crime

Undocumented youth in Hillsboro weigh in on deportation deferral program

Born in Mexico but raised here, Johan Chavez of Hillsboro says returning to his native country would be like entering a different world.

Now 17 and a student at Hillsboro High School, he remembers traveling at age 7 by bus then car across the U.S. border with his family. Since then, he has lost fluency in his native tongue and identification with a culture that now seems foreign.

As an undocumented immigrant, however, it is he who has remained foreign -- something he struggles with.

"Honestly, in my opinion, I am 100 percent American," he said.

Chavez's status and outlook could merge, though, if he is approved for a renewable work permit through a federal program that would defer his deportation. With a Social Security number, he could get a bank account and a job. With a job, he could pay for college, a necessary step toward his dream of becoming a music teacher.

"I know everything I want to do in life," he said, "but basically I can't do anything without some type of legal status."

Chavez is one of an estimated 16,600 young illegal workers and students in Oregon who qualify for President Barack Obama's executive order program. To apply, they must prove they arrived in the United States before turning 16, are 30 or younger, have been living here for at least five years and are in school, graduated from high school or served in the military. They also cannot be convicted of certain crimes.

There is no data specific to Oregon about how many people have applied in the last three months. But of the 900,000 young immigrants believed to be eligible nationwide, only about 300,000 have so far applied, according to data released earlier this month by the Department of Homeland Security.

Luis Guerra, legal coordinator and development associate for the immigrant rights group Causa, said the low number of filed applications can be explained by several factors.

One bottleneck effect, he said, is that many undocumented immigrants are relying on nonprofits for financial and legal assistance with the application process. Many of those organizations are struggling to keep up with demand, resulting in long waiting lists, he said.

"I would estimate the average cost per applicant, including government fees and receiving service from a nonprofit, to be somewhere in the $800 to $1,000 range," Guerra said. "That is not including transportation costs and time off work for many, especially when they have to travel from far places to Portland to either find the large concentration of services or go to a USCIS appointment."

Guerra said applicants may also have trouble submitting proof of identification. He said that for those who don't have passports or licenses, the only proof may come in the form of a consular identification from their country of origin's consulate in Oregon, which adds an extra step to the process.

The last main barrier was removed after the presidential election, Guerra said. Many were concerned that a government headed by Republican candidate Mitt Romney would have resulted in mass deportation, so they are just now coming forward to apply, he said.

For those who have applied, the process can be as short as two months, said Causa's executive director, Francisco Lopez. Many applications received in August have been approved. Some immigrants from around the state have already gotten their work permits and begun to apply for driver's licenses. Most, however, are still waiting for the news that could dramatically change their lives.

Maria Gonzalez, 20, of Aloha is anxious but hopeful that her application will be approved. With her paperwork and fingerprints completed, all that's left is to wait for a response.

"I'm just nervous because basically I'm juggling," she said. "I could have made a stupid mistake on the application and ruined it. It's scary to think that I may not get it."

The Mexico native remembers cautiously walking through the desert border at age 10. Now she is a student at Portland Community College, hoping to attain a career as a nurse or physician's assistant.

For Gonzalez, deferred action is a means to fulfill her potential. Graduating from Aloha High School in 2010 was terrifying, she said, because illegal status kept her from getting any of the scholarships she had applied for.

"Since I live in a single-parent home, once I graduated I was on my own," she said. "All my life, I thought I was pretty smart, but it brought me down to reality knowing that I didn't have the money to go to school, even though I had the head."

Ulises Olvera's status as a gay, undocumented Latino student has afforded him more luck in financing his education.

Olvera, 21, never thought he would get to go to college. Now he attends Portland Community College Rock Creek in Hillsboro, which he has been able to fund through his job as equity ambassador at the multicultural student center. The Pride Foundation, an organization that supports equality for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community, also awarded Olvera a $4,500 scholarship, he said.

"I didn't think I would be able to get into school in the first place," he said. "But anything is possible. I'm pretty successful -- getting my higher education, making a difference at a college setting -- and that's very empowering."

Even so, he said, acceptance into the deferred action program would open up a whole new set of doors for scholarships and work opportunities.

But first things first. If his application is approved, Olvera said, he will break in the new work permit by using it to get a license.

"I depend on public transportation," he said. "I want to drive because right now I live in Beaverton and my parents live in Jewell. I barely get to see them."

