border

National Day of Remembrance

Alert date: 
November 4, 2012
Alert body: 

November 4 marks the 2nd annual National Remembrance Day for American citizens killed by illegal aliens and the politicians who are just as responsible due to continued support of the illegal alien presence in our country and the lack of enforcement of our existing immigration laws.

May those killed and injured by illegal aliens find peace.  Read more about it.

Bust yields big haul of meth

In what may be the largest crystal methamphetamine bust ever in Oregon, narcotics agents seized about 52 pounds of the drug while serving search warrants last weekend at five properties in Lane and Douglas counties.

Authorities have made four arrests in the case, and more are expected. The group allegedly is responsible for distributing multiple pounds of high-grade methamphetamine in Lane and Douglas counties each week for the past several months, and perhaps longer.

The estimated street value of the seized meth is $1 million, said Erik Fisher, a state police sergeant who serves as commander of Lane County’s Interagency Narcotics Enforcement Team.

“I’ve never seen this much meth in one place at one time,” Fisher said. “If (the suspects) can move this kind of weight (in drugs), they’re pretty high up” in the alleged trafficking cartel.

Fisher said an investigation of the group’s dealings began “earnestly” in July, although it’s unclear how long it has allegedly operated in Lane and Douglas counties.

Agents on Sunday served warrants at the following addresses: 76919 Mosby Creek Road in Cottage Grove; 2145 31st St., Space 2 in Springfield; 2755 Nova St. in Springfield; 103 Green Lane in Eugene; and 2175 S.W. Jackie Ave. in Roseburg.

In addition to the drugs, agents recovered a stolen handgun, an undisclosed amount of cash and additional evidence of drug trafficking. An investigation is continuing.

The suspects are identified as Martin Bautista-Limon, 30; Miguel Nunez-Villanueva, 29; Ezequiel Gonzales-Jaimes, 42; and Tomas Torres Gonzalez, 27. They are not legal residents of the United States, Fisher said.

The methamphetamine seized in the case was most likely produced outside of Oregon in a so-called “super lab,” Fisher said.

Meth production in Oregon plummeted after the passage of a 2006 state law that made it illegal to sell medications containing pseudoephedrine — the key ingredient of meth — without a prescription.

In 2005, drug agents in the Portland area confiscated more than 40 pounds of methamphetamine in what was described at the time as the largest amount ever seized in the state.

It was not clear Thursday whether a single investigation in Oregon has ever yielded more than the 52 pounds seized in last weekend’s bust in Lane and Douglas counties.

Throughout 2011, authorities in Oregon seized a total of approximately 242 pounds of methamphetamine, according to statistics compiled by state police.

Bus passenger arrested when investigators find pound of meth

Federal and local drug investigators arrested a Washington man traveling on a commercial bus through Medford and seized a pound of crystal methamphetamine in his luggage.

The bus was headed north to Washington on Tuesday when U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations agents and the Medford Area Drug and Gang Enforcement team arrested Saul Temaj-Lopez, 28, of Aberdeen, Wash., officials said in a news release today.

Investigators had received a tip that a passenger was carrying drugs, the release said. Their investigation found about a pound of meth.

Temaj-Lopez was arrested on charges of delivery and possession of methamphetamine and suspicion of being in the country illegally. He remains lodged in the Jackson County Jail without bail.

Saul Temaj-Lopez - ICE hold

Trooper Fired From Chopper To Stop Truck, Kills Two

LA JOYA, Texas (AP) -- A Texas state trooper who fired on a pickup truck from a helicopter and killed two illegal immigrants during a chase through the desert was trying to disable the vehicle and suspected it was being used to smuggle drugs, authorities said Friday.

The disclosure came a day after the incident that left two Guatemalan nationals dead on an isolated gravel road near the town of La Joya, just north of the Mexico border.

State game wardens were the first to encounter the truck Thursday. After the driver refused to stop, they radioed for help and state police responded, according to Parks and Wildlife Department spokesman Mike Cox.

When the helicopter with a sharpshooter arrived, officers concluded that the truck appeared to be carrying a "typical covered drug load" on its bed and was travelling at reckless speeds, police said.

After the shots were fired and the truck's tires blown out, the driver lost control and crashed into a ditch. State police said a preliminary investigation revealed that the shots fired from the helicopter struck the vehicle's occupants.

Eight people who were in the truck were arrested. At least seven of them were also from Guatemala. No drugs were found.

The Guatemalan consul in McAllen, Alba Caceres, told The Associated Press that the surviving witnesses told her "one died immediately, the other was apparently taken to a hospital and died on the way."

The sharpshooter was placed on administrative leave, a standard procedure after such incidents.

An expert on police chases said the decision to fire on the truck was "a reckless act" that served "no legitimate law enforcement purpose."

"In 25 years following police pursuits, I hadn't seen a situation where an officer shot a speeding vehicle from a helicopter," said Geoffrey Alpert, professor of criminology at the University of South Carolina. Such action would be reasonable only if "you know for sure the person driving the car deserves to die and that there are no other occupants."

In general, he said, law enforcement agencies allow the use of deadly force only when the car is being used as a weapon, not "just on a hunch," Alpert added.

The Texas Department of Public Safety referred questions about its policy governing the use of deadly force to its general manual, which says troopers are allowed to use such force when defending themselves or someone else from serious harm or death. Shooting at vehicles is justified to disable a vehicle or when deadly force is deemed necessary.

Other law enforcement agencies that patrol the border say they have similar limits on the practice.

For instance, federal Customs and Borders Protection agents "are trained to use deadly force in circumstances that pose a threat to their lives, the lives of their fellow law enforcement partners and innocent third parties," agency spokesman Doug Mosier said.

But a report presented Thursday to the United Nations by the American Civil Liberties Union said shootings and excessive force by Customs and Border Protection agents on the border have left at least 20 individuals dead or seriously hurt since January 2010.

Of those, eight cases involved agents responding to reports of people throwing rocks. Six involved people killed while standing on the Mexican side of the border.

In recent years, Texas state police have increased their presence in the border area, deploying more agents, more helicopters and more boats to patrol the Rio Grande.

Troopers are regularly involved in high-speed pursuits, often chasing drug smugglers into the river and back to Mexico.

Agency Director Stephen McCraw has said state police were pushed into that role because the federal government's efforts to secure the border have been insufficient.

Diplomats quickly began their own investigation into the chase.

The head of the Guatemalan Consulate in McAllen said she is demanding federal and state authorities provide an explanation.

"I am baffled. I can't understand how this could happen," Caceres said. "I understand that the agents are doing their job, that they are protecting their border. But if there is someone who is responsible for this, he has to pay."

The Guatemalans started their journey 19 days ago near Guatemala City, with plans to stay with friends and relatives in New York, New Jersey and Houston, she said.

