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PHOENIX -- Prosecutors in three Arizona counties are using new figures on where teens now get their marijuana to lobby against making the drug legal for all adults.
PHOENIX -- A federal appeals court rejected a last-ditch plea by an Arizona prosecutor to salvage Proposition 100, potentially paving the way for dozens of people locked up while awaiting trial to now seek bail.
PHOENIX -- An attorney for state lawmakers made a last-ditch effort Friday to get a judge to reject a bid by schools for more than $1 billion in missed state aid, saying it's the only fair thing to do.
Prosecutors in three Arizona counties are using new figures on where teens now get their marijuana to lobby against making the drug legal for all adults. But the data may not be as clear-cut as it seems.
A Maricopa County Superior Court judge rejected efforts by Attorney General Tom Horne to kill charges that he violated state campaign finance laws in his 2010 election.
PHOENIX -- Close to one out of every seven votes cast this year will come from Hispanics, according to a non-partisan organization promoting Latino turnout.
PHOENIX -- A Maricopa County Superior Court judge rejected efforts by Attorney General Tom Horne to kill charges that he violated state campaign finance laws in his 2010 election.
WASHINGTON (AP) — The three Republican senators responsible for comprehensive immigration legislation, which remains stalled in Congress, Thursday urged President Barack Obama to hold off on any steps to shield millions of people from deportation.
"Acting by executive order on an issue of this magnitude would be the most divisive action you could take — completely undermining any good-faith effort to meaningfully address this important issue, which would be a disservice to the needs of the American people," Sens. John McCain of Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Marco Rubio of Florida wrote to Obama.
Obama has said he would act after next week's midterm elections as Congress has failed to pass legislation to overhaul the nation's immigration system. The president said he would take steps to increase border security, upgrade the processing of border crossers and encourage legal immigration.
He also said he would offer immigrants who have been illegally in the United States for some time a way to become legal residents, pay taxes, pay a fine and learn English.
The president had promised to act this past summer, but delayed any decisions until after the elections, drawing the wrath of immigration advocacy groups and complaints from Republicans of "raw politics."
The three senators said in the letter that no presidential action should be taken until "we have properly secured our southern border and provided for effective enforcement of immigration laws." They complained that any executive action would undermine congressional efforts to reform the system.
McCain, Graham and Rubio were members of the so-called Gang of Eight, a bipartisan group that put together a broad overhaul of immigration that boosted border security, increased visas for legal immigrants and a provided a path to citizenship for the 11 million immigrants living in the country illegally.
The Senate passed the measure on a bipartisan vote in June 2013, but the Republican-led House has failed to act on any broad measure despite promises from GOP leaders that they would address the issue. Time is running out on the Senate-passed bill, with no indication that the House would vote during a postelection, lame-duck session.
Close to one out of every seven votes cast this year will come from Hispanics, according to a non-partisan organization promoting Latino turnout. And group members predict that large percentage of them will vote for Democrats — but not necessarily because of what those candidates offer, but how Republicans are campaigning.
WASHINGTON (AP) — The three Republican senators responsible for comprehensive immigration legislation, which remains stalled in Congress, on Thursday urged President Barack Obama to hold off on any steps to shield millions of people from deportation.
PHOENIX -- A federal judge is being asked to rule that "dark money'' groups who now don't disclose the source of their contributions can also legally hide how they're spending the money -- and on whose behalf.
A federal judge is being asked to rule that “dark money” groups that now don't disclose the source of their contributions can also legally hide how they're spending the money — and on whose behalf.
Arizonans are painfully aware of the skyrocketing costs of health care. Both federal and state governments continue to ask for more tax dollars to pay for Medicaid expansion and the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Taxpayers are contributing more than ever for health care for the less fortunate. Those below 133 percent of the federal poverty level now qualify for Medicaid and those using an ACA exchange receive a heavy subsidy. These programs will be inordinately expensive. Proposition 480 fails to acknowledge these massive changes and the sacrifices taxpayers are already making by asking for a 27-year, $1.6 billion bond and tax increase for the old way of doing health care business. At this point, the county hospital is only a true safety net for illegal immigrants because they do not qualify for AHCCCS or ACA, which begs the question why only Maricopa County property taxpayers should pay for a federal responsibility.
