Note: The second piece some of the "immigrants" they helping in?
More background in the third.
Tucsonans have history of welcoming undocumented immigrants
Posted: Apr 07, 2012 2:37 PM MST
Updated: Apr 07, 2012 2:37 PM MST
Posted by James Bennett - email
By Diana Martinez / Cronkite Borderlands Initiative
TUCSON, AZ – It's late Friday night and only a few quiet souls are
waiting in the stark, cold Greyhound bus station to continue their
Among them is Luz Tejada, a 36–year–old woman from Peru wearing a
borrowed sweater and a weary expression. She sits on a bench near a
line of vending machines, clutching only a small purse.
Tejada's journey began when she fled an abusive relationship. When
she reached the U.S.–Mexico border, she walked through the desert
with others, guided by a coyote – a human smuggler – into the United
States. But the U.S. Border Patrol quickly caught the group and she
was sent to the federal detention center in Eloy, about 50 miles
northwest of Tucson, where she was held for more than a month.
On this night she was among a group of a few women who were released
on their own recognizance, pending hearings on their applications for
asylum. Immigration and Customs Enforcement dropped them off at the
bus station in Tucson, per ICE's weekly routine.
Like the others, Tejada had no extra clothes, no money, and very few
belongings with her. But as she and the other women were dropped off,
volunteers from Casa Mariposa, a faith–based community for social
justice, were waiting for them.
Every week, the volunteers offer the released detainees something to
eat, a small amount of cash for bus fare, and a warm, caring approach
– a momentary sanctuary.
Tucson has a long history of setting the stage for offering
immigrants sanctuary, playing a key role in the Sanctuary Movement of
the 1980s that sought to give refugees from Central America a safe
haven after fleeing political repression.
While Tucson officials today say they do not consider the city a
designated place of sanctuary, the human rights work continues
through local organizations like Casa Mariposa and another Tucson–
based center that serves migrants called Casa San Juan.
Casa San Juan was started in 2002 by the Diocese of Tucson, at the
request of leaders and members of the St. John the Evangelical
One of its founders, Father Raul Trevizo, said the center was started
in a joint effort with the Pima County Interfaith Council, an
organization of churches in the area.
"I was concerned with what was happening to our immigrant families,
and so I brought together the catechist which is those that teach
religion and speak Spanish," Trevizo said.
He had asked the group what could be done for the immigrant
community, and one woman responded with what would be their founding
"One lady came back with the response of 'If they had a place where
they could go to get the right information and they knew they were
safe, that would be extremely helpful,'" said Trevizo, who added that
the center was started shortly after.
It was the first center serving migrants in the Diocese, and remains
the only the center that exclusively serves migrants.
Today, Casa San Juan is a quaint, white, pueblo–style building that
sits on the grounds of St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church in
According to Trevizo, a myriad of services can be requested at Casa
Everything from free medical clinics, non–perishable foods, prepared
meals, and legal advice are offered to those who come knocking.
"The needs have become more desperate, people are facing more
desperation with employers' sanctions and fear from immigration
sweeps," Trevizo said.
Casa San Juan's main goal is to provide help to immigrant families
and work for justice to improve the quality of life for those in
Tucson's poorest areas.
"These people are in despair, and there's a fear and weariness,"
Trevizo, a middle–aged native of Arizona with gentle eyes and a soft
disposition, said the center sees and helps about 200 people a week.
Most of those who come in for (Casa San Juan's) services are local
women and some men who are passing through the city, Trevizo said.
The women, according to Trevizo, are usually between the ages of 25
and 40, and need food to get their families through the week.
Food is a large part of Casa San Juan's hospitality. Casa San Juan
spends most of its donated money on purchasing non–perishables and
prepared meals for patrons.
That night at the bus station, food and support were what volunteers
from Casa Mariposa offered the group of released women.
Casa Mariposa started in the spring of 2009, and is an organization
that functions like a community blending faith and action.
Casa Mariposa is based out of a seven–room century–old house, painted
red and grey with a bright blue fence, not far from downtown Tucson.
There, the volunteers live, work, and commit their lives to helping
those in need.