They were covered with a tarp, but as the car sped away from the game warden and the helicopter, the men "were having lots of trouble holding on to that tarp, Caceres said. "They must have seen them."

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Associated Press Writer Romina Ruiz-Goiriena in Guatemala City contributed to this report.

 

What about the National Security risk just across our border?

While President Obama and Governor Mitt Romney were exchanging verbal blows about the biggest threats to our National security and who would do the best job protecting the American people, I was disappointed that neither one of them acknowledged the risk on our own border.  Having traveled, toured and learned from specialists all along Arizona border and parts of the Texas border, I believe one of our greatest threats is the sieve that is our southern border. Those that want to hurt us the most are coming across with little or no detection.  Law enforcement all along the border told us repeatedly they are desperately concerned about who and what is getting over the border.  The fact that the issue was never even addressed in any of the debates is troubling.  Read more here.

With 60,000 dead, Mexicans wonder why drug war doesn't rate in presidential debate

Mexico City

Mitt Romney’s single mention of Latin America last night, calling it a “huge opportunity" for the United States, generated immediate glee from Latin Americanists across Twitter – but the hemisphere got no nod from President Obama, and then both went silent on the topic.

Given that the final presidential debate Monday evening was dominated by the Middle East and terrorism, most of the world was left out by President Obama and Mr. Romney. That includes the whole of Europe and its debt crisis. India. South Africa. And not a single mention of any country in Latin America or the Caribbean: neither Cuba specifically, Mexico, Brazil, Colombia, nor Peru. (Read a transcript here.)

That means no candidate talked about the drug trade, despite historic violence playing out in Mexico, much of it along the 2,000-mile border that the US shares. They did not talk about energy policy in the Americas. Or the economies of Brazil and Mexico.

Think you know Latin America? Take our geography quiz.

The debate opened with promise for Latin America – with moderator Bob Schieffer referring to the 50th anniversary of the disclosure that the Soviet Union had missiles in Cuba. But he did not pose a question about it or anything else in the region, which observers say was a clear missed opportunity – even if hardly surprising.

“In a broader foreign policy context, we have to begin to mainstream the Americas,” says Eric Farnsworth, vice president of the Council of the Americas, a consultancy based in New York. “Brazil is an important international player, not just a Latin American player.… Latin America is of rising importance in the world, [we should have been hearing how the candidates] would work with Brazils, and Mexicos, and Colombias.”

Romney mentioned Latin America in the context of how to boost employment at home. “Trade grows about 12 percent year. It doubles about every – every five or so years. We can do better than that, particularly in Latin America,” he said. “The opportunities for us in Latin America we have just not taken advantage of fully. As a matter of fact, Latin America's economy is almost as big as the economy of China. We're all focused on China. Latin America is a huge opportunity for us – time zone, language opportunities.”

But Obama did not respond. And the only other mention of the region came once again from Romney, who mentioned Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez and Cuba’s Fidel Castro as part of a list of the world’s “worst actors” whom Obama has failed to meet with, he said, despite promises to do so.

Obama has remained popular across Latin America and is favored among Hispanic voters in the US. But some of that support abroad has slipped. In a Pew poll released in June, 39 percent of Mexicans said they approved of Obama’s international policies. That fell from 56 percent in 2009. (Here is the poll.)

Much of that slide could be pegged to record deportations of undocumented immigrants under Obama, although in a huge move this year he gave a reprieve to many undocumented migrants who were brought to the US as children.

While immigration is the topic that Latin America perhaps cares most about, few expected the politically charged issue to feature at the presidential debate. Still, there was hope that the growing role that places such as Brazil and Colombia play in the energy sector would be mentioned. And if nothing else, the drug-fueled violence plaguing Mexico and Central America right now.

Mexican journalist Leon Krauze wrote in a widely shared Tweet: “Mexico, a country facing 100,000 deaths, neighbor to the United States, didn't deserve one single mention tonight. A disgrace.”

Mexican academic Sergio Aguayo added, using a more commonly cited figure for Mexican deaths: “They talk about a humanitarian tragedy in Syria (30,000 deaths) and still don’t say anything about Mex (some 60,000). Will they?

They did not. When asked what the greatest future security threat was to the US, no one mentioned Mexico. Obama cited “terrorist networks,” while Romney mentioned a “nuclear Iran.”

Latin American observers were just as befuddled as those in Latin America. “As George W. Bush rightly said, Mexico is the US's most important bilateral relationship. A presidential debate should focus on whether the United States is doing enough – and doing the right things – to assist Mexico [and Central America] deal with its drug-fueled crime and violence,” says Michael Shifter, president of the Inter-American Dialogue. “If the US is not prepared to do everything possible to stand up for its closest neighbors and allies, then how could it have a credible foreign policy more broadly?”
 

Everything they said in the 2nd debate about immigration -- and what it might mean

Here is the transcript of all comments on immigration in the debates thus far and my explanation of what I think each comment meant.

The topic of immigration did not come up once in the first presidential debate or in the only debate between vice presidential candidates. Of course, the candidates have said a number of things on the campaign trail, and those are reflected in our Presidential Grid. But the transcript below is especially important because this is what the candidates wanted to say in front of 60+ million voters.

This is my second bite at the apple. Immediately after last Tuesday's debate, I post my overall analysis of the immigration part of the debate.

In this blog, however, I want to take a more leisurely and detailed stroll through the debate comments. I welcome your own comments.

2nd PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE EXCERPTS ON IMMIGRATION

OCTOBER 16, 2012, Hofstra University, New York

The moderator was Candy Crowley, veteran journalist at CNN. President Obama and Governor Romney walked around a stage speaking to a half-circle of voters, and pointing and staring at each other.

(CROWLEY) The Gallup organization chose 82 uncommitted voters from the New York area. . . . The questions are known to me and my team only. Neither the commission, nor the candidates have seen them.

In the middle of the debate, Crowley chose a question about immigration.

(CROWLEY) . . . Lorraine Osorio has a question for you . . .

(QUESTION) Mr. Romney, what do you plan on doing with immigrants without their green cards that are currently living here as productive members of society?

This was an especially tough question in that it set a trap in front of a national audience. Notice the new euphemistic way to talk about illegal aliens who have sneaked across the border or lied on their visa applications in their promise to leave United States at a designated time? Notice that illegal aliens are described as "productive" and "members of society." This is a much different way of saying that they have stolen jobs that belonged to Americans. And the phrase "immigrants without green cards" is interesting since by legal definition an "immigrant" is somebody who HAS a green card.

But for all the dishonesty in the question, it was a good trap. It was set to force Romney to show his humanity and advocate for some kind of amnesty for most illegal foreign workers or reveal himself as "harsh" if he suggested they shouldn't stay.

I held my breath because I was sure Romney was going to back-pedal from the promises he has made for six years that the officially estimated 11 million illegal aliens should not be allowed to stay in this country.