Proposition 487, to be decided by Phoenix voters this November, has been clouded by a lot of confusion and misinformation. Unfortunately, one of the main perpetrators is Councilman Sal DiCiccio, who in an attempt to confuse voters, has once again attacked our city’s firefighters.
Calling it fiscally “impossible,” an attorney for lawmakers told a judge on Monday she should reject a bid by schools to get back the money the state illegally withheld from them for years.
The fact that a toddler’s favorite toy held a packet of “Spice,” the illegal drug, wasn’t the only reason that the child was in danger, according to authorities.
The fact that a toddler’s favorite toy held a packet of “Spice,” the illegal drug, wasn’t the only reason that the child was in danger, according to authorities.
PHOENIX (AP) — Arizona lawmakers are considering taxes on electronic cigarettes as a way to help cover a $1 billion budget shortfall, a central Arizona weekly has reported.
"It's one option of many that we should look at at the Legislature," said state Democratic Rep. Stefanie Mach of Tucson, who serves on the House Appropriations Committee. "It certainly isn't going to come close to the amount of money that we need to make up the deficit, but any little bit helps."
Some legislators are lighting up at the idea of taxing e-cigarettes to cover a huge deficit expected by fiscal year 2017, but how to regulate the devices has been a source of debate.
Legislators in dozens of states last year were faced with bills related to electronic cigarettes. Two states have already enacted "sin taxes" on them, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. On the federal level, the Food and Drug Administration has struggled since 2011 to implement rules on how to categorize and regulate them as well as liquid nicotine.
Republican Rep. John Kavanagh, of Fountain Hills, told the Arizona Capitol Times taxing e-cigarettes could discourage people from using them in an effort to quit smoking.
"The e-cigarettes, I am told, are not nearly as damaging to the body as tobacco is, and part of the reasoning for the tobacco tax is to compensate society for the additional costs in medical care that smokers cause," said Kavanagh, who also serves on the House Appropriations Committee and running for a Senate seat.
The financial impact for Arizona from e-cigarette taxes is difficult to determine since proposals vary and cigarettes have about $2 in additional taxes per pack.
Arizona so far hasn't enforced many restrictions on the electronic devices. Last year, the state made it illegal to sell them to minors. But Attorney General Tom Horne recently said e-cigarettes do not fall under the Smoke Free Arizona Act. Thus, patrons can smoke them inside restaurants, bars and other public places. However, cities such as Tempe have banned them.
The battery-powered devices heat liquid nicotine and create a vapor that the user can inhale. They are available at most convenience stores and "vape shops."
Ben Denny, who works at a downtown Phoenix vape shop called Butt Out, said the industry would be open to some reasonable taxes but not to the same degree as cigarettes. The growing e-cigarette community would likely fight any legislation that advocated otherwise.
"Nobody serious is even getting close to claiming that (e-cigarettes) do similar harm (as smoking tobacco), so by attempting to tax them the same way, lawmakers are making a claim nobody else is making. And really, they're just saying they want to bring in more money," Denny said.
PHOENIX -- Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery wants a federal appeals court to give him what legal foes call a "do-over'' of his bid to salvage a state law denying bail to many people not in this country legally.
Montgomery conceded in filings with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that a prior county attorney did not present evidence showing that undocumented individuals were less likely to show up for court dates than citizens or legal residents. The appellate judges, citing that lack of evidence, ruled last week that lack of facts, coupled with disparate treatment of those without documents, make the 2006 voter-approved Proposition 100 illegal and unenforceable anywhere in Arizona.
But Montgomery, in his latest plea, said that was because the challengers to the law effectively admitted that to be true. So he said there was no need to present any statistical evidence.
Cecillia Wang, attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, said that's not true. She said Montgomery is now seeking a "do-over'' for flaws in the way his office handled the case in the first place.
"They had every opportunity to show that Proposition 100 was supported by some indication there was a flight risk issue here,'' she said. "And they didn't do it,'' Wang continued. "You know why? Because those numbers don't exist.''
Montgomery said he does have such data, even though former County Attorney Andrew Thomas, who was in office when the law was challenged, chose not to present it. And he said the appellate court should give him a chance to make the case now.
"The story is not, 'I want a do-over, Andy Thomas screwed up,' ''Montgomery said. He said it's a question of "simple fairness.''
He said if the appellate court is relying on a lack of evidence to support Proposition 100 they should direct there be a court hearing to explore that issue before voiding a voter-approved state constitutional amendment.