Legislative Days are coming

This month (December 10th, 11th and 12th) citizens have a great opportunity to meet, in person, with their elected Legislators. Legislators schedule this time to be in their offices to meet with constituents and attend meetings at the Capitol. OFIR encourages anyone that is able, to call and make an appointment to meet, in person, with your Legislator during those days (or any other day you can get an appointment).

There will likely be two bills we will be working to defeat in the 2013 Legislative session and we need all hands on deck. We are working to stay ahead of the curve and hope to influence Legislators that might be "on the fence" about giving driver licenses to illegal aliens or instate tuition benefits to illegal aliens. Both issues have gotten a lot of attention in past sessions, but OFIR and dedicated citizens have defeated those bills every time. But, the job isn't finished and we must not let up...even for a moment. Our opponents are pressuring (and attempting to guilt) Legislators into passing these two destructive bills. We must not let this happen.

Illegal aliens and their advocates are doing everything they can to get a foothold in Oregon. Unfortunately, there are many Legislators who are attempting to help them, too.

OFIR members and friends, please call and make an appointment with your Legislators and let them know you do NOT support either of these moves to "legitimize" the presence of illegal aliens in Oregon.

If you aren't certain who your Oregon State Legislators are, visit this website http://www.leg.state.or.us/findlegsltr/home.htm for all the information you will need. If you make an appointment, have a meeting, get a response to an email or any other contact, OFIR encourages you to share your information with us.

If you are uncomfortable or just simply too scared to have a face to face meeting, OFIR encourages you to just go and visit the Capitol. The entire building is open to the public, so you can walk the halls, see the offices, look in the hearing rooms and get familiar with the building that controls our state.

Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, December 10, 11, 12 - Legislative Days at the Capitol

Oh, and there's that, too...

The elephant in the room is eating away at our budget.  Why is it the only discussion our Governor has about the state budget revolves around cutting benefits to PERS employees (who earned them) and letting dangerous criminals out of jail to prey on Oregon citizens. 

Worse yet, his plans often include ideas about what our state can do for those who are in our country illegally...how can we make their life better, easier and more convenient for them.

As a lifelong Oregonian I would like to hear some ideas about how our governor intends to make life better (and safer) for the citizens and legal residents of Oregon.  What is most often left out of budget discussions, is the honest conversation about the real cost of illegal aliens in our state.  With over 8% unemployment in Oregon, there is never a discussion about the estimated 100,000 working illegal aliens and 200,000 unemployed citizens.  The Oregon Legislature won't even hear any bills requiring employers to use free and easy to use employment verification called E-Verify.

Our elected officials owe us that courtesy because reports show that families illegally in our state cost the tax-payers over $700 million just in services every year.

Do you ever see that kind of information printed in budget reports, newspapers or do you ever hear it on the news?  Not likely.

The Governor's next move is to cut services to citizens to offset the cost of spending our tax dollars on sending illegal alien students to state universities and only charging them in-state tuition rates, instead of out of state tuition....which, by the way, legal citizens have to pay if they want to attend an Oregon school.

Read this article about how the governor justifies cutting programs to citizens, but just "slips in" the reason why.

Kitzhaber pushes pension cuts in proposed budget

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Gov. John Kitzhaber will propose an increase in funding for Oregon schools, but the money wouldn't be enough to reduce class sizes unless the Legislature cuts pension benefits for retired teachers and other public employees, his staff said Thursday.

The governor's budget proposal, scheduled for release on Friday, will include $6.15 billion in K-12 school funding over the next two years, according to a summary released by his office. That's an 8-percent increase over current funding, but not enough to cover the $6.3 billion it would cost to maintain the current level of service in schools.

Kitzhaber hopes his budget proposal will nudge lawmakers to cut back on public pension benefits for retirees in order to avoid forcing school districts to lay off more teachers or shorten school years.

Kitzhaber spokesman Tim Raphael said the governor built his budget on an assumption that the Legislature will approve two changes to the Public Employee Retirement System: The elimination of a supplemental pension payment intended to cover out-of-state retirees' income tax in Oregon. Out-of-state retirees pay income taxes in their home state, not in Oregon, so critics say they shouldn't get the supplemental tax payment. The other change would limit retirees' annual cost-of-living increase to $480 per year.

The governor's office says the pension changes would save school districts $253 million in the upcoming two-year budget period. Across all levels of government, the savings would be $865 million per biennium.