The program began when like–minded volunteers from different
religious backgrounds came together to form the ecumenical social
justice organization, The Restoration Project.
The Restoration Project is the name for the work the community
members do for detainees who have been released and need help.
"From the beginning, our community has pooled our resources to pay
for the house where some of the community lives and where we offer
hospitality," said Carol Bradsen, one of the founding leaders at Casa
Dozens of volunteers have been working since April to respond to the
needs of men and women who are dropped off at the Greyhound Bus
Station from Eloy.
The migrants released from detention centers, like the one in Eloy,
are released for a number of reasons: some make bond, some are
granted humanitarian parole and others are set free by a judge. Many
apply for asylum.
While they are awaiting adjudication of their cases, they are all
authorized to be in the United States and are free to travel at their
own expense. Some win their cases to stay, Bradsen added.
Once detainees at the detention centers find out they will be
released, ICE has said that they have time to make travel
arrangements if they are able. However, migrants that end up staying
with Casa Mariposa say otherwise, according to Bradsen.
In 2003, there were 42,114 claims for asylum filed with the United
States Citizenship and Immigration Services Bureau, and the
percentage of cases approved was 29 percent of cases decided,
according to a report by the Congressional Research Service.
Tejada had been released on a pending asylum case after her month–
long stay in Eloy, and explains the stay at the detention center from
At first, getting caught by Border Patrol was "a relief," she said in
Spanish through a translator.
"There's no way to prepare walking through the desert," said Tejada
of the physical exertion it takes, and for the mental preparedness of
witnessing some unfortunate things.
She mentions painful blisters that develop on their feet, the
scorching heat from the sun, and the long journey with no food or water.
Tejada said that if someone in the group falls behind from lack of
water, or fatigue, they are left for dead out in the desert.
Women are raped out in the pitch–black of night, Tejada explained,
with no one to help, and one woman actually had to leave her husband
behind who likely died.
From another perspective, getting caught and being taken to the
center meant they didn't have to be subjected to the elements of
heat, danger, and horror anymore yet incarceration had other challenges.
"Life (at the detention center) is very sad," said Tejada, "everyone
has their own story."
Tejada added that the detention center was crowded, mentioning that
in one area she was put in, "there were a hundred people."
According to Tejada, her time in the detention center was a nervous
While dealing with the embarrassment of having to be stripped
searched, she faced the uncertainty of what would happen to her, or
whether she would ever be released.
"I didn't realize that the state would actually offer asylum to women
abused and battered," Tejada said.
Her case still has to be proven as a legitimate abuse case by both
the United States and Peru, to receive asylum.
"It all depends on the court, the judge," Tejada added.
On this night, Tejada was awaiting a bus to take her to Maryland,
where her sister and a few other family members are living.
Tejada's personal experience at the detention center is mirrored in
another woman, a 20–year–old from Guatemala who asked to be called
Nancy, with her possessions contained in a black backpack, sat that
night at the bus station near Tejada and another woman with curly
back hair who didn't want to talk.
At first glance, Nancy looked to be a woman in her 40s; her face was
weather–beaten and reflected the fatigue of a long, unsettled journey.
She spoke softly and timidly in Spanish, about her similar trek
through the Mexican desert and her time spent at the Eloy Detention
"We came through the canyons in Nogales," said Nancy, "And we were
caught, and were asked questions about our vitals."
Initially, Nancy left Guatemala due to what she described as personal
"A man there was constantly assaulting me," Nancy said.
After her arrest, Nancy became one of the 1,476 people who on an
average day are detained at the Eloy center.
"Obviously the services aren't the best, but they fed us and gave us
water," said Nancy.
Nancy added that she was released on "trust and faith" that she could
find work. She was waiting for a bus to take her to Connecticut to
join her parents and siblings.
Stories like Tejada's and Nancy's, once played out mainly in the
Southwest, are now commonplace throughout the country.
In Alabama, a new law known as House Bill 56, is now considered one
of the toughest laws concerning illegal immigration in the country.
