Border Patrol (With Local Sheriffs) Apprehending Undocumented Immigrants in Churches

UPDATE: We changed the head since it suggested that Border Patrol agent entered the church as well. That is not clear, but what is clear is this: undocumented immigrants were in a church, local sheriffs found them and then BP showed up.

This story got our attention when we received the following email from a loyal reader of this site:

I am on a social media “cleanse” for Lent, so apologize if you’ve already covered this. But it is OUTRAGEOUS!!

In short: Latino, poor, at a Catholic Church? Sheriffs in AZ consider that cause to question. I’m going to have to break my cleanse for this…

The reason why our fan is breaking the Lenten cleanse? The following tweet, which was also part of the email:

That tweet led us to this story out of Tucson: “N4T Investigators: Undocumented immigrants taken into custody at Ajo Catholic church” We did a double take before we started reading:

According to a Pima County Sheriff’s Department incident report obtained by the News 4 Tucson Investigators, a deputy passing by the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church spotted three Hispanic males on the front porch of the church. The three were wearing dingy and tattered clothing, and were also carrying water bottles.

The deputy goes on to say that all three then hurriedly walked into the church. The deputy then went into the church, which was not in session. Ultimately, the three told him they had come from Honduras, walking three months, and crossing the border illegally.

After taking the trio outside, the deputy detained the three until Border Patrol arrived. An agent them took the men into custody, after confirming they were in the country illegally.

“They had a suspicious look, and their behavior indicated that they were potentially up to no good. That’s why our deputy honed-in on it,” says Captain Frank Duarte, with the Pima County Sheriff’s Department.

According to the Tucson report, the incident happened on March 23. That would be a week before U.S. bishops held a “Border Mass” in Nogales, right next to the U.S. “security” fence, to draw attention to migrant deaths and the need for immigration reform:

Talk about mixed messages. In fairness, the Tucson report also talked with the Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tuscon. Here is what the report said: 

Kicanas says there is a long-standing custom of the Border Patrol, police and sheriff to respect the sanctity of the church and not apprehend people inside. He also raised concerns that the group had entered the church seeking help, and asking to pray. Kicanas added, while police can legally question someone who looks suspicious it was not clear that the men had done anything wrong to lead to their apprehension in the church.

You can just imagine the reaction people are sharing with us on Twitter and Facebook. Here are just a few comments:

Is it legal? Technically, yes. Does it look really bad? Of course.

As another person wrote, “Not even the Church they respect. God Almighty.”

By the way, here is what ICE (a different agency from Border Patrol but in the business of “enforcing” immigration) said in 2011 about these situations: “This policy is designed to ensure that these enforcement actions do not occur at nor are focused on sensitive locations such as schools and churches unless (a) exigent circumstances exist~ (b) other law enforcement actions have led officers to a sensitive location…” So since the Tucson case also had local law enforcement in the mix, we guess it was cool to raid a church and deport some migrants.

Enforcement Actions at or Focused on Sensitive Locations

Looks like Border Patrol didn’t get ICE’s memo. Sure, BP is a different agency from ICE, but still. While we are on that subject, here is the difference:

United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is responsible for protecting our nation’s borders in order to prevent terrorists and terrorist weapons from entering the United States, while facilitating the flow of legitimate trade and travel.

United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the largest investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security, is responsible for identifying and shutting down vulnerabilities in the nation’s border, economic, transportation and infrastructure security.

We digress, but it is interesting how U.S. Customs and Border Protection defines each agency.

Nonetheless, such news today also reminded us of the Sanctuary Movement of the 1980s, where many churches were active to help Central Americans who where fleeing brutal civil wars, which, quite frankly, were being instigated by the U.S. government. As one outlet writes:

At the Sanctuary Movement’s height in the mid 1980s, over 150 congregations openly defied the government, publicly sponsoring and supporting undocumented Salvadoran or Guatemalan refugee families. Another 1,000 local Christian and Jewish congregations, several major Protestant denominations, the Conservative and Reform Jewish associations, and several Catholic orders all endorsed the concept and practice of sanctuary. Sanctuary workers coordinated with activists in Mexico to smuggle Salvadorans and Guatemalans over the border and across the country. Assistance provided to refugees included bail and legal representation, as well as food, medical care, and employment.