ROMNEY ON AMNESTY, 'STAPLING' GREEN CARDS, REMOVING MAGNETS

(ROMNEY) Thank you. Lorraine? Did I get that right? Good. Thank you for your question. And let me step back and tell you what I would like to do with our immigration policy broadly and include an answer to your question.

I think this was an excellent move and gave me great relief that Romney on the spur of the moment was able to get out of the trap. No need for any of us to get trapped in a very narrow specific question that lacks context. Stepping back to look at the overall immigration context is an excellent way to react in all kinds of situations.

(ROMNEY) But first of all, this is a nation of immigrants. We welcome people coming to this country as immigrants. My dad was born in Mexico of American parents; Ann's dad was born in Wales and is a first-generation American.

I wonder if any of these politicians has any idea what it means to say "we are a nation of immigrants" since every nation can say the same thing about its past. Still, I suppose politicians can use this phrase to suggest that they aren't anti-immigrant or anti-immigration.

I guess "dad" being born in Mexico is supposed to suggest that Romney has some special tie with immigrants? But "dad" was in no way an immigrant to the U.S., or even to Mexico. Anne's dad, though, was a real immigrant.

(ROMNEY) We welcome legal immigrants into this country. I want our legal system to work better. I want it to be streamlined. I want it to be clearer. I don't think you have to -- shouldn't have to hire a lawyer to figure out how to get into this country legally.

Fair enough. NumbersUSA favors efforts to make the process of obtaining a green card faster for those who meet the criteria that serve the national interest.

(ROMNEY) I also think that we should give visas to people -- green cards, rather, to people who graduate with skills that we need. People around the world with accredited degrees in science and math get a green card stapled to their diploma, come to the U.S. of A. We should make sure our legal system works.

He just won't stop talking about this terrible idea. "Stapling" permanent work permits without reservation to every diploma of foreign students with certain degrees is about as reckless with Americans' jobs as is the Visa Lottery which raffles off U.S. jobs to foreigners without much of any criteria.

It isn't that there is no argument to be made for allowing some or many of the top foreign graduates in science and math to remain in this country, but why can't Romney ever utter the phrase "for positions that can't be filled by able and willing Americans."

NumbersUSA supports a fairly open immigration of foreigners with extraordinary skills that are in demonstrably short supply among our own population. But that requires a rigorous system to ensure that people getting these permanent work permits have truly extraordinary skills and that Americans with similar skills do not see their wages depressed or their job prospects diminished by giving out these green cards.

Neither Romney nor Obama in talking about these foreign college students ever says one word to reassure American grads that their interests will be considered in any way.

Later in this blog, I will take you through some of the very first part of the debate in which Romney and Obama displayed great concern for the 50% of recent college grads who have no job at all or can't find a degree job. Those earlier comments make me even more distressed that they both failed to show any sign of wanting to protect those very same American grads from unfair immigration policies.

(ROMNEY) Number two, we're going to have to stop illegal immigration.

Wow! What a great pivot from promoting himself as pro-legal-immigration and then raising the contrasting issue of "illegal" immigration. The woman asking the question was talking about "productive" immigrants without green cards but Romney here touched what nearly every American probably understood -- that the question was about "illegal" immigration. And he said we have to "stop" it.

(ROMNEY) There are 4 million people who are waiting in line to get here legally. Those who've come here illegally take their place. So I will not grant amnesty to those who have come here illegally.

I have such mixed feelings. When oh when are these politicians going to understand that the reason for enforcing immigration laws is not primarily about helping foreigners who want to come here legally but about protecting vulnerable American workers?

On the other hand, I have to give Romney credit for repeating what he has said for six years and what most of the mainstream media condemns him for saying -- that he won't grant amnesty.

However, he later indicated that he actually supports some kind of amnesty for younger illegal aliens. Nonetheless, I take his statement at this part of the debate to mean that he rejects a near-blanket amnesty of the type that Pres. Bush, 2008 Republican candidate John McCain and now Pres. Obama advocate for nearly all illegal foreign workers who are keeping millions of Americans unemployed.

(ROMNEY) What I will do is I'll put in place an employment verification system and make sure that employers that hire people who have come here illegally are sanctioned for doing so.

Yet another statement to show that the Romney of the Primaries is the Romney of the General Election. The most consistent element of Romney's statements about immigration has been the removal of the jobs magnet for illegal immigration, primarily through mandatory E-Verify. Here, Romney fails to use the word "mandatory" or the name "E-Verify," but I'm inclined to attribute that to the heat and pressure of the moment.

(ROMNEY) I won't put in place magnets for people coming here illegally. So for instance, I would not give driver's licenses to those that have come here illegally as the president would.

This is an abbreviated reference to Romney's long-standing opposition to any magnets of jobs or public benefits that both attract illegal foreign workers and that help them stay in this country.

(ROMNEY) The kids of those that came here illegally, those kids, I think, should have a pathway to become a permanent resident of the United States and military service, for instance, is one way they would have that kind of pathway to become a permanent resident.

Whoa! what was he saying here? Despite his rejection of amnesty for all the illegal workers just a few minutes ago, he certainly seems to be saying he is favoring giving green cards to the younger illegal aliens who are -- in the words of the woman with the question -- productive members of society.

But wait, he immediately mentions military service as a way for some to get the green cards. That would affect only a tiny number of illegal aliens and also is something Romney already announced during the Florida Primary. Still, he says military service is "one way," suggesting that he also favors other ways for the younger illegal aliens to get permanent work permits.

Romney's answer could mean that he is favorable to an amnesty for up to 2 million of the 11 million illegal aliens, or perhaps only a fraction of the 2 million who are under age 31 and who were brought here illegally as children.

The question I am getting from lots of reporters is whether this means Romney has abandoned his promise during the Primaries that he would veto the DREAM Act amnesty.

My answer is that I don't think it violates the promise. The DREAM Act is all amnesty with no enforcement to prevent parents in the future from bringing their kids here for long periods of illegal residency. Because Romney has been so firm about mandatory E-Verify, and because of other comments he has made the last few months, I believe Romney is contemplating an amnesty for some portion of the DREAM Act beneficiaries but only when combined with other conditions such as mandatory E-Verify. That may or may not be a consolation to opponents of amnesty.

ROMNEY TAUNTS OBAMA FOR NOT TRYING TO PASS AMNESTY

(ROMNEY) Now when the president ran for office, he said that he'd put in place, in his first year, a piece of legislation -- he'd file a bill in his first year that would reform our -- our immigration system, protect legal immigration, stop illegal immigration. He didn't do it. He had a Democrat House, a Democrat Senate, super majority in both Houses. Why did he fail to even promote legislation that would have provided an answer for those that want to come legally and for those that are here illegally today? That's a question I think the -- the president will have a chance to answer right now.