This is more than a question of what happens going forward.
Montgomery said there are "a couple of hundred'' people now in his own county jails awaiting trial who were denied bail because of Proposition 100. He said if the ruling is not overturned, that will allow each of those people to demand a hearing to determine if they should be released -- a process that would be repeated in each of the other 14 counties -- which will cause a backup in handling other cases.
He also told the appellate judges if do not want to give him another chance to make his case, they should at least delay implementing their ruling to let him seek review by the U.S. Supreme Court.
The measure makes bail unavailable to those charged with "serious felony offenses'' if they are in this country illegally and if "the proof is evident or the presumption great'' that the person is guilty of the offense charged.
Proponents said that anyone who has crossed the border illegally probably has few ties to this country, making them a greater flight risk.
Voters approved the measure on a 3-1 ratio.
But appellate Judge Raymond Fisher, writing for the majority of the 11-member court, said there is a constitutional presumptive right of those arrested to be released on bail.
Fisher acknowledged that Arizona has a "compelling interest'' in ensuring that those accused of crimes show up for trial. But he said a blanket rule that those in the country illegally accused of certain crimes must be held without bond is not justified.
"The record contains no findings, studies, statistics or other evidence ... showing that undocumented immigrants as a group pose either an unmanageable flight risk or a significantly greater flight risk than lawful residents,'' Fisher wrote.
It is that evidence that Montgomery now contends he can marshal. But it may not matter.
Fisher said he and his colleagues are not saying it is up to the Montgomery to produce such evidence. But he said the absence of such evidence is a key factor in showing that Proposition 100 was not narrowly crafted to address a specific problem.
Fisher suggested there is, in fact, evidence to the contrary.
He pointed out there were undocumented individuals who had been arrested before Proposition 100 was approved who had been released without bail or after posting bond. He said they still showed up in court -- only to then be "needlessly remanded into state custody'' after the ballot measure took effect.
Montgomery has another hurdle to overcome: the breadth of the measure.
Fisher pointed out that Proposition 100 applies not just to those accused of serious offenses but "also relatively minor ones,'' like altering a lottery ticket with intent to defraud, unlawful copying of a sound recording, or theft of property worth between $3,000 and $4,000.
What Thomas did or did not do plays into this case in another way.
Appellate Judge Richard Tallman, dissenting from the majority ruling, said there was evidence of a sort presented: statements made by Thomas in favor of the measure during the 2006 campaign. Thomas argued that "far too many illegal immigrants accused of serious crimes have jumped bail and slipped across the border in order to avoid justice in an Arizona courtroom.''
But Fisher said that statement is not substantiated with any real data.
And he said "is not a credible source,'' having been disbarred two years ago on charges he used his office to "destroy political enemies'' and for filing unfounded criminal charges.
Follow Howard Fischer on Twitter at @azcapmedia.
Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery wants a federal appeals court to give him what legal foes call a “do-over” of his bid to salvage a state law denying bail to many people not in this country legally.
Gov. Jan Brewer is asking a federal appeals court to rebuff efforts by the Obama administration to let “dreamers” drive here legally, saying the government is trying to void a valid state law with what amounts to little more than a federal policy.
TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — The number of people who died trying to cross the U.S.-Mexico border has dropped to the lowest level in 15 years as more immigrants turned themselves in to authorities in Texas and fewer took their chances with the dangerous trek across the Arizona desert.
The U.S. government recorded 307 deaths in the 2014 fiscal year that ended in September — the lowest number since 1999. In 2013, the number of deaths was 445.
The Border Patrol's Rio Grande Valley sector finished the 2014 budget year with 115 deaths, compared with 107 in the Tucson sector, according to figures obtained by The Associated Press. It marks the first time since 2001 that Arizona has not been the deadliest place to cross the border.
Arizona has long been the most dangerous border region because of triple-digit temperatures, rough desert terrain and the sheer volume of immigrants coming in to the state from Mexico. But more immigrants are now entering through Texas and not Arizona, driven by a surge of people from Central America.
The Tucson and Rio Grande Valley both saw their numbers of deaths decline from 2013, although Arizona's drop was more precipitous.
Border enforcement officials say the lower numbers are in part due to increased rescue efforts as well as a Spanish-language media campaign discouraging Latin Americans from walking across the border.