The defense of the Salvadorans and Guatemalans marked a new use of international human rights norms by U.S. activists. Citing the Nuremberg principles of personal accountability developed in the post-World War II Nazi tribunals, religious activists claimed a legal precedent to justify their violation of U.S. laws against alien smuggling. Other activists claimed that their actions were justified by the religious and moral principles of the 19th-century U.S. abolitionist movement, referring to their activities as a new “Underground Railroad.” Many U.S. religious leaders involved in the Sanctuary Movement had prior experience in the 1960s civil disobedience campaigns against racial segregation in the American South.

The fact is that yes, law enforcement can go into any church in the U.S. and apprehend people. Border Patrol sees so no problem. ICE agents are not allowed… unless, of course, they are accompanied by local law enforcement. However, many still think such an act is a desecration.

A #SoyRebelde Moment: Native American Man Confronts Anti-Illegal Immigration Protest in Arizona

Talk about taking the fight right to the core.


The following video (and its different variations and sources) has gone viral on the Internet.

Here is what Latino Voices reported:

A Native American told a group of anti-illegal immigrants protesters in Arizona, who “the real illegal immigrants are.”

“You are all fucking illegal! You’re all illegal,” screamed the unidentified man to the rally demonstrators in a recent YouTube video. “We didn’t invite none of you here. We’re the only native Americans here.”

Appealing to the history of Europeans appropriating native lands after arriving to the new world, the man kept challenging the group who, with insignias and American flags, started to dissipate one by one until the area was cleared.

“Get on with your bogus arguments. We’re the only legal ones here,” he said referring to the Native American community, many of who are also of Central American descent. “Yeah, we should have put that sign up when you son of a bitches came. That represents blood spilled by Native Americans protecting this land from the invaders!” he said while pushing a stroller with a child.

The protestors mostly ignored the man though some responded by informing him that they too were of Native American descent, and yet others simply suggested he’d had too much to drink.

NATIONWIDE CALL FOR ACTION: Help Bring Back Chicano Studies in Tucson!


One of the most important parts of the federal desegregation court order on Tucson Unified School District (TUSD) is the new Unitary Status Plan (USP) which is being worked on right now.

Over the next three days, ending at midnight on November 28th, 2012, the public nationwide has an important role to play, and that is to comment on the USP.
The USP provides a clear path for the return of MAS classes and its director Sean Arce under Section V.C.: Student Engagement and Support. To learn more about how exactly this USP lays out this new plan, read this article here.

What is important now and how  can get involved is to go to the following link and comment at the bottom of the page and select Section V.C. as the section you are providing feedback on. These comments go straight to the Special Master and WILL be taken into account when he makes his final decision.

The Special Master Willis Hawley is a university professor and loves details, so if you would like to write a longer message to him with references and citations you can do so by sending your message via email to [email protected] or via USPS to USP Comments, P.O. Box 41358, Tucson, AZ 85717-1358.

Remember, however, that the deadline is this Wednesday at 11:59pm.

Every professor, postdoc, graduate student, teacher, student and parent out there from around the country who is interested in education, Ethnic Studies, Chicano Studies, and the future of educating Latinos should submit a comment. It can be as simple as saying that you want MAS and its director to be returned. Also demand a RETURN OF BILINGUAL EDUCATION. Many of those messages will speak volumes, and will make difference!

¡Sí se puede!

Yellow Journalism Rules as Tensions Rise in Tucson Over TUSD and MAS Program

This week, the Tucson Unified School District, which gained national attention when TUSD school board member Michael Hicks appeared on "The Daily Show" to discuss why the board had decided to suspend the district's Mexican American Studies (MAS) program, held another public board meeting this past Monday. The official accounts from local news outlets chronicled pretty basic information about a shift in the MAS program:

The appointment of TUSD's new Mexican American Student Services director was made with little backlash Monday as a crowd of program supporters sat quietly in the Governing Board meeting room. Maria Figueroa was voted in 4-1, with board member Adelita Grijalva dissenting.

"I continue to oppose the changes that have been made to Mexican American Studies – the elimination of courses and the change in direction that appointing this director will make in this department," Grijalva said.