This last comment adds further weight to the sense that Romney in this debate was promising some kind of amnesty for at least some of the younger illegal aliens. He taunted the President for not trying to pass immigration reform legislation when he had a super majority of his Party in Congress.

I think he is right to seem to suggest that Obama probably could have gotten immigration legislation passed if he had brought it up in the first year before his political capital had been so drained by other policy battles.

But I hate this line of argument that he has been using since he sewed up the GOP nomination and got additional advisors who are re-treads from the open-borders Bush Administration.

OBAMA TALKS BORDER, AMNESTY & SELF-DEPORTATION

(OBAMA) We are a nation of immigrants. I mean we're just a few miles away from Ellis Island. We all understand what this country has become because talent from all around the world wants to come here. People are willing to take risks. People who want to build on their dreams and make sure their kids have an even bigger dreams than they have.

I laughed when I heard Obama sound like he had to at least match Romney's pandering to the immigration mythology of the country. But I will cut him slack on this; it is like kissing babies -- just something most politicians have to do.

(OBAMA) But we're also a nation of laws. So what I've said is we need to fix a broken immigration system and I've done everything that I can on my own and sought cooperation from Congress to make sure that we fix the system. The first thing we did was to streamline the legal immigration system, to reduce the backlog, make it easier, simpler and cheaper for people who are waiting in line, obeying the law to make sure that they can come here and contribute to our country and that's good for our economic growth.

They'll start new businesses. They'll make things happen to create jobs here in the United States.

This segment is basically a point by point agreement with Romney in backing the ideas of streamlining the immigration process and in praising immigrants as holding the key to the country's economic growth.

Like Romney, he showed no sign of recognition that immigrants taking U.S. jobs might not be the best thing for unemployed Americans. Instead, he bought into Romney's earlier suggestion that immigrants can create jobs in ways that Americans can't.

(OBAMA) Number two, we do have to deal with our border so we put more border patrol on the -- any time in history and the flow of undocumented works across the border is actually lower than it's been in 40 years.

I find this to be quite encouraging. Rather than pander to the woman with the question designed to help a candidate supporting amnesty, Obama apparently felt he needed first to show that he is pro-enforcement. And he wanted to brag about the low flow of illegal immigrants -- although most experts on both sides of our issue believe that is more the result of the bad U.S. economy rather than improved enforcement.

Obama could have pushed his enforcement credentials further by talking about the relatively high level of deportations under his Administration. But he didn't, perhaps fearing a backlash among the open-borders wing of his Party which earlier in the year threatened to depress the vote if he didn't slow down deportations.

(OBAMA) What I've also said is if we're going to go after folks who are here illegally, we should do it smartly and go after folks who are criminals, gang bangers, people who are hurting the community, not after students, not after folks who are here just because they're trying to figure out how to feed their families. And that's what we've done.

This is where it got ugly, although Obama cleverly may have said things in a way that weren't clear to the average voter.

What he essentially said is that he doesn't believe immigration laws should be enforced against illegal aliens who aren't gang bangers and aren't otherwise violent threats to "the community."

That means non-violent illegal workers are free to continue to take jobs from unemployed Americans. It would seem to mean that the some 45 million legal visitors to the U.S. each year should feel free to over-stay their visas and take as many jobs from Americans as they can -- and depress wages down to the minimum legal level -- as long as they don't behave violently toward our community. Obama sent the word to the whole world at this part of the debate that he doesn't believe in the deterrent effect of threatening non-violent visa-overstayers with potential detainment and deportation.

(OBAMA) And what I've also said is for young people who come here, brought here often times by their parents. Had gone to school here, pledged allegiance to the flag. Think of this as their country. Understand themselves as Americans in every way except having papers. And we should make sure that we give them a pathway to citizenship.

And that's what I've done administratively.

Obama repeats what he has always said about his support for an amnesty for younger illegal aliens, including his admission that he has given the amnesty administratively.

Interestingly, though, he limited his call for amnesty to these potentially 2 million illegal aliens rather than call for a path to citizenship for all 11 million. I have no reason to believe he has backed off his desire for a blanket amnesty, but the fact he didn't mention it suggests that his campaign team feels that only the younger illegal aliens are sympathetic to the general voting public.

(OBAMA) Now, Governor Romney just said, you know he wants to help those young people too, but during the Republican primary, he said, "I will veto the DREAM Act", that would allow these young people to have access."

Obama understandably wasn't going to let Romney get away with appealing to pro-amnesty voters, even though he should have been pleased to get Romney's support for the amnesty for younger illegal aliens.

Nonetheless, as I noted earlier, Romney has room to oppose the DREAM Act -- which has no improved enforcement in it -- and still favor some amnesty for younger illegal aliens if it is acompanied by mandatory E-Verify and perhaps some off-sets in the importation of immigrants whose skills are not needed.

(OBAMA) His main strategy during the Republican primary was to say, "We're going to encourage self-deportation." Making life so miserable on folks that they'll leave.

It is truly amazing to me that so many people -- including the President of the Untied States -- consider it draconian to have a policy that encourages illegal aliens to go home on their own without U.S. taxpayers having to pay the costs of deporting them. THAT is what "self-deportation" is.

Frankly, I'm outraged that a President of the United States would make this statement in the debate.

What was Obama trying to tell the hundreds of millions of workers around the world who would like the higher wages of a U.S. job? Was he telling them that the policy of the U.S. is to make life COMFORTABLE for those who overstay their visas and illegally take jobs from vulnerable Americans?

Does the President not understand that the basis of nearly every federal law is to make law-breaking so uncomfortable that most people will voluntarily obey the law?

Earlier, the President already said he doesn't want to deport any illegal foreign worker except those who are violent. Now he ridicules and demonizes the idea of encouraging illegal aliens to go home on their own because they are prevented from getting jobs. (which is the foundation of all of Romney's comments on self-deportation).

After ruling out those two forms of government deterrence to illegal aliens taking U.S. jobs, what's left to protect American workers? Precious little!

(OBAMA) He called the Arizona law a model for the nation. Part of the Arizona law said that law enforcement officers could stop folks because they suspected maybe they looked like they might be undocumented workers and check their papers.

You know what? If my daughter or yours looks to somebody like they're not a citizen, I don't want -- I don't want to empower somebody like that.

There were some nasty and totally unsubstantiated things said by both candidates during this pugnacious debate. But this descent into race-baiting based on a widely disproved description of Romney's position on Arizona law competes for some kind of prize.

First, Obama was describing an Airzona legal provision that the U.S. Supreme Court this year refused to over-turn because it does NOT do the things that Obama said it does.

Secondly, he repeats a fabrication that the open-borders crowd has been pushing for months despite confirmation by every mainstream media fact-checker that Romney never called that provision of the Arizona law a model for the nation.

