Borderama!Sorry, Minuteman volunteers! You remain on your own. Homeland Security officials wasted no time shooting down a trial balloon floated by Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Robert Bonner to create a civilian auxiliary to help agents patrol the border.
On the other side of the volunteers-along-the-border coin, migrant support group No More Deaths announced plans to "flood the border" with volunteers to aid migrants suffering from heat-related disorders. Two members of No More Deaths, Shanti Sellz and Daniel Strauss, last week rejected a plea deal related to charges of immigrant smuggling after they were caught by Border Patrol agents while driving three illegal migrants to receive medical aid.
Back in Washington, Sen. Jon Kyl joined with Texas Sen. John Cornyn to introduce his own immigration reform measure which would boost border enforcement and detainment resources and crack down on employers of illegal immigrants. It would also establish a new system of importing immigrant laborers and force all migrants now in the country illegally to be deported to their home countries.
Finally, the General Accounting Office released a report that revealed apprehensions at temporary Border Patrol checkpoints in the Tucson sector had dropped 78 percent since 2001. Border Patrol officials, who want permanent checkpoints, have been feuding with Congressman Jim Kolbe over the mobile checkpoints for years.
Kolbe spun the report as showing that his opposition to permanent checkpoints was smart policy.
"This report states that interior checkpoints in the Tucson sector are an inefficient method of apprehending illegal immigrants," said Kolbe in a prepared statement. "While the number of actual checkpoints and their hours of operation have increased since 2001, effectiveness has gone down. Everyone knows where these checkpoints are, and they simply avoid them. However, in the same time period, apprehensions by line patrols have increased in effectiveness."
Republican Randy Graf, the former state representative who is taking a second shot at unseating Kolbe, issued his own press release decrying the mobile checkpoints.
"At town hall meetings in Arizona, Jim Kolbe proclaims his concern over our 'failed immigration policies' and 'securing our nation,'" Graf said. "Then he returns to Washington, D.C., and hamstrings the Border Patrol through appropriations, and offers us an amnesty program with Ted Kennedy. He has consistently blocked all legislation for permanent checkpoints, leaving us exposed to drug trafficking and terrorists."
Trust Busters Having failed to push their plan through the Arizona Legislature, proponents of state land reform have launched an initiative drive to ask voters to amend the state Constitution to update the way the Land Department disposes of and conserves more than 9 million acres of state trust land. The group must collect nearly 184,000 valid signatures by July 6, 2006, to force a vote on the November '06 ballot.
Under the current law, land must be sold at auction for the highest bidder to benefit schools and other beneficiaries. The proposal would allow for more sophisticated planning as well as conservation of roughly 700,000 acres, mostly in the Phoenix and Tucson areas.
Trash Tort Former state Rep. John Kromko announced he was filing suit against Mayor Bob Walkup, the City Council and City Clerk Kathy Detrick for tossing out nearly 600 signatures on his petitions to force a public vote on Tucson's $14-a-month garbage fee. The rejection left Kromko 187 shy of the 11,615 valid signatures required for a successful referendum.
The signatures were rejected because blank lines on petitions were not crossed out as required by city statute. Kromko's lawyers, David Euchner and Ivan Abrams, said state law makes no reference to crossing out blank lines, and the city is prohibited from coming up with additional restrictions.
A closer look at the petitions would have undoubtedly resulted in thousands more signatures being rejected, but under the city's rules, Kromko would have had more time to gather signatures while the petitions were being reviewed.
It's Murder Out ThereTucson police are investigating four homicides discovered over a three-day stretch this week. Police found a 24-year-old man shot on the southside on Saturday; an 18-year-old man shot on the southside on Sunday; a 29-year-old ice-cream vendor shot on the southside on Monday; and an unidentified man whose body was discovered near Prince and Country Club roads on Monday.
Grey Power!Five members of the Tucson Raging Grannies were arraigned in court this week after being arrested on trespassing charges when they entered an U.S. Army recruiting center and insisted on enlisting. "The purpose to enlist was to enable the safe return of young men and women presently in Iraq and Afghanistan," according to a press release from the grannies.
Four members of the media were also cited in the July 13 incident.
How Hot Is It?Tucson tied a record for 39 consecutive 100-degree days, but was unable to break it when temps climbed to a mere 98 degrees on Saturday, July 23. Meanwhile, meteorologists officially welcomed the late start of the monsoon season, which has brought storms that are wreaking havoc in and around the Tucson area.
In related news, Maricopa County officials estimate that at least 24 people have been killed by this summer's heat wave.