The governor's funding proposal is far too low to improve the quality of education, said Gail Rasmussen, president of the Oregon Education Association, the state's largest teachers union.

His proposed pension cuts are unconstitutional and shouldn't be counted on to deliver savings to school districts, she said.

"Our districts are still dealing with really bad, bad budget crises," Rasmussen said.

In an email sent Thursday to state workers, Kitzhaber said his budget would not require them to take more unpaid days off work to save money, as they've had to do for several years.

His budget also will assume that the Legislature changes criminal sentencing laws so the prison population grows by just 300 inmates over the next 10 years — 2,000 fewer than experts project under current laws.

Kitzhaber's pension and sentencing changes will be a heavy lift in the Legislature, where both initiatives are likely to present political risks for lawmakers.

Public-employee unions, which were instrumental in helping Democrats build their majorities in the Legislature, have a history of fighting pension cuts that hurt their members' pocketbooks.

"Gov. Kitzhaber has provided a good starting point for the budget negotiations ahead of us," Sen. Peter Devlin, a Tualatin Democrat who will be co-chairman of the budget committee, said in a statement.

Lawmakers risk being labeled soft on crime if they approve legislation that reduces prison time for criminals. The governor has long argued that spending on prisons is rising too quickly and diverting scarce tax dollars away from education and police. A commission he appointed is expected to recommend sentencing changes next month.

The $16.3 billion proposed budget for the general fund and lottery is a 10 percent increase over the current spending plan. It would leave $130 million unbudgeted to guard against unexpected costs or a weakening economic recovery.

The governor is required to submit a budget proposal to the Legislature, but the final spending plan must be approved by lawmakers. Kitzhaber and the Legislature have to contend with a $700 million gap between anticipated revenue and the cost of continuing government services at their current levels for two more years.

Kitzhaber will also recommend:

— $1 billion in infrastructure projects, including $450 million for a new Interstate 5 bridge spanning the Columbia River.

— More money to pay for daycare for low-income workers, boosting the program by 500 children.

— Additional funding for high school students to earn community college credits and  to allow illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition at public universities.

— $55 million for child safety, including more money for Child Protective Services and for community-based mental health services.

California prosecutor wants his county to change policy on illegal immigrants

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Martin Moreno roughed up his ex-girlfriend like an “animal" until police arrested him at gunpoint, according to a witness. Juan Flores bashed a man in the head with a beer bottle, producing a wound that required 25 stitches. And Francisco Gomez twice punched a 2-year-old with his closed fist — hard enough to trigger a brain hemorrhage.

All three were in this country illegally and could have been deported under federal law if Santa Clara County had been willing to hold them for immigration agents. Instead, they were treated like U.S. citizens and released either on probation or on bail under a county policy that effectively bars all immigration “holds." Since then, they’ve thumbed their noses at the criminal justice system and gone on the lam.

Armed with disturbing examples like these, District Attorney Jeff Rosen is urging the county board of supervisors to rescind one of the nation’s most lenient immigration policies. Rosen contends the year-old county policy unnecessarily endangers the community by allowing illegal immigrants with a history of violent or serious crimes to be released rather than held for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, known as ICE.

The county’s policy must change, Rosen argues, “to protect public safety, protect taxpayer’s dollars and protect victims’ rights."

Tinkering with immigration policy is a touchy matter in a county where one in four residents was born in a foreign country. Staunch advocates of the county policy, including ambitious local politicians and some defense attorneys, argue that engaging local authorities in immigration enforcement undermines immigrant communities’ trust in the police, making people afraid to report crimes as a witness or even a victim. They also point to abuses of authority by ICE and note that many defendants were brought to the U.S. when they were young children and have deep roots here.

But the prospects for at least tweaking the policy are greater now that its main proponent, Supervisor George Shirakawa, is under heavy fire for charging thousands of dollars of questionable expenses on his taxpayer- funded credit card.

The board of supervisors is expected to vote whether to change the policy early next year, after a group of law enforcement officials, including Rosen, Acting Public Defender Molly O’Neal and Sheriff Laurie Smith, recommends a course of action. Smith supports honoring ICE detention requests for illegal immigrants with a history of violent or serious crimes; O’Neal is open to discussing the issue but has concerns.

The issue exploded last year when Santa Clara County became only the second jurisdiction in the nation after Chicago’s Cook County to release illegal immigrants with a history of committing serious or violent crimes onto the streets.