(OBAMA) So, we can fix this system in a comprehensive way. And when Governor Romney says, the challenge is, "Well Obama didn't try." That's not true. I have sat down with Democrats and Republicans at the beginning of my term. And I said, let's fix this system. Including Senators previously who had supported it on the Republican side. But it's very hard for Republicans in Congress to support comprehensive immigration reform, if their standard bearer has said that this is not something I'm interested in supporting.

I don't blame Obama for being ticked at Romney's repeated charges of failure to act. The Romney campaign's repetition of this charge is certainly disingenuous when one considers that Romney opposes the legislation he taunts Obama for not pushing to a vote in Congress.

On the other hand, Obama seems to be saying that the only way he would bring his amnesty bills to a vote is if he were assured of winning and of having the political cover of a bunch of Republicans voting for it. That certainly wasn't his stance on other controversial issues. I think Obama didn't bring his amnesty wishes to a vote in an overwhelmingly Democratic Congress because he felt it would hurt his re-election bid in 2012. And the American people can be most thankful to him for making that assessment and decision.

(CROWLEY) Let me get the governor in here, Mr. President. Let's speak to, if you could. to the idea of self-deportation?

(ROMNEY) No, let -- let -- let me go back and speak to the points that the president made and -- and -- and let's get them correct.

I did not say that the Arizona law was a model for the nation in that aspect. I said that the E-Verify portion of the Arizona law, which is -- which is the portion of the law which says that employers could be able to determine whether someone is here illegally or not illegally, that that was a model for the nation. That's number one.

The fact that Romney went out of his way to make it clear that the model he wants the nation to follow is Arizona's mandatory E-Verify for all employer is one of the most reassuring things to come out of this debate.

(ROMNEY) Number two, I asked the president a question I think Hispanics and immigrants all over the nation have asked. He was asked this on Univision the other day. Why, when you said you'd filed legislation in your first year didn't you do it? And he didn't answer. He -- he doesn't answer that question. He said the standard bearer wasn't for it. I'm glad you thought I was a standard bearer four years ago, but I wasn't.

Four years ago you said in your first year you would file legislation.

In his first year, I was just getting -- licking my wounds from having been beaten by John McCain, all right. I was not the standard bearer.

My -- my view is that this president should have honored his promise to do as he said.

What? This is Romney trying to score some political points that are totally divorced from and contradictory to the policies he has advocated. Why in the world would a person who opposes a blanket amnesty and supports mandatory E-Verify wish that Obama had used his political capital in his first year to push through blanket amnesty that also didn't include mandatory E-Verify?

Also, Romney misunderstood what Obama was saying about "the standard bearer" not supporting "comprehensive immigration reform" in private meetings after the election. Obama wasn't referring to Romney but to John McCain who had been the chief Republican champion for amnesty until the 2008 Primaries forced him to change his position. I can understand Obama's frustration with McCain and I also am overjoyed with that frustration that protected millions of American workers from a massive new amnesty and increase in green cards, represented by the legislation that Obama says he still wants.

(ROMNEY) Now, let me mention one other thing, and that is self-deportation says let people make their own choice. What I was saying is, we're not going to round up 12 million people, undocumented illegals, and take them out of the nation. Instead let people make their own choice. And if they -- if they find that -- that they can't get the benefits here that they want and they can't -- and they can't find the job they want, then they'll make a decision to go a place where -- where they have better opportunities.

But I'm not in favor of rounding up people and -- and -- and taking them out of this country. I am in favor, as the president has said, and I agree with him, which is that if people have committed crimes we got to get them out of this country.

With most of the nation's editorial writers treating the concept of self-deportation as harsh or laughable, and with the Bush wing of the Republican Party begging him to abandon the concept, Romney's answer here is a sign of both great political courage and conviction. Or maybe it isn't courage if he simply believes in the intelligence of the majority of the American people to understand that self-deportation is the only real alternative to mass roundups -- and a less costly and more humane one at that.

Romney has been given several chances to back away from what we prefer to call "Attrition Through Enforcement," but has always stood by his position. While he has given Americans very little reassurance that he would protect vulnerable workers from mass legal immigration, he has been steadfast in insistence on measures against illegal immigrant workers holding jobs.

OBAMA TRIES THE ARIZONA ATTACK AGAIN

After Romney tried to engage in another topic and with Crowley, Romney and Obama talking over each other, Obama got in some final words on the immigration issue.

OBAMA: I do want to make sure that -- I do want to make sure that we just understand something. Governor Romney says he wasn't referring to Arizona as a model for the nation. His top adviser on immigration is the guy who designed the Arizona law, the entirety of it; not E-Verify, the whole thing. That's his policy. And it's a bad policy. And it won't help us grow.

As if to underscore everything negative I said about Obama on this point earlier, he came back to try to make his fabrication stick. And he misquotes what Romney just said. Romney said that he DOES think Arizona is a model for the nation, but on the E-Verify law.

Obama then engaged in a logical fallacy by seeming to suggest that because the author of the other Arizona law is an advisor (informal and certainly not the top one) of Romney's that Romney is responsible for that other law.

(OBAMA) Look, when we think about immigration, we have to understand there are folks all around the world who still see America as the land of promise. And they provide us energy and they provide us innovation and they start companies like Intel and Google. And we want to encourage that.

Now, we've got to make sure that we do it in a smart way and a comprehensive way, and we make the legal system better. But when we make this into a divisive political issue, and when we don't have bipartisan support -- I can deliver, Governor, a whole bunch of Democrats to get comprehensive immigration reform done, and we can't...

ROMNEY: I'll get it done. I'll get it done. First year...

OBAMA: ... we can't -- we have not seen Republicans serious about this issue at all. And it's time for them to get serious on it.

Oh, boy. So, we have Romney at the end promising to do what? Pass the comprehensive immigration reform bill that is a blanket amnesty and includes big increases in green cards for even more foreign workers than a million a year?

We can only hope that Romney was referring to the immigration reform he had been outlining throughout the debate and not that he would pass Obama's immigration agenda in the first year.

And sadly we had the President of the United States seeming to suggest that 310 million Americans don't contain enough brains and creativity to provide the "energy" and "innovation" that our economy needs.

I have to conclude that if Obama is re-elected we will have to mobilize as never before to stop his dreams of overwhelming the American worker with foreign labor competition, and that if Romney is elected we will have to mobilize at the same level to try to keep him focused on his "self-deportation" agenda and afraid to carry out the wishes of his advisors from the Bush Administration who want Obama's agenda of overwhelming the labor supply with foreign workers.

RESPONSES TO THE JOBS QUESTION AT THE FIRST THAT MISSED THE IMMIGRATION ANGLE

Perhaps one of the most frustrating aspects of this debate was the fact that it began with a clear question about the terrible jobs prospects for so many Americans. It was a perfect opening for a candidate to explain why immigration policies should be set based on helping and not hurting the most vulnerable of our fellow Americans.

