border deaths persist when the number of border crossings is falling?

In July, a sweltering tractor trailer ride in Texas became the latest harrowing example of the perils of crossing the U.S. border illegally. From the hospital, one survivor told authorities that he had paid smugglers to get him across the Rio Grande and then cram him on a northbound truck with what he guessed were nearly 100 people. The survivor managed to keep breathing in the pitch black trailer without food or water. But when the doors were opened in a San Antonio Walmart parking lot, eight migrants were dead, their bodies “lying on the floor like meat,” the truck’s driver subsequently said. Another two expired later.

Colonias on the border struggle with decades-old water issues

YUMA, Ariz. – Nestor Alaniz didn’t get a permit to build a well in his mother’s backyard, and he didn’t get it inspected. In fact, he didn’t even know how to dig a well. He learned by watching tutorials on YouTube while his brother, a construction worker, helped him drill the 25-foot-deep hole. They built the well after the old one dried up for the fourth time.

Border agency set to jumpstart Trump’s wall in a Texas wildlife refuge

U.S. Customs and Border Protection will begin constructing the first segment of President Trump’s border wall in November through a national wildlife refuge, using money it’s already received from Congress. That’s what a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service official recently told a nonprofit group that raises money to support two national wildlife refuges in South Texas, according to the group’s vice president. “I was alarmed,” said Jim Chapman of Friends of the Wildlife Corridor. “It was not good news.” For the past six months, CBP has been quietly preparing a site to build a nearly 3-mile border barrier through the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, according to The Texas Observer.

Preserving DACA proves little relief to NM immigrants

LAS CRUCES, N.M. — It’s been more than a week since President Donald Trump said he won’t seek deportation for the young people known as Dreamers brought to the U.S. as children – but not much has changed to give hope to immigrant families in New Mexico. Trump’s decision to preserve the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program for some 800,000 applicants is a small relief in light of the 11 million undocumented people still subject to deportation. Micah McCoy, communications director with the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico, said he’s seen the immigration enforcement actions increase since then. “Deportations in general have been ramped up quite a bit,” McCoy said. “And that’s having very serious consequences for families here in New Mexico.”