Changes to the department specify that it no longer administer courses – which were found to be in violation of state law – and instead focus on supporting Hispanic students to eliminate disparities in achievement, discipline, special education placement, grade retention and placement in special programs.

However, in the world of online Tucson, there is a contradicting (and poorly reported) story from the Arizona Daily Independent (ADI) claiming that Hicks was assaulted by Sean Arce, the former director of the MAS program, inside the school building where the meeting took place on Monday evening.

A video from The Three Sonorans blog includes footage of the Monday meeting at the end of a 17-minute video of events surrounding the first two days of Freedom Summer 2012, a movement in Tucson that is calling attention to the issues surrounding TUSD and Tucson. In the interest of setting the background for this post, we created a video of the Three Sonorans clips chronicling the Monday protests at the TUSD board meeting and the confrontation between Hicks and protesters. Here it is:

Hiding behind a loose form of "independent journalism" that would make even Breitbart sound like a Pulitzer Prize winner, today the ADI's story was shared on Facebook by Tucson conservative radio talk show host Garret Lewis. Within minutes of posting the following public Facebook post, one person was already calling out Lewis for sharing such a highly inaccurate and biased story. The news about such a false report began to spread.

Under the headline: "TUSD board meeting 'storm' protest fizzles," the ADI story proceeded to pretty much violate every basic tenet of journalism and embarrassed any journalist who believes in solid independent fact-checking and reporting. Let's just say that we cringed when we read it. Journalism 101 is not that hard to learn and independent journalists should try to practice it more often.

Here is an excerpt of the report. (Note: the original "report" by the ADI did not include the detailed video footage by The Three Sonorans, which eventually was added to the end the post. We are wondering if the ADI poster even saw the video before filing story.)

Former Mexican American Studies Director, Sean Arce accompanied by a group of about 15 college age and older adults set upon TUSD Governing Board member Michael Hicks during a recess in the meeting of the district’s governing Board.

A video by a racist blogger known as the Three Sonorans clearly shows Arce with Hicks inside the building as Hicks was returning to the meeting.

According to various sources, Arce confronts Hicks and chest bumped him while insulting Hicks. Hicks stood his ground, while security looked on. At the time, Arce questioned Hicks’ intelligence while stupidly assaulting Hicks a second time. Hicks did not seek the assistance of security, and will not press charges against the 6’4’ former college football player.

During the takeover of he board meeting last spring, Arce assaulted a member of the public twice. Charges were not pressed against Arce in an effort to keep already high tensions from getting higher according to the victim.

The Board voted 4-1 last night to hire Maria Figueroa, former principal at Toleson, to replace the controversial Arce. Adelita Grijalva was the dissenting vote.

The district opted to not renew Arce’s contract as the Director of the MAS program last spring. Instead they offered him another position in the district, but he refused to accept the offer.

According to various sources, a group of thugs or “protesters” were planning a “storm.” They hurled epithets and accusations at Hicks during the “peaceful” protest.

Participants in the “storm” had brought water bottles into the boardroom. It is believed that the protest was called off when Hicks began taking pictures of the wannabe “storm” from his position at the dais.

Again, we are wondering if ADI (and Lewis) even saw the Three Sonorans video. Was it clear that a "6’4’ former college football player" had chest bumped Hicks (even at 4:35 of the video that we produced, there is no clear evidence of anything)? Did they not see the security guards and Tucson police with Hicks and the protesters? Did they not hear what Hicks was saying? Also, we are still wondering where the "thugs" are in the video?

Were people shouting? Yes. Were people cursing? Yes. But the question for us is very simple: why did Hicks come out there in the first place? From the video we saw, the protesters were indeed angry (it was a public meeting that they were not allowed to attend and there were barricades and armed police), but they got much angrier when Hicks showed up. Why did Hicks even show up? What was he trying to prove?

Lewis spent part of his Thursday show basing his "facts" on the ADI story. The following podcast covers his thoughts, starting around the 14-minute mark.

It seems like we are not the only ones who are questioning Lewis' false report. Tucson Weekly also wrote about the incident: 

…local right-wing media want you to know something else about Tucson Unified School District board member Michael Hicks — he was assaulted by former Mexican-American studies students, teachers and supporters at the TUSD special board meeting, Monday, July 2.