An Alabama judge has blocked some portions of the law, namely
sections that would require public schools to verify students'
immigration status, and authorize local police to inquire about a
driver's immigration status during routine traffic stops or arrests
if there is reasonable suspicion for that person being in the country
Despite the law's key points being blocked, churches and activist
organizations there are stepping up their efforts to provide for the
needs of the undocumented community.
"Being undocumented has always been difficult, but now it's near
impossible," said Bart Thau, a pastor at the United Methodist Church
in Pleasant Hill, Alabama.
Thau, who also the chair of the Board of Directors of the Hispanic
Interest Coalition of Alabama, explained that while the church
doesn't have a set program for hospitality toward undocumented
immigrants, the church does a lot on it's own for the congregation.
"We always do try to get the physical needs met," added Thau, of the
members of the church who happened to be undocumented.
The church provides a food bank, part–day childcare, gives out gift
cards during the holidays, and helps people understand their legal
options and resources.
Yet, Thau mentions they are unable to meet one of the biggest needs
he sees out there in Alabama.
"We can't give them work or jobs," Thau said.
"People want to be self-sufficient, that's the hardest need to me,
and you can't meet that need," he added.
The efforts of groups like Thau's in Alabama and Casa Mariposa and
Casa San Juan in Tucson don't go unappreciated. For the women at the
Tucson bus station that cold Friday night, even the simplest gestures
made quite the difference.
"It's so wonderful to know that we are here with nothing, and that an
organization that doesn't know us is reaching out to us," said
Tejada, as she was clutching a manila envelop of Casa Mariposa's
papers and wiping tears from her eyes.
And then the silent woman with the black curly hair sitting among
Nancy and Tejada that late night, spoke just as volunteers from Casa
Mariposa leaving to let the women get some rest before the buses came.
"All we can do now is leave it up to God, "she said.
Copyright 2012 Cronkite News. All rights reserved.
About this project:
The Cronkite School's Southwest Borderlands Initiative has students
delving in-depth into critical Latino-related issues in the United
States and Mexico.
It is led by Rick Rodriguez, former executive editor at the
Sacramento Bee and the school's first Carnegie Professor specializing
in Latino and transnational news coverage.
The effort grew out of the Cronkite School's longtime commitment to
giving students fieldwork experience along the U.S.-Mexico border and
in Mexico. In recent years, Cronkite students have produced several
major multimedia reporting projects focusing on immigration and
Note: computer english
They note the presence of Mara Salvatrucha in migration flows
Secretary of U.S. Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano and the
Minister of Justice and Public Safety Guatemalan David Munguia Payes,
last month signed a collaboration agreement between the two countries
on security, including the fight against criminal gangs .
Posted: 08/04/2012 11:22
Tapachula, Chiapas. Peace and Freedom Association in Central America
warned of a new exodus of gang members from El Salvador to Guatemala
and Mexico, especially of members of criminal gangs Mara Salvatrucha
13 (MS-13) and District 18.
In an interview, the leader of that organization based in several
Central American countries, Brian Howard, said that based on criminal
acts committed in Guatemala in the last two months have noticed that
in at least 80 percent of them have participated gangs , most gangs.
Also receive information from hostels migrants, which have confirmed
the increased number of gang members in the flow.
For this reason, he said, are sending a summary of its findings on
the issue, not just the federal governments of Mexico and Guatemala,
but to other Central American nations, "to coordinate strategies to
ensure social security in the region ".
He explained that the Secretary of Homeland Security United States,
Janet Napolitano and the Minister of Justice and Public Safety
Guatemalan David Munguia Payes, last month signed a collaboration
agreement between the two countries on security, including combating
The agreement, made public, participants will exchange information on
the data of air passengers linking the two regions, in order to
achieve better control of gangs, drug trafficking and terrorism.
In the case of El Salvador, said Napolitano also was recently in that
country, where he offered to help combat and prevent the formation of
gangs, which authorities attributed a 90 -13 percent of murders daily
in this Central American nation- .
Salvadoran authorities estimate that only in El Salvador, the Mara
Salvatrucha (MS-13) and the so-called Barrio 18 have brought together
around 11 000 members, although unofficial figures estimate that this
figure is higher.