(CROWLEY) . . . Governor Romney, as you know, you won the coin toss, so the first question will go to you. And I want to turn to a first-time voter, Jeremy Epstein, who has a question for you.

(QUESTION) Mr. President, Governor Romney, as a 20-year-old college student, all I hear from professors, neighbors and others is that when I graduate, I will have little chance to get employment. What can you say to reassure me, but more importantly my parents, that I will be able to sufficiently support myself after I graduate?

Hats off to Crowley for apparently choosing this as the first question. She tried to get the candidates focused on what both have said for four years should be "Job No. 1" but it took them little time to get off the topic and never really come back to it. Still, notice how later comments by Romney and Obama seem to show amnesia about the concern they show here for young Jeremy.

(ROMNEY) . . . Your question -- your question is one that's being asked by college kids all over this country. . . . But the key thing is to make sure you can get a job when you get out of school. And what's happened over the last four years has been very, very hard for America's young people. I want you to be able to get a job. . . . With half of college kids graduating this year without a . . . college level job, that's just unacceptable.

Hooray. Romney stated the fact that we use all the time to call for restraint in importing even college-educated immigrants. He talked about the half of all recent college graduates who have no job at all or a job that doesn't require a degree. Unfortunately when he talked about immigration later, he seemed to have lost all sight of all the jobless and underemployed American college grads, showing not one ounce of interest in having immigration rules that protect Americans' ability to get jobs ahead of bringing in new immigrant workers.

(OBAMA) Jeremy, first of all, your future is bright. And the fact that you're making an investment in higher education is critical. Not just to you, but to the entire nation. Now, the most important thing we can do is to make sure that we are creating jobs in this country. But not just jobs, good paying jobs. Ones that can support a family. . . . I want to build manufacturing jobs in this country again.

I can't help but comment that Obama's commitment to creating manufacturing jobs is not the same as a commitment to put Americans IN those jobs. For four years, he has resisted both federal and state efforts to mandate E-Verify so that manufacturing jobs will go to Americans who want them, instead of to citizens of other countries who break our immigration and visa laws.

(OBAMA) Number two, we've got to make sure that we have the best education system in the world. And the fact that you're going to college is great, but I want everybody to get a great education and we've worked hard to make sure that student loans are available for folks like you, but I also want to make sure that community colleges are offering slots for workers to get retrained for the jobs that are out there right now and the jobs of the future.

The President has presided for four years over a system that gives a million permanent work permits to immigrants each year at every skill level to compete with Americans who have elevated unemployment rates at every one of those skill levels. No doubt, there are some skills in short supply. But the President and his Administration have shown no inclination that they are interested in knowing whether an immigrant's skill is in short supply before giving out the green card.

ROY BECK is Founder & CEO of NumbersUSA

NumbersUSA's blogs are copyrighted and may be republished or reposted only if they are copied in their entirety, including this paragraph, and provide proper credit to NumbersUSA. NumbersUSA bears no responsibility for where our blogs may be republished or reposted.

Federal Authorities Arrest Maverick County Commissioner Rodolfo Heredia and Two Others in Connection with a Money Laundering and Bulk Cash Smuggling Scheme

Scheme involved the sale of vehicle to a known associate of the Los Zetas Drug Trafficking Organization In Eagle Pass this morning, federal agents arrested Maverick County Commissioner Rodolfo Bainet Heredia and two accomplices charged in connection with a money laundering and bulk cash smuggling scheme announced United States Attorney Robert Pitman and Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agent in Charge Armando Fernandez.

A four–count federal grand jurry indictment, returned yesterday and unsealed today, charges Heredia, age 54; 62-year-old Jose Luis Aguilar of Eagle Pass; and 28-year-old David Gelacio of Eagle Pass with one count each of conspiracy to commit money laundering; aiding and abetting money laundering; conspiracy to commit bulk cash smuggling; and aiding and abetting bulk cash smuggling.

According to the indictment, on January 4, 2011, Heredia had Aguilar travel to a ranch in Mexico owned by a known associate of the Los Zetas Drug Trafficking Organization for the purpose of selling Heredia's Ford F-250 King Ranch truck for $13,000. Following the sale, at Heredia's bidding, Aguilar and Gelacio, carrying $7,000 cash and $6,000 cash, respectively, crossed the money from Mexico into the United States via the Eagle Pass Port of Entry. They are alleged to have divided and concealed the money in order to avoid a reporting requirement at the Port of Entry.

Upon conviction, each faces up to 20 years in federal prison for each money laundering-related charge and up to five years in federal prison for each bulk cash smuggling-related charge. All three remain in federal custody pending a detention hearing at 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday in Del Rio before U.S. Magistrate Judge Collis White.

This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Drug Enforcement Administration, and the Texas Department of Public Safety. Assistant United States Attorney Michael Galdo is prosecuting this case on behalf of the government. An indictment is merely a charge and should not be considered as evidence of guilt. The defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

The Fiscal Burden of Illegal Aliens on Washingtonians

Executive Summary

Washington's accommodating policy towards illegal aliens has resulted in a fast growing illegal alien population and a rapidly increasing fiscal burden on the state's taxpayers. With the state budget adding an additional $2.7 billion of debt this year, the need to reduce the costs to the taxpayer from illegal immigration should be obvious to lawmakers.


This study, examining what illegal immigration costs Washington taxpayers, includes the following findings:
 

  • The state's taxpayers bear an annual burden of more than $2.7 billion as a result of an estimated 275,000 illegal aliens plus nearly 104,000 U.S.-born children of illegal aliens of whom about 78,000 are school-aged.
  • The combined K-12 fiscal burden for the children of illegal aliens in regular instruction and supplemental instruction amounts to nearly $1.6 billion annually.
  • Justice and law enforcement costs result in a net outlay of about $176 million. These outlays include policing, court and prison costs.
  • Health care and social assistance programs add additional costs of $652 million.
  • The average Washington household headed by a U.S. citizen bears an annual burden of about $970 to cover the costs of the state's illegal alien population.
  • Illegal aliens pay relatively little in taxes because of their low earnings and work in the underground economy. We estimate they pay about $203 million in state and local taxes — 7.4 percent of the estimated burden.
Read the full report in pdf format.


 

Indo-Canadian truck drivers from GTA caught in web of North American drug trade

An 18-wheeler trundled to a stop at the Queenston-Lewiston Bridge on its way into Canada. During an outbound inspection, a U.S. immigration-customs agent asked the driver if he had anything to declare. The man behind the wheel said no, the tractor-trailer was empty.

But he appeared nervous and wouldn’t make eye contact, so the agent asked him to step out of the cab. Uneasy and shaking, the driver almost stumbled out.

The trailer was sent for inspection where it was scanned with a special low-energy x-ray machine used to identify illegal drugs, guns or currency. It showed nothing.