Marion County Corrections Facility Inmate Roster INS Holds

What follows is information taken from the Marion County Sheriff / Marion County Correctional Facility (MCCF) website for Inmate / Offender Information, Full Jail Inmate Roster, relating to the number of MCCF prisoners the United States (U.S.) Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has identified as possibly being in the county illegally, U.S. DHS–ICE prisoners charged with drug crimes, and the approximate incarceration cost to Marion County to house its U.S. DHS–ICE jail population.

Total MCCF Inmates: 407

   Total MCCF Inmates with ICE Hold: 36

   Percent MCCF Inmates with ICE Hold: 8.84%

Total MCCF Inmates with ICE Hold POS/DEL METH: 3

Percent MCCF Inmates with ICE Hold POS/DEL METH: 8.33%

Total MCCF Inmates with ICE Hold POS/DEL HERION: 4

Percent MCCF Inmates with ICE Hold POS/DEL HERION: 11.11%

Total MCCF Inmates with ICE Hold POS/DEL COCAINE: 1

Percent MCCF Inmates with ICE Hold POS/DEL COCAINE: 2.78%

Total MCCF Inmates with ICE Hold POS/DEL MARIJUANA: 0

Percent MCCF Inmates with ICE Hold POS/DEL MARIJUANA: 0.00%

MCCF Incarceration Cost Per Inmate Per Day: $107.74

MCCF Incarceration Cost Per Day of 36 Inmates with ICE Holds: $3,878.64

MCCF Incarceration Cost Per Week of 36 Inmates with ICE Holds: $27,150.48

   MCCF Incarceration Cost Per Year of 36 Inmates with ICE Holds: $1,415,703.60

For the eleven months of 2012, the MCCF has averaged 42.09 criminal aliens per day at the jail.
 

Krastev shipped to Bulgaria

The former Oregon Liquor Control Commission agent who spent nearly 20 years residing illegally in the United States under a false identity has been deported.

Doitchin Krastev, known as Jason Evers during his time in Bend with the OLCC, was sent back to his native Bulgaria on July 31, according to Andrew Munoz of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Munoz said Krastev traveled on a commercial flight, and was escorted by Enforcement and Removal Operations officers.

According to federal court records, Krastev began using the name Jason Evers in 1996, when he applied for and received a Social Security number using the name and birth date of an Ohio boy who had been kidnapped and murdered years earlier. As Evers, Krastev earned a GED from Arapahoe Community College in Littleton, Colo., then came to Oregon, passed a background check and began working for the OLCC.

Krastev arrived in the United States as a teenager in the early 1990s, the guest of former Reagan administration official Michael Horowitz.

Horowitz was touring post-Communist Eastern Europe when he met Krastev's parents, both prominent Bulgarian academics. Impressed by the boy's intelligence, Horowitz invited Krastev to return to the U.S. with him to complete his education away from the turmoil created by the fall of the Soviet Union.

Krastev graduated from a prestigious Washington, D.C., private high school and was admitted to equally prestigious Davidson College in North Carolina, but in 1994, near the end of his sophomore year at Davidson, he dropped out and disappeared.

After living in Colorado for a few years under the name Danny Kaiser, Krastev arrived in Oregon and became OLCC agent Jason Evers.

As Evers, Krastev made a number of enemies in Central Oregon. In a few instances, bar and restaurant owners who had been cited by Evers successfully fought their tickets, providing video evidence to contradict the agent's claims.

In 2009, the Oregon Department of Justice launched an investigation into enforcement practices at the OLCC office run by Evers and transferred him to Eastern Oregon.

In 2010, federal authorities caught up with Krastev. A State Department investigation comparing passport applications against death records revealed someone had applied for a passport in 2002 using the identity of the Jason Evers who had been murdered in Ohio 20 years earlier.

Federal marshals located Krastev in Idaho and arrested him on suspicion of falsifying information on a passport application and identity theft.

After pleading guilty to federal charges against him, Krastev served just shy of two years in a federal prison for identity theft and passport fraud.

In January, he was turned over to ICE and transferred to Florence Correctional Center in Florence, Ariz., to face deportation proceedings.

During his stay at the Arizona prison, Krastev filed a civil rights complaint against the warden and food director, contending their failure to provide him with adequate vegan meals violated his right to practice his Buddhist faith.

A judge ruled against Krastev, dismissing his complaint in early July.