However, that's is a complete lie. Loretta Hunnicutt's Arizona Daily Independent and KNST's Garret Lewis described an incident between Hicks and MAS supporters that absolutely didn't happen.

They are right about one thing — Tucson Police Department officers working security during the meeting stood by, escorted him outside and stood right next to Hicks as he took a break to taunt students…

Before the special meeting started, MAS supporters were there as part of a Freedom Summer kick-off — a month long project with events and actions led by organizers and Chicano studies professors from Michigan. Organizers and artists from across the country are spending their July in Tucson for actions and other programs in support of MAS. This support also includes canvassing specific neighborhoods to engage voters on TUSD board elections and MAS.

During an executive session, Hicks walked out and stood on the wheelchair ramp that put him above the students and supporters. Some students chanted Rosa Clarks, and Hicks began to taunt students and jeer at them, while TPD officers stood by.

As Hicks went inside, he turned back to taunt students one more time. Inside, former MAS director Sean Arce told Hicks that the people he was making fun of are his constituents and he invited Hicks to sit down for a conversation away from the cameras and crowd. Sean never threatened him or pushed his chest into Hicks — although Hicks wagged his finger and looked like he was about to do more.

However, this morning, Arce or others aren't talking about pressing charges against Hicks for attempted assault or assault. Take a look at the Three Sonorans video. Toward the end, you see video of what occurred outside the admin building and it ends with a photo that captures what took place. You can see more of what took place that night right here. Thugs? Who are the real thugs here?

I have a call out to School Safety & Security Director Jeff Coleman, as well as TPD Public Information Officer Sgt. Maria Hawke asking why Hicks was allowed and escorted outside to taunt students and supporters? I'm also waiting for Hicks to respond to an e-mail asking why he claims he was assaulted that night.

So, yes, right now in Tucson, up is down and down is up. In the meantime, it is clear that tensions continue to rise, and misinformation is trying to be communicated to the public. There is no real journalistic proof that ADI's account is correct. In fact, it is just one account of one person who didn't even do basic journalism (get two sources, get a quote, talk to the people being accused and those who are making the accusations). That is not how you report real events, especially when so much is at stake.

We also reached out to both Hicks and TUSD today comment. If they respond to us, we will share their responses.

Blogger Censorship in Tucson? The Three Sonorans Pulled from a Gannett “Independent” Site

Let's just start by saying this: we are an independent media company, we own our URL, we pay for our own hosting, we don't get into any formal partnerships, distribution, or content deals. If you want to find us, you find us here. If you want us to write for your news page, you hire us but we own the content. Independence is critical to how a company can grow its online presence, and once you rely on third parties to help you, eventually something unfavorable will happen.

Today, that is what happened to The Three Sonorans blog out of Tucson, run by Latino blogger DA Morales. (Hey, you can still like them on Facebook.)

Screen Grab:

The Sonorans were dropped from, a site that looks "independent" but is in fact owned by Gannett, one of the country's largest media companies and the owner of USA TODAY and other news properties. How do we know? Well the picture below from Gannett's page is proof enough, but also have you ever read TucsonCitizen's terms of services? How many lawyers did you need to write that? Talk about paranoid media.

Screen Grab:

So yes, an independent blogger who submits content to a site that looks like an "independent site" but is in fact part of a larger corporate media entity was dropped by the "independent" site because what the independent blogger was writing about pissed off an Arizona politician, who then went to Gannett. That is sad.

In the end, the Sonorans were handed a deck of corporate media mierda. But here is what they need to know: THEY DON'T NEED CORPORATE MEDIA. The Sonorans are truth-tellers and truth-seekers. In the age of new media, their message and vision will not be stopped.

The site, which has gained over 1.6 million pageviews since its inception in 2010 (add the Rebels to its loyal readership), has been a fantastic source of unfiltered news regarding Arizona politics. In fact, many would say that the Sonorans have actually done more to shed light on what is really going on in Arizona that the vast majority of Arizona's mainstream media outlets. Quite frankly, is just an old media distribution channel that provides bloggers with an outlet and nothing more. Sure, it has the web traffic and really annoying ads, but their web traffic is because of the CONTENT they were publishing. The Three Sonorans are one of  those content providers. The Sonorans have the loyal following and were the only reason we actually went to in the first place. DA could publish from Mars, and we would still read him.