A second scan was carried out, again detecting no abnormalities. A dog trained to sniff out narcotics was brought inside the trailer and noticed nothing suspicious.

Then, two agents noticed screws on the floor boards that appeared to have been tampered with. They removed the boards and found a hidden compartment stretching across the entire floor. Inside, they found 97 bricks of cocaine, more than 100 kilos, worth an estimated $4.4 million on the streets, according to U.S. authorities. The Sept. 8, 2010, narcotics seizure was believed to be the largest ever in the Western District of New York.

The driver, Ravinder Arora, a 31-year-old family man from Brampton, would plead guilty to the charge of conspiracy to export cocaine.

Today, two years later, he languishes in a Buffalo prison awaiting sentencing. He faces a minimum 10 years to life behind bars.

For years, Indo-Canadian gangs in B.C. have been involved in cross-border drug smuggling, infiltrating the trucking industry and fighting turf wars that have often been bloody and vicious.

But now, members of southern Ontario’s Indo-Canadian community, in particular from Brampton and Mississauga, are increasingly being lured into the North American drug trade, according to Crown attorneys, lawyers, police and community leaders on this side of the border.

It is not difficult to understand why. An estimated 60 per cent of Ontario’s long-haul truck drivers are Indo-Canadian, making them logical targets for drug traffickers. They will gladly do long-haul jobs shunned by others that can mean being on the road for weeks. They don’t mind sharing the close quarters of a cab with a co-driver, and the job requires little more than a commercial driver’s licence.

“There are many (Indo-Canadian drivers) who just want to make a decent living,” said Manan Gupta, editor-publisher of Road Today, a monthly trucking magazine in the GTA. “But there are a few bad ones and their numbers are rising.”

“This is ruining our community’s name . . . drivers from Peel are looked upon suspiciously at the border,” he said.

Last month, a trial began in Windsor for transport driver Karamjit Singh Grewal of Brampton, accused of smuggling 82 kilos of cocaine across the Ambassador Bridge on April 12, 2009. The drugs were found between skids of California lettuce. Grewal has pleaded not guilty to possession and unlawfully importing cocaine into Canada.

On Monday, another trial starts for truck driver Kuldip Singh Dharmi, also from Brampton. He was arrested on Aug. 11, 2009, after Canada Border Services Agency officers allegedly discovered 117 kilos of cocaine in his tractor-trailer. He was bringing back a load of aluminum coils. He, too, is pleading not guilty.

And early next year, a trial is scheduled for Baldev Singh, again from Brampton, arrested in March 2009 while transporting California oranges across the Ambassador Bridge. CBSA officers allege the load included 69 kilos of cocaine. Singh is pleading not guilty.

Of the 15 to 18 significant drug seizures at the Windsor-Detroit crossing each year, about 70 per cent involve Indo-Canadian transport drivers, many of them recent immigrants to Canada, said federal prosecutor Richard Pollock.

“I am shocked when I hear the stories,” said Baldev Mutta of Punjabi Community Health Services, a social agency in Peel Region, adding it’s a problem few seem willing to address.

Ecstasy, marijuana and cocaine are the three major drugs smuggled between the U.S. and Canada. Ecstasy and marijuana travel south, cocaine travels north.

Until about a decade ago, cross-border smuggling was almost always by sea and air. As Mexican drug cartels replaced Colombian drug lords, cocaine smugglers started using land routes, specifically tractor-trailers to ship drugs from Mexico to the U.S. and Canada. For a while, Vancouver was where drugs were transported across Canada before hitting the Toronto area.

About six years ago, Canadian authorities determined that the Windsor-Detroit crossing was the preferred route of traffickers, although large drug seizures such as Arora’s have also taken place at Ontario crossings such as Sarnia, Fort Erie and Niagara.

Windsor-Detroit is the busiest border crossing, where more than 7,000 trucks cross daily. Homeland Security in the U.S. and the CBSA would not reveal how many trucks undergo the kind of extensive search that Arora was subjected to, but some sources say as few as 200 a dayabout 3 per centare given a thorough check.

The sheer volume of traffic, in the eyes of traffickers, makes it a risk worth taking, says Richard Pollock, federal prosecutor in Windsor. For every illegal shipment caught, he estimates 200 slip through undetected.

So popular is Windsor-Detroit for marijuana smuggling that shipments are sometimes sent by land from Vancouver to Toronto, then on to Windsor and across to the U.S., according to a 2009 CBSA report.

One RCMP official referred to the drug trade as a continuous “cat and mouse game” as traffickers come up with more sophisticated means of smuggling and authorities develop better ways of detecting the illicit cargo.

In this mélange of drugs, Mexican cartels and Ontario border crossings, some Indo-Canadian truck drivers, as courts have witnessed, become willing or unwitting players in smuggling schemes.

Several years ago, Pat Fogarty, superintendent in charge of operations for the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit in B.C., said he noticed his drug smuggling investigations on the west coast had an Ontario link — they often involved the Windsor-Detroit crossing and Indo-Canadian drivers.

This nexus started showing up with alarming regularity. He also discovered a growing number of “truck co-ordinators” in Ontario — brokers linked to the drug trade who help find trucks to ship marijuana to the U.S. and cocaine into Canada — were Indo-Canadian.

“They (the brokers) find it safe to find truckers from their own community,” said Fogarty. “They also know that these truckers won’t disappear with drugs worth millions of dollars because these co-ordinators know where these truckers are from in Punjab . . . right down to their villages. They have them pretty much marked down.”

Once a truck driver ferries one drug shipment, it becomes impossible to refuse a second or a third, Fogarty said.

“They are trapped.”

It began innocuously enough for Arora.

He came to Canada from India about eight years ago and lived in the basement of an aunt and uncle’s house in Brampton. He had been driving a truck for a few years and had a clean record when he was approached by a man he knew at a Sikh temple in Mississauga. The man offered Arora a job, which for the first few months involved transporting legitimate loads across the border.

Then one day the man told Arora he could make extra money — $8,000 per trip — if his shipments included drugs stashed in a well-hidden compartment, according to the plea agreement.

Arora, soon to be married, agreed. At that point, he became part of an elaborate Brampton-based operation responsible for smuggling 1.5 tons (more than 1,600 kilos) of cocaine into Canada over two years. The group is also believed to have smuggled ecstasy and marijuana, as well as cash, into the U.S., according to court documents.

Over the course of 2009 and 2010, Arora admitted to smuggling at least five shipments of cocaine into Canada. During that time, he also got married in India and brought his wife to Canada.

According to the plea agreement, the modus operandi was simple: Arora would pick up the cocaine at a warehouse in California and truck it to a warehouse in Cheektowaga, a Buffalo suburb, where legitimate cargo — mostly produce — was stacked on top of the false floor, concealing the illicit cargo. After crossing the border, the drugs were then delivered to a warehouse in Mississauga for eventual street sale in the Greater Toronto Area.