Tucson Sector Division Chief Raleigh Leonard says the addition of 10 new rescue beacons that were strategically placed in areas where immigrants traverse most often has been a factor in the decrease in deaths.
"I think we can all agree that crossing the border is an illegal act, but nothing that should be assigned the penalty of death," Leonard said in an interview.
Immigrant rights advocates are skeptical that it is solely the Border Patrol's efforts contributing to the decrease in deaths.
"At best, what the Border Patrol is accomplishing is a geographical shift in where these deaths are happening — rather than adequately responding to the scale of the crisis," said Geoffrey Boyce, a border enforcement and immigration researcher at the University of Arizona and a volunteer with the Tucson-based nonprofit No More Deaths.
The Rio Grande Valley sector was flooded with a surge in unaccompanied minors and families with children who turned themselves in at border crossings in Texas. Most were from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, where gang violence and a poor economy have driven out huge numbers of people. That surge has dwindled recently, however, as U.S. and Central American authorities have launched a public relations campaign warning parents against sending their children to the U.S.
Meanwhile, the Tucson Sector, once the busiest in the nation, has seen a steep decline in border crossers. Fewer Mexicans are crossing into the U.S. as the economy here has faltered and drug violence at home has improved.
The Border Patrol also responds to hundreds of cases each year of immigrants who need to be rescued while crossing the desert, long an issue in the Arizona desert. The Border Patrol conducted 509 rescues in the 2014 fiscal year in the Tucson sector, compared to 802 in 2013.
Some of the rescues are made with the help of beacons that were activated 142 times this year. The beacons are 30-feet tall, solar-powered and have sun reflectors and blue lights on top that are visible for 10 miles. The beacons also have signs in three languages directing users to push a red button that sends out a signal for help. Agents respond usually within 10 minutes to an hour.
The agency has a team dedicated solely to rescues, called Border Patrol Search, Trauma, and Rescue.
Agents in this elite group spend their days searching for immigrants and responding when one seeks help. They assist not only those who cross the border in search for jobs, but also drug mules and smugglers who become injured or dehydrated in the summer heat.
It was only 10 a.m. and already 95 degrees on a day in late June when the unit's agents provided medical assistance to a 28-year-old man suspected of smuggling drugs near Sells, Arizona.
The thin man had an ID from El Salvador and said he lived in Tucson. He oscillated between Spanish and English, but his message was the same: He was in extreme pain.
The agents gave him a gallon of a sports beverage. He was to drink it slowly, they told him, or else it would make him sick. Next, they connected a saline bag intravenously and checked his vitals.
The agents monitored him and re-examined his vitals, concluding that he wasn't dehydrated but suffering from muscle fatigue. Minutes later, agents who used a drug-sniffing K-9 to search the area found several bundles of marijuana and another suspected smuggler.
The men were arrested on suspicion of being in the country illegally, but were not charged with smuggling because the loads of marijuana were not found on them.
"To us, it could be a mule, an illegal immigrant. They're all the same. They're human beings," Leonard said.
PHOENIX -- Gov. Jan Brewer is asking a federal appeals court to rebuff efforts by the Obama administration to let "dreamers'' drive here legally, saying the government is trying to void a valid state law with what amounts to little more than a federal policy.
The governor, through her attorneys, is asking judges of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to reject claims by the U.S. Department of Justice that Arizona has no legal right to deny licenses to those in the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
Brewer is not challenging the right of the administration and the Department of Homeland Security to decide not to try to deport people who arrived in this country illegally as children and even giving them permits to work.
But she said the DACA program was not enacted by Congress and "does not have the force of law.'' And that means it cannot be used to preempt a 1996 Arizona law which says licenses are available only to those who can prove their presence in this country is "authorized under federal law.''
Brewer's filing is a last-ditch effort to get the full court to reconsider -- and overturn -- a decision earlier this year by a three-judge panel which found legal problems with the ban.
The judges ordered the state to start issuing licenses to the dreamers while the case makes its way through the legal system. But that order effectively remains on hold while the full appellate court considers whether to hear Brewer's appeal.
Hanging in the balance is the enforceability of Brewer's 2012 executive order regarding the DACA program. Based on that order, the state Department of Transportation concluded those in the program are not entitled to Arizona licenses.
Brewer argues the 1996 Arizona law allows licenses to be issued only to those "authorized'' to be in this country. More to the point, she contends the decision by the president and the Department of Homeland Security not to deport them does not make their presence "authorized,'' even if they are given work papers.