On the other hand, in the course of this year, the Special Prosecutor
for Crimes Against Immigrants (Fedcci) of Chiapas has disbanded four
gangs operating in the southern border with assault, robbery with
violence and trafficking; achieving record to 24 alleged criminals to
state prison than the coast, eight Quarter 18.
The results, considered in an interview in due course the special
prosecutor, Enrique Mendez Rojas, "are the result of research work
started in early 2011 and with which disintegrated in the second half
of this year to three cliques, criminal groups gangs, and were
recorded at 16 gang Mara Salvatrucha 13 ".
Given the assumption that after his fall from 2005, the Maras
Salvatrucha try to rebuild in Chiapas to commit serious crimes
against migrants, said the Attorney General of the State (PGJE)
endorsed the tactical combat operations designed to prevent their
return and installation.
In this 2012, he said, this Office has undertaken the investigations
to collect all items and record incriminating and a click of the
seven-member District 18 in the municipality of Tapachula Mazatán-
bordering-commanded by Jose Orozco (a) " The chichihuetas ".
The latter crime was documented that that person was the cold-blooded
murder of a Guatemalan day laborer, just a few days ago.
The prosecutor also noted that managed to capture the District 18,
Andrés Gómez Chacón (a) "El Chino", for possession of narcotics,
"which attempted to deliver to a group of gang members, as an
activity of drug dealing", but was arrested and admitted to a prison
of this city.
So far, established the authority has counted five cliques
dismembered in the coastal towns of Arriaga, Tonala, Mazatán,
Tapachula and Ciudad Hidalgo more, and thus appropriated to 24
alleged criminals to state prisons.
These actions, stands the rescue of a child Salvadoran 14-year-old
who was kidnapped in Guatemala and the international gang known as
"The Hand of Fire" kept hidden in Chiapas.
All of them are immigrants Attorney turned over to the judge to be
sentenced for crimes committed in Mexico.
Gangs of gang members who reported an incidence superlative that he
even overwhelm the authorities in Chiapas in the first half of the
last decade, have been since 2005 a gradual and sustained almost
disappeared from the state territory as a result of the remnants of
cyclone "Stan" that hit this part of the entity.
The phenomenon destroyed much of the area's rail infrastructure and
Soconusco Coast, leaving no chance these gangs like they used to be
transported in or on wagons semiconductor companies, including the so-
called "Chiapas Mayab" that was one of the most affected by its
Two of Latin America's deadliest gangs join forces
ROMINA RUIZ-GOIRIENA, Associated Press
Posted: 04/07/2012 11:44:50 AM MDT
GUATEMALA CITY (AP) - Hardened in the streets and prisons of
California and deported in the 1990s to the Central American
countries where they were born, the members of the Mara Salvatrucha
street gang swiftly grew into a force of heavily tattooed young men
carrying out kidnappings, murder and extortion.
Now, Guatemalan authorities say, they have begun to see new and
disturbing evidence of an alliance between the Maras and another of
the most feared criminal organizations in Latin America - a deal with
the potential to further undermine that U.S.-backed effort to fight
violent crime and narcotics trafficking in the region.
Secret jailhouse recordings and a turncoat kidnapper have described a
pact between leaders of the Maras and the Zetas, the brutal Mexican
paramilitary drug cartel that has seized control of large parts of
rural northern Guatemala in its campaign for mastery of drug-
trafficking routes from South America to the United States.
In recent months, authorities say, they have begun to see the first
signs that the Zetas are providing paramilitary training and
equipment to the Maras in exchange for intelligence and crimes meant
to divert law-enforcement resources and attention.
The Zetas, formed more than a decade ago by defectors from Mexico's
army special forces, have already joined forces with local drug
kingpins in the Guatemalan countryside, and recruited turncoat
members of Guatemala's military special forces for operations in
Guatemala, officials in the two neighboring countries have said.
There is some evidence that other Mexican cartels have paid Central
American street gangs to sell drugs for them. And Salvadoran
authorities said they are aware of informal links between the Zetas
and local cliques of the Mara Salvatrucha paid to sell individual
shipments of drugs, but officials have seen no proof of any formal
deal between the gangs.