As a consequence of his deportation, Krastev is barred from legally re-entering the U.S. for 10 years, Munoz said.

We must never give up. We must never stop fighting. America's future depends on it.

Alert date: 
November 7, 2012
Alert body: 

It's a sad and frustrating day for all of us who have worked so hard to protect this great country from unfettered illegal immigration and excessive legal immigration.

"Unfortunately, neither the candidates nor the media drew attention to the deleterious impact that high immigration levels have on American workers," said Marilyn DeYoung, Chairman of the Board of CAPS. "There is no difference between outsourcing, sending American jobs overseas, and ‘insourcing,’ bringing in foreign workers to take American jobs."

While Americans reelected Obama based on their preference for his economic policies, they do not embrace his plans for amnesty. Furthermore, they want to see laws enforced at the workplace through mandatory use of the free, accurate and easy to use E-verify program.

"True immigration reform means securing our borders and reducing immigration to reasonable levels that protect American workers. In 1996, Barbara Jordan and the U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform called for lower levels of legal immigration and tough measures against illegal immigration. It made sense then; it makes sense now," stated DeYoung, who served on the President’s Commission on Population Growth and the American Future in 1970.

Our nation's sovereignty depends on citizens caring enough to protect what they have.

Connecting the dots...

Connecting the dots between high unemployment, increased crime, exploding entitlement programs, over-crowded school and a deteriorating environment and how they are related to un-checked illegal immigration and excessive legal immigration is a big job, but one we all must continue to pursue.

While Americans re-elected President Obama based on their apparent preference for his economic policies, they do not embrace his plans for amnesty. Furthermore, Americans want to see laws enforced at the workplace through mandatory use of the free, accurate and easy to use E-verify program.

Neither the candidates nor the media drew attention to the deleterious impact that high immigration levels have on American workers," said Marilyn DeYoung, Chairman of the Board of CAPS. "There is no difference between outsourcing, sending American jobs overseas, and insourcing, bringing in foreign workers to take American jobs."

While jobs, jobs and jobs dominated races here in Oregon and across the nation, no one had enough confidence to point out that, here in Oregon about 100,000 illegal aliens are working and 200,000 Oregonians are unemployed. 

We need to do a better job of connecting the dots.

 

Zetas cartel occupies Mexico state of Coahuila

SALTILLO, Mexico — Few outside Coahuila state noticed. Headlines were rare. But steadily, inexorably, Mexico's third-largest state slipped under the control of its deadliest drug cartel, the Zetas.

The aggressively expanding Zetas took advantage of three things in this state right across the border from Texas: rampant political corruption, an intimidated and silent public, and, if new statements by the former governor are to be believed, a complicit and profiting segment of the business elite. It took scarcely three years.

What happened to Coahuila has been replicated in several Mexican states — not just the violent ones that get the most attention, but others that have more quietly succumbed to cartel domination. Their tragedies cast Mexico's security situation and democratic strength in a much darker light than is usually acknowledged by government officials who have been waging a war against the drug gangs for six years.

"We are a people under siege, and it is a region-wide problem," said Raul Vera, the Roman Catholic bishop of Coahuila. A violence once limited to a small corner of the state has now spread in ways few imagined, he said.

What sets the Zetas apart from other cartels, in addition to a gruesome brutality designed to terrorize, is their determination to dominate territory by controlling all aspects of local criminal businesses.

Not content to simply smuggle drugs through a region, the Zetas move in, confront every local crime boss in charge of contraband, pirated CDs, prostitution, street drug sales and after-hour clubs, and announce that they are taking over. The locals have to comply or risk death.

And so it was in Coahuila. One common threat from Zeta extortionists, according to Saltillo businessmen: a thousand pesos, or three fingers.

With the Zetas meeting little resistance, wheels greased by a corrupt local government, there was little violence. But the people of Coahuila found themselves under the yoke of a vicious cartel nonetheless.

"It was as if it all fell from the sky to the Earth," said Eduardo Calderon, a psychologist who works with migrants, many of whom have been killed in the conflict. "We all knew it was happening, but it was as if it happened in silence."

The "silence" ended in rapid-fire succession in a few weeks' time starting mid-September. Coahuila saw one of the biggest mass prison breaks in history, staged by Zetas to free Zetas; the killing of the son of one of the country's most prominent political families (a police chief is the top suspect); and, on Oct. 7, the apparent slaying of the Zetas' top leader by federal troops who say they stumbled upon him as he watched a baseball game.

