CNN Wire Staff
Two senators - Democrats Charles Schumer of New York and Ben Cardin of Maryland - returned from their August recess Thursday to give the chamber's approval for $600 million in emergency funding to help secure the U.S.-Mexico border.
The measure, which has already been approved by the House of Representatives, now advances to President Barack Obama's desk to be signed into law.
The bill passed by unanimous consent, a parliamentary term for a voice vote that doesn't require the return of the entire Senate chamber. GOP leaders had agreed to the maneuver.
Gary Tuchman | BIO
Program Note: Tune in to AC360° tonight and all this week for special coverage on illegal immigration in this country. We will have reports from the U.S.-Mexico border and Arizona. AC360° tonight at 10pm ET.
There isn't a noticeable difference between the United States and Mexico here. The cacti, animals and plant life are all mirror images of each other. They share the same rugged desert landscape that provides spectacular views when the sun rises and sets each day. It's the same landscape that can prove to be unforgiving for those trying to walk through it during the hottest and coldest times of the year.
A towering steel brown fence is what separates the two neighboring countries in the middle of this vast, dry land, separating the state of Arizona and the Mexican state of Sonora. The fence runs seven miles to the east of Nogales, AZ where a smaller fence made of steel rail road ties mixed with small patches of barbed wire fencing continue into the mountainous desert.
This is a portion of the fence that covers two thirds of the Mexico/U.S. border, across California, New Mexico, Texas and Arizona.
It's what many people call the first line of defense against a criminal element entering the United States. Others call it a giant waste of money.
"The wall took two and a half billion dollars that could have been used technologically. That could have been used for higher security, more personnel along the border, and diverted it." Says U.S. Congressman Raul Grijalva, whose district includes a portion of the Arizona border where the fence has been completed.
Grijalva says that the fence has only sent those seeking to get into the country out to areas where they are left to wander a treacherous desert. Many end up dying in the extreme conditions.
"It's a pathetic loss of life and anywhere else it would be a humanitarian crisis."
Santa Cruz County Sheriff Tony Estrada says while the fence has helped lower crime in the city of Nogales, the majority of people moving into the country are heading north to find employment, not to commit crimes. He says we need to be more concerned and focused on those ruthless criminals who will do anything it takes to get across the border. He goes on to say, smugglers moving illegal drugs into the United States are going around the fence into rural areas where they can use the desert as a shield and occasionally use illegal immigrants as mules to move the drugs.
"They continuously manage to get their product across despite all that is being done here and it will continue," says Estrada, who also says that as long as there is a market in the United States for drugs, smugglers will bring them in.
That is exactly why Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu says more of the fence needs to be completed. A sign reading, "Travel Caution: Smuggling and Illegal Immigration may be encountered in this area," marks the entrance of what he calls a major drug trafficking route through the desert. What's remarkable about the route is that it's 80 miles north of the border fence, what could be a week-long hike in 110-degree heat.
"This is basically, literally, unfettered access for smugglers and illegals," said Sheriff Babeu showing us an area where an enormous amount of clothes, plastic water bottles and backpacks littered what he called a resting point. It's the exact spot where he says a suspected drug smuggler shot one of his deputies 3 months ago and the reason more money needs to be spent to complete the fence.
"How can we not budget for this here?" said Sheriff Babeu. "This is a huge public safety issue for our state and for our people".
CNN Wire Staff
The United States will deploy 1,200 National Guard troops to assist with border protection starting August 1, the Obama administration announced Monday.
In addition, approximately 300 additional Customs and Border Protection agents will be added and will be complemented by an increase in technology and six aircraft, Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Alan Bersin said Monday at a joint press conference with the Department of Defense and Department of Homeland Security.
Officials had previously announced the troop deployment, but a date for it had not been given.
In the first public incident of its kind, cartels are making direct death threats to U.S. law enforcement officials in Nogales, Arizona, the police chief there told CNN Monday.
Speculation about death threats by cartels towards U.S. law enforcement has been widespread for some time, but this is the first time U.S. officials along the border confirmed a case.
The threats began less than two weeks ago, after off-duty police officers from the Nogales police department seized several hundred pounds of marijuana from a drug smuggling operation they stumbled upon while horseback riding in the eastern fringes of Nogales, the chief said.
The smugglers in the incident managed to flee into Mexico before they could be detained, Nogales Police Chief Jeffrey Kirkham told CNN.
CNN Wire Staff
An Arizona rancher who was killed in March transmitted a radio message to family shortly before he was shot to death, according to a newly released report from the Cochise County Sheriff's Department.
Robert Krentz's brother Phil told officers that Krentz said over the radio that he had seen an illegal alien on his 35,000-acre ranch who appeared to need help, then they never heard from him again.
Another local rancher told sheriff's deputies he overheard the radio communication between the Krentz brothers. That rancher's name has been blacked out in the heavily redacted police report. He corroborated Phil Krentz's statement. He remembered Robert Krentz saying it appeared the illegal alien was hurt and someone should contact Border Patrol.
CNN Wire Staff
A video obtained by CNN raises questions about a U.S. Border Patrol agent's claim that he fatally shot a 14-year-old boy in Ciudad Juarez while he was surrounded by rock-throwing suspected illegal immigrants.
CNN obtained the video, which was shot by a witness on a cell phone camera from the Mexican side of the border, from affiliate Univision. The video aired on its program Primer Impacto late Wednesday.
The video shows part of the build-up before the incident, with several individuals running underneath the Puente Negro, a railroad span that connects the two countries.
Editor's Note: Authorities have uncovered an underground tunnel between Tijuana, Mexico and San Diego, California. In 2006, Anderson reported on the drug tunnels under the U.S. border with Mexico. Watch his report here. We'll broadcast live from this new tunnel on Thursday at 10 p.m. ET.