But a formal, durable alliance with the Maras could bring the Zetas
thousands of new foot soldiers, extending the cartel's reach into the
cities of Guatemala, and, potentially, other countries in Central
America where the Maras maintain a grip on urban slums.
Guatemalan authorities told The Associated Press that they believe
the Zetas have trained a small group of Maras in at least one camp
inside Mexico. Zeta members have spoken of recruiting 5,000 more,
although the extent to which they have succeeded remains unclear,
Surreptitious recordings of jailhouse conversations between Zeta and
Mara leaders contain mentions of a deal between the two groups,
according to a high-ranking investigator who spoke to the AP on
condition of anonymity due to the sensitive and dangerous nature of
Eduardo Velasco, head of an Interior Ministry task force on organized
crime, told the AP that authorities believed the Maras' training by
the Zetas had manifested itself in the increasing brutality,
planning, organization and firepower of Maras' operations in Guatemala.
Previously armed mainly with handguns, Maras, recognizable by
intimidating, dark tattoos that cover swaths of their bodies and
often their faces, have begun carrying AR-15, M-16 and AK-47 assault
rifles and military fragmentation grenades.
In the city of Villanueva in January, a group of Maras armed with
assault rifles burst into a suburban disco and opened fire on a
meeting of rivals, killing five people.
Maras have also begun chopping off the fingers of kidnapping victims
to pressure their families into sending ransoms, a technique
previously seen in Mexico, Velasco said.
"As a result of this union with the Zetas, the Mara Salvatrucha have
more ability to organize, strategize and maneuver," Velasco said.
"The Mara Salvatrucha want to build up their inventory of long-range
weapons, grenades and drugs for their own use and for sale ... they
know the economic benefit is great for them and that the Zetas, as an
outside group, need the Maras' network in order to grow inside
The Zetas have not tried to recruit the Salvatruchas' rival MS-18
gang, also a group whose name and organization originate in the slums
of Los Angeles, because it is not as powerful or sophisticated,
The Zetas' ultimate goal, according to analysts, Guatemalan
authorities and international officials, is to integrate the Maras
into their network and become the most powerful group in Guatemala -
criminal or legitimate.
"The Zetas are a paramilitary organization that wants to control all
the legitimate, illegitimate and criminal activities in Guatemala,"
said Antonio Mazzitelli, regional head of the United Nations Office
on Drugs and Organized Crime.
Miguel Angel Galvez, a judge who hears narcotics and organized crime
cases, said the Mara-Zeta alliance was increasingly evident in the
cases he hears, and had been documented in notebooks found on
arrested Zetas that detailed payments to Mara members.
"The Zetas come to a group like the Maras and grab total control," he
Authorities first learned of the alliance after arresting 50
suspected Zeta members linked to a May 14 massacre on a cattle farm
in Peten province that left 27 people dead, 25 of them decapitated,
another law-enforcement official said on condition of anonymity for
reasons of personal safety.
The suspects were incarcerated alongside Maras, and their secretly
recorded conversations contained the first mention of an alliance,
the official said.
The Zetas expressed the desire to completely integrate with the Zeta
members of the Mara Salvatrucha and are providing them with military
training and indoctrination in Mexican camps, Velasco said.
Another operation led to the dismantling of a group of kidnappers,
Velasco said. The head of the gang became a cooperating witness and
told authorities he had sent 18 members of his group to a Zeta
training camp in Veracruz, Mexico, paying each 5,000 quetzales
($640). They came back to Guatemala and worked as kidnappers for him.
He was planning to send another six for training when he was arrested.
Velasco declined to elaborate on the case.
Mexican officials have dismantled Zeta training camps in the state of
Nuevo Leon but declined to comment on the Guatemalan claims. U.S.
officials in Guatemala also declined to comment.
Contributing to this story were Sonia Perez in Guatemala City,
Alberto Arce in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, Marcos Aleman in San Salvador,
El Salvador and Adriana Gomez Licon, Michael Weissenstein and E.
Eduardo Castillo in Mexico City.
Romina Ruiz-Goiriena is on Twitter at https://twitter.com/.!/