"Apparent" because armed commandos brazenly stole the body from local authorities within hours of the shooting. The military insists that the dead man was Heriberto Lazcano, Mexico's most feared fugitive, acknowledging that he had been living comfortably and freely in Coahuila for some time.

"He was like Pedro in his house," former Gov. Humberto Moreira said, using an expression that means he was totally at home and could go anywhere.

The Zetas had such confident dominion over the state that Lazcano, alias the Executioner, and the other top Zeta leader, Miguel Angel Trevino, regularly used a vast Coahuila game reserve to hunt zebras they imported from Africa.

Since their formation in the late 1990s and early 2000s as a paramilitary bodyguard for the then-dominant Gulf cartel, the Zetas operated primarily in Tamaulipas state on Mexico's northeastern shoulder and down the coast of Veracruz and into Guatemala.

For most of that time, Coahuila, rich in coal mines and with a booming auto industry, was used by cartels as little more than a transit route for drugs across the border. The Zetas maintained a presence limited to Torreon, the southwestern Coahuila city that served as a bulwark against the powerful Sinaloa cartel that reigned in neighboring Durango state.

In 2010, the Zetas broke away from the Gulf cartel, triggering a war that bloodied much of Tamaulipas and spilled over into neighboring states. Coahuila, with its rugged mountains and sparsely populated tracts, became a refuge for the Zetas, and they spread out across the state, including this heretofore calm capital, Saltillo.

Even if the violence hasn't been as ghastly as in other parts of Mexico, nearly 300 people, many of them professionals, have vanished in Coahuila, probably kidnapped by the Zetas for ransom or for their skills.

The man in charge of Coahuila during most of the Zeta takeover was Moreira, the former governor. After five years in office, he left the position a year ahead of schedule, in early 2011, to assume the national leadership of the Institutional Revolutionary Party on the eve of its triumphant return to presidential power after more than a decade.

But scandal followed Moreira, including a debt of more than $3 million he had saddled Coahuila with, allegedly from fraudulent loans. He was eventually forced to quit the PRI leadership, dashing what many thought to be his presidential aspirations.

Tragedy followed when Moreira's son Jose Eduardo was shot twice in the head execution-style in the Coahuila town of Acuna early last month. Investigators believe that most of the Acuna police department turned Jose Eduardo over to the Zetas as a reprisal for the killing of a nephew of Trevino. The police chief was arrested.

Killing the son of a former governor — and nephew of the current one, Humberto's brother Ruben — was a rare strike by drug traffickers into the heart of Mexico's political elite.

In mourning, Humberto Moreira gave a series of remarkably candid interviews in which he accused entrepreneurs from Coahuila's mining sector of sharing the wealth with top drug traffickers who in turn used the money to buy weapons and pay off their troops. They killed his son, he said.

Mining in Coahuila is huge and notoriously dangerous, with companies routinely flouting safety regulations and workers dying in explosions and accidents. The depth to which drug traffickers have penetrated the industry is being investigated by federal authorities.

The question on the minds of many Mexicans was: If Moreira was so aware of criminal penetration, why didn't he stop it?

Critics suggest that during his tenure, he was happy to turn a blind eye to the growth of the Zetas as long as he could pursue his business and political interests. He denies that now and says fighting organized crime was up to the federal government; the federal government blames state officials, in Coahuila and elsewhere, for coddling the drug lords.

"The northern governors have long cut deals with the cartels that operate in their domains. The pattern in the north is cooperation," said George W. Grayson, a Mexico scholar at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Va., who has written extensively on the Zetas and Mexican issues.

"The Coahuila police are among the most corrupt in all Mexico."

The extent to which the Zetas' tentacles had penetrated state government became clear this year when federal authorities discovered a protection racket that dated well into Humberto Moreira's administration and was led by none other than the brother of the state attorney general. According to the federal investigation, he and 10 other state officials were being paid roughly $60,000 a month by the Zetas to leak information to the gang.

The nearly 3 million residents of Coahuila, meanwhile, find ways to survive and accommodate.

In rural areas where the Zetas are most commonly seen on the streets, people have learned to be mute and blind. In cities such as Saltillo, they change their habits, don't go out at night, send their children to school in other cities.

A businessman whose family has lived here for generations said, "We are in a state of war, without realizing when or how we got there."

 

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