In the end, by dropping a popular blogger because a politician threatened someone with a lawsuit is lame and just shows how some politicians would rather let their egos get in the way ("I am so offended! Do you know who I am?") than actually facing their problems head on. We thought had cojones, but it appears that they don't. Eventually, we would think their very strong traffic will begin to decrease and the readership will go away. You lost your one of your Jordan, guys, and it looks like MJ will be fine, since from what we heard, there are plenty of websites (including this site) who would publish the Sonorans in a heartbeat. And we don't worry, because we have good lawyers too.

There is a difference between being offended and being libeled. just saw this veiled threat and buckled. Here's to the true independent journalists, because they don't need no stinkin' distributors. They will write the stories themselves, and they will get the truth out to the world.

Want proof? We offer you our site as proof positive. These Rebeldes like to do their own thing. And we are glad we made that decision.

TUSD School Board Member Hicks Responds on Facebook to @TheDailyShow Segment About Ethnic Studies

After a stunning and strange Daily Show interview with Al Madrigal, Tucson Unified School District school board member Michael Hicks reportedly responded via a Facebook post that was shared by Wenona Benally Baldenegro, who is running for Congress in Tucson. This is what Baldenegro posted on her personal Facebook page from a post that Hicks posted on his Facebook:


"As you know (and I know now) the Daily Show is a satirical news show and thus does not always represent the true remarks their guest make. 

I went on this show to talk about the Mexican American Studies (MAS) classes. What I believed to be would be a true interview ended up being nothing of the sort. It is unfortunate that the Daily show opted to amuse rather then inform."

We did reach out to Hicks this morning via email to request an interview.

Last Night on @TheDailyShow: Tucson’s Ban on Mexican American Studies

Last night, The Daily Show's Al Madrigal went to Tucson to cover TUSD's Mexican American Studies ban.

Just two words: THANK YOU. Why would Michael Hicks even think that making a Daily Show appearance would be good for him? It wasn't. And now more of the country knows about what is going on in TUSD. (JUNE 21 UPDATE: FYI, the Daily Show no longer is showing the video, but you can catch it here.)


Marjorie Ann Mendez is Coming to Arizona: A Guest Post by Matt Mendez #Librotraficante

GUEST POST By Matt Mendez of

I am waiting for Marjorie Ann.  My wife, Marlo, is 7 months pregnant with her. Our soon to arrive daughter is named after her grandmother, my wife’s mother who died just before the start of Marlo’s senior year in high school. I never had the chance to meet the elder Marjorie, but I’ve gotten to know her through the stories Marlo and her family tell. For example I know Marjorie was a free spirit who fearlessly loved her children. Who at Marlo’s high school basketball games, where Marlo was an all-district power-forward, often grabbed the unused pom-poms of bored cheerleaders and led fellow parents in a cheer, and if no other parents joined her, she cheered alone. It was important to Marjorie that Marlo know what unconditional love looked like. When Marjorie died in August of 1994, from colon cancer, the details of her final days are harrowing but again reveal a woman of bravery and grace.

Marjorie’s story is an example of how every moment in a person’s life can create lasting meaning. I have learned from Marjorie’s experiences, but if Marjorie’s life had been made into a book and taught to students of the Mexican-American Studies (MAS) program in Tucson’s Unified School District (TUSD), her story would more than likely be banned because Marjorie was Mexican-American.  

On January 10, TUSD suspended the MAS program and in at least one classroom had books, written primarily by Mexican-American authors, physically removed while a class was in session. In a press release TUSD explained that the books used in the former MAS program had not been banned but instead moved into storage and claimed the “stored” books were available in most of the district’s libraries. TUSD also claimed the curriculum taught in MAS will not be lost but instead added to the general curriculum.

TUSD’s untenable position of inclusion by removal is the doing of current Superintendent for Public Instruction John Huppenthal and his predecessor Tom Horne. Despite TUSD’s weak statement to the contrary the only plausible goal of ARS 15-112, the state law banning ethnic studies, is to suppress the Mexican-American population in Arizona by diluting its history and delegitimizing the native voices of the state. As Native-American writer Sherman Alexie recently pointed out (his works also banned by TUSD): “Let's get one thing out of the way: Mexican immigration is an oxymoron. Mexicans are indigenous…I'm also strangely pleased that the folks of Arizona have officially announced their fear of an educated underclass. You give those brown kids some books about brown folks and what happens? Those brown kids change the world.”

