PHOENIX -- A judge struck down a tactic prosecutors say helped stem illegal immigration from Mexico into Arizona, the country's busiest illegal entry point. State prosecutors had won a special court order in September to seize wire transfers flowing into Mexico that originated in other states. Authorities suspected the transfers were payments to smugglers who were using Arizona as their illegal gateway.A judge, in a ruling released Wednesday, struck down the practice, saying it violated constitutional protections on interstate and international commerce and that prosecutors didn't show that the wire service customers in question were involved in crimes. "We had lots of indications that we were on the right track and that what we were doing was supported at many levels of the judiciary," Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard said. "So I guess to that degree it is a concern and was not expected." State authorities estimate immigrant smuggling is a $1.7 billion a year business in Arizona. Goddard's office has used special court orders for four years to seize $17 million in wire transfers to the state that authorities said were payments to smugglers. Goddard said in a statement that the special court orders were responsible for deterring many illicit money transfers and led to the arrests of more than 100 immigrant smugglers. Prosecutors said their efforts were so successful that smugglers began to route their payments from other states to Mexico, even as traffickers continued to sneak people in through Arizona. Prosecutors seized about $200,000 in money transfers to Mexico in three days in September before Western Union challenged the practice and a judge issued a temporary hold. The transfers had been sent from 28 American states to locations in the northern Mexican state of Sonora. In the ruling released Wednesday, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Kenneth Fields concluded prosecutors hadn't shown they have jurisdiction for the broader approach. The judge also barred prosecutors from seizing money that wasn't sent to or received in the state.
Western Union President and CEO Christina said they pursued this case because they felt strongly about defending the rights of their
stockholders and degenerate drug dealers consumers.
Goddard said he plans to seek a reversal of the decision at both the district and appellate court levels.
In another story being reported by many bloggers - these stories just get more incredible:
PHOENIX - A prosecutor plans to ask state and federal lawmakers to investigate why National Guard members backed off from armed men who were near them at the Mexican border.
Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas said he was troubled by the retreat and questioned whether the rules the National Guard members operated under at the border were appropriate.
"This is a terrible precedent to set," Thomas said Tuesday. Border Patrol officials are investigating the incident, which happened Jan. 3 near Sasabe. A group of armed men were spotted about 100 yards from a Guard observation post and the four-man team decided to move to a safer position. A Border Patrol spokesman said after the incident that it was minor.
"There were no shots fired, no attacks, no overrunning of the National Guardsmen," nor any contact with the group, spokesman Mario Martinez said.
The National Guard troops are in Arizona and the three other border states assisting Border Patrol agents in a variety of roles, such as operating surveillance cameras, repairing border fences, constructing vehicle barriers and reporting illegal entries. The team involved in the recent incident were armed. Thomas said a more independent probe was needed because the Border Patrol was involved in the incident. Even though Maricopa County does not share a border with Mexico and the incident happened outside the county, Thomas said drug and immigrant smuggling has caused huge problems.
Meanwhile, a state legislator said he will interview Maj. Gen. David Rataczak, head of the National Guard in Arizona, in a hearing of the new Homeland Security and Property Rights Committee soon.
"Why would this be allowed to happen?" asked Rep. Warde Nichols, the committee's chairman. "Why do we have National Guard running from illegals on the border? Are they (National Guardsmen) armed? Do they have bullets in their guns? We need some answers to some of these questions."
Rep. Russell Pearce, the Legislature's strongest voice on border security, said two National Guardsmen who work on the border told him their weapons do not have bullets.
Pearce said the unarmed soldiers are in harm's way and called the situation "absolutely outrageous."
h/t Beach Girl and Euphoric Reality
Thursday, January 11, 2007
Posted by No Apology at 4:13 PM