Arora’s payment was not a huge sum of money. But it was extra money, and tax-free.

In a news conference in 2011, James Engleman, director of field operations for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, called it a professional job. “They spent a lot of time to build professional-quality concealment on these trailers,” said Engleman.

It’s likely that if Arora hadn’t looked nervous that day in September 2010, the operation may have gone undetected for a long time.

By the time Arora was arrested, his wife was pregnant. His lawyer, Parmanand Prashad, said his client regrets this decision more than anything else in his life.

No one wants to target Indo-Canadian truck drivers. Not the police, not lawyers nor community leaders.

They know it’s a sensitive subject and weigh their words carefully. And they are emphatic in saying most Indo-Canadian truckers are not involved in trafficking; only a small number.

But that number may be growing and, according to Windsor’s federal prosecutor, poses a big worry.

“It is mind-boggling how naive some people are,” said Richard Pollock, adding drug traffickers believe they will get away with it forever.

In most cases, suspects plead not guilty and say they were unaware of the presence of drugs in the trailer. Some stories told in court are heartbreaking, he says.

Gurminder Riar, 33, broke down at his sentencing in Windsor last year, telling Superior Court Justice Gordon Thomson he was innocent. “It is not justice. My parents, my wife is in India. I do care for them. I love them and they love me,” he told the court.

Riar and his co-driver, Jaswinder Aujla, both from Brampton, were convicted of smuggling 37 kilos of cocaine hidden among a shipment of ice cream originating in California.

Justice Thomson noted that the men’s tax records and spartan living conditions indicated they were not wealthy, but said they succumbed to greed in the hopes of a big payday. Riar was sentenced to 14 years, Aujla to 16 years.

Though sentences appear to be getting tougher, Sarnia federal prosecutor Michael Robb says it doesn’t seem to be a deterrent. “There is lots of money to be made,” said Robb, adding younger drivers are more likely to take the risk.

“If you look at their financial status, they have obligations and they have families come in from their home countries and they need to be supported,” he said.

Nachhattar Chohan, president of the Brampton-based Indian Trucking Association, said there is no doubt the trucking industry has been infiltrated by drug smuggling. And he suspects some transportation companies are started just to smuggle drugs, as was noted in an RCMP intelligence report in 2011.

“Some companies make so much money so quickly . . . so you doubt what they are doing,” he said.

That RCMP report noted customized compartments are built within tractor-trailers to conceal drugs and cash, and “criminal groups conceal their illicit activities through layers of company ownership, name changes and transfers and closures.”

But Chohan, who operates a fleet of 35 trucks and employs as many drivers, emphasized the vast majority of Indo-Canadian drivers earn an honest living. Thanks to “these (smugglers), CBSA agents think all transporters do this business,” he said. “They think all our truckers are involved in trafficking drugs. I feel shamed, very shamed.”

Prashad, Arora’s Mississauga lawyer who has represented as many as 50 truckers arrested on both sides of the border, has heard stories of how they were recruited: some were enticed with money, others with the promise of steady work.

He recalls a case where a young Mississauga driver was arrested with cocaine near Chicago. His elderly, widowed mother had just come from India, said Prashad. “She didn’t know what to do, he was her only child . . . she cried for hours in my office.”

In a Windsor courtroom , Karamjit Singh Grewal, 48, dressed in a lemon-coloured shirt, grey pants and a lemon turban, his beard flowing loose, stood next to his lawyer, Patrick Ducharme, and said softly: “Not guilty.”

It was the first day of his trial, on Sept. 17, where he is fighting charges of possessing and unlawfully importing cocaine into Canada.

(Ducharme recently defended one of five former Toronto drug squad officers in this year’s highly publicized corruption trial.)

In his opening statement, Pollock told the court Grewal was the sole occupant of a tractor-trailer when it stopped at the Ambassador Bridge on the night of April 12, 2009, for a routine check. Grewal told a CBSA officer the trailer was loaded with California lettuce and was headed for the Toronto area.

It was an innocuous load and Grewal’s papers were in order. He would have glided through except for two things: the officer asked him how long his trip to the U.S. was and Grewal was vague, replying “eight or nine days;” and, the officer also noticed that the trailer’s metal seal, though not broken, appeared to have been tampered with.

Grewal was referred to a secondary inspection. In a matter of hours his life began to unravel.

A closer inspection would result in the discovery of two white boxes and two plastic pails containing 82 kilograms of cellophane-wrapped cocaine between the skids of lettuce.

Ducharme pointed out that the metal seal was intact when his client was asked to open the trailer. So much so, he said in his opening statement, that Grewal had to break it off with a hammer, cutting his thumb in the process.

During the trial, Grewal’s 20-year-old daughter sat in the courtroom listening intently. She wouldn’t comment on the case, about the impact of her father’s arrest three years ago, or that he filed for bankruptcy in 2010.

Grewal’s trial ended last week. Justice Mary Jo Nolan will deliver a verdict on Dec. 10.

Arora’s sentencing has been postponed at least four times as he continues to co-operate with authorities on the vast drug-smuggling operation in which he became involved. (A permanent resident in Canada, he will probably be deported to his native India after serving a prison term.)

Since his arrest in 2010, he has disclosed information that has led to the arrest of three accomplices:

Parminder Sidhu, of Brampton, who hired Arora as a driver at his company, Prime 9, was arrested and then extradited to the U.S. on Feb. 7, 2012. Sidhu is charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine and conspiracy to export cocaine.

When a search warrant was executed at Sidhu’s home, extensive drug ledgers were discovered, according to Arora’s plea agreement.

A home telephone listing was disconnected and a phone number for Prime 9 could not be located. Prime 9, according to documents, was incorporated in 2009.

Michael Bagri, a third associate from the Toronto area, was arrested in the U.S. Together with Arora, he has pleaded guilty to trafficking more than 1,600 kilograms of cocaine from the U.S. into Canada over two years, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. Bagri, 51, is yet to be sentenced.

As part of the same operation, Huy Hoang Nguyen, 27, of Massachusetts, also pleaded guilty in July to importing more than 100 kilos of marijuana from Canada into the U.S. He faces a minimum of five to 40 years in prison.

Meanwhile, Arora’s wife has fled to B.C. with their daughter, who was born last year. Prashad says there was fear of a backlash on Arora’s family after he pled guilty. His wife, in her late 20s, has visited Arora a few times at the Buffalo Federal Detention Facility in Batavia, N.Y., where Prashad says Arora has been incarcerated since his arrest.

Prashad says Arora has found religion: he now wears a turban, no longer eats meat, and prays. He has never met his young daughter.

Prashad talks to Arora’s wife often and says she doesn’t know what to do. “She can’t go back to India because her husband is here . . . but she doesn’t speak English too well so it is tough here, too,” he said.

“This drug trade has ruined three more lives.”

 

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