According to the law banning MAS, courses and classes must not promote the overthrow of the United States government. Promote resentment toward a race or class of people. Be designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group, or advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals.

In other words, Huppenthal and Horne believe that the MAS program was creating an army of Mexican revolutionaries bent on overthrowing the government. That works of fiction by, Sandra Cisneros, Dagoberto Gilb, Manuel Muñoz and Luis Alberto Urrea (just to name a few), that a coming-of-age story about a young girl in Chicago and of men looking for work and love, of young men discovering their sexuality California’s picking fields and of a boy growing up in the streets of Tijuana, stories as meaningful and instructive as Marjorie’s, are somehow a threat to national security. 

I find it hard to believe that either Huppenthal or Horne actually believe an armed rebellion is marching their way. Instead what Huppenthal and Horne really fear is democratic change. Tom Horne, now Arizona’s attorney general, has been a hardliner against immigrants and immigration for years, accusing “Illegals” of voter fraud and accusing the Obama administration of pursuing the “illegal” vote when the justice department challenged Arizona’s voter ID law. “I think the motive is that the more illegals that vote, the better the Obama administration thinks it will do.”  Huppenthal and Horne are not working to stave off revolution but cynically fomenting a culture of fear in Arizona, fear of immigrants and, as Sherman Alexie accurately points out, of an educated underclass in the hopes of keeping their political power.

Revealingly, neither Huppenthal nor Horne are native Arizonans or from the Southwest—for that matter neither is Governor Jan Brewer (California) or Sheriff Joe Arpaio (Massachusetts). John Huppenthal is from Indiana and Tom Horne from Canada. While both men have lived in Arizona for a number of years, it is clear that neither of them has truly assimilated into the indigenous culture of Arizona. They do not, or do not want to, understand what it means to live on the border. La Frontera is not just a line separating two countries but a space where both cultures coexist. A space where Huppenthal and Horne are the ones actively “promoting resentment toward a race or class of people.”

In 2010 93.6% of students enrolled in the MAS program graduated from high school while a comparison group had only an 82.7% rate. This gap in graduation rates has been consistent since 2005, according to TUSD’s Department of Accountability and Research. Higher graduation rates among MAS students means higher graduation rates for Mexican-Americans, meaning more Mexican-American students will be eligible for and attend college. The success of the MAS program and the changing demographics of the state, of the entire Southwest, mean that soon our governments will reflect this new and better-educated majority. This change will not be the realization of Huppenthal and Horne’s deranged fantasy of government overthrow but instead a democratic choice made by voters who will insist representatives understand the wishes and desires of the people they serve. 

While I am waiting for my daughter to be born I am not waiting to make the schools she will attend better. Like the elder Marjorie I am shaking my pom-poms, working with groups like Save Ethnic Studies, UNIDOS, and the Librotraficantes to end the ban of the Mexican-American Studies program and bring the books by our historians, cultural critics, and literary greats back to our classrooms. When Marjorie Ann Mendez is born, I want her to live in an Arizona where she is not a second-class citizen. Where her culture will proudly be represented in schools like it will be in her home.  I want her to be free to learn about our heritage, our history and our stories just as freely as she will learn about her family, especially the grandmother for whom she was named.

Matt Mendez is a writer and aircraft mechanic. He lives in Tucson.       

“Precious Knowledge” Documentary Chronicles The Civil Rights Battle at Tucson High School

If you want to see a detailed account of the ethnic studies controversy in Tucson Unified School District, the award-winning documentary "Precious Knowledge" is a good place to start.

Precious Knowledge illustrates what motivates Tucson High School students and teachers to form the front line of an epic civil rights battle.

Precious Knowledge is a co-production of Dos Vatos Productions, the Independent Television Service (ITVS), Arizona Public Media, and Latino Public Broadcasting, with funding provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB).

You can like them on Facebook or learn more about the movie here. Here is a trailer:

Precious Knowledge Trailer from Ari Palos on Vimeo.