That argument did not convince the three-judge panel.
Judge Harry Pregerson noted the state has issued licenses to those who granted deferred action under other federal programs. He said that makes Brewer's policy to single out these individuals a violation of the Equal Rights clause of the U.S. Constitution.
Pregerson also said an injunction is appropriate because the policy can cause "irreparable harm'' to those affected. He said their inability to legally drive also makes it more difficult, if not impossible, for them to hold jobs -- a specific right they have in the DACA program.
When Brewer sought review by the full court, the Obama administration weighed in.
"Arizona may not substitute its judgment for the federal government's when it comes to establishing classifications of alien status,'' wrote Assistant Attorney General Lindsey Powell.
She said Arizona has shown no "substantial state purpose'' in crafting rules allowing some not legally in this country to have licenses while other are not. Powell said means Brewer's edict is "preempted by federal law.''
But Brewer, in her latest filing, said there's a flaw in that argument: DACA is only policy.
"The United States ignores the fact that no federal law is at issue here,'' wrote Douglas Northup, lead private attorney hired by Brewer to defend the license ban. Instead, he said, it is "an agency's policy memo, which was issued without notice and comment or subject to any formal rulemaking processes.''
And he said a mere agency policy cannot preempt the Arizona law.
Northup said statements by federal officials back up that contention.
For example, he cited a memo issued by Janet Napolitano when she was the Department of Homeland Security who said that DACA provides no substantive rights, immigration status or a path to citizenship.
"Only Congress, acting through its legislative authority, can confer these rights,'' the memo states. "It remains for the executive branch, however, to set forth policy for the exercise of discretion within that framework,'' Napolitano continued. "I have done so here.''
Northup also is hanging his legal hat on the fact that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says DACA recipients are not "lawfully present'' in this country for purposes of participating in certain federal programs.
"The fact that there may be disagreement among federal government agencies about the import of the DACA memo underscores why one policy memo of one agency cannot preempt state action here,'' he wrote.
Northup acknowledged that the three-judge panel said the ADOT policy could result in DACA recipients being hampered in their legal ability to work.
But he said that was based on the court's assumption that a certain percentage of Arizona workers commute by car. Northup said that makes no sense, as it could mean that the Arizona policy might be legal in some other cities with a higher percentage of workers using mass transit.
Got something in your house you don't want the cops to find? Then don't leave it to your fiancée or roommate to deal with the problem.
PHOENIX -- Got something in your house you don't want the cops to find?
Then don't leave it to your fiancee or roommate to deal with the problem.
In a unanimous ruling Thursday, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected arguments from an Arizona man that federal agents had illegally searched his home. His attorney argued that because he was there but never consented to the entry, that makes the drugs they found inside inadmissible.
Judge Barry Silverman, writing for the court, acknowledged that the refusal of the occupant of a residence to consent generally makes a warrantless search illegal. And the judge said that applies even if someone else living there gave police the go-ahead.
But Silverman said what happened here is that Marlon Moore had the opportunity to object when the officers came knocking on his door. Instead, he refused to respond "and simply acquiesced in letting his fiancee deal with the police.''
Court records say the Department of Homeland Security had been tracking Moore for months as a suspect in a marijuana distribution ring. That eventually led to surveillance on his Laveen home based on a tip that a large quantity of the drug had been delivered there.
A knock on the door went unanswered. So an officer called a phone number on the taxi parked in front of the house and told the woman who answered the house was under surveillance for possible drug trafficking, and he was "in the middle of writing a search warrant.''
The woman, later identified as Moore's fiancee, came to the house and, after speaking with the officer, signed a consent to search.
She and some officers then went to the door, phoning Moore and her sister, also inside, but neither answered their respective phones. And she could not unlock the door because it had been bolted. The fiancee then called out to Moore and her sister that the police where there. When no one answered, officers sought -- and she granted -- permission to use a battering ram.
They found marijuana inside. Moore was convicted of possession with intent to distribute and sentenced to 46 months in prison.
Silverman said that for a warrantless search to be declared illegal two things have to happen.
First, the occupant must be physically present. That clearly was the case here. But Silverman said the person must "expressly refuse consent.''
"The facts at best show that Moore implicitly refused to allow the police to search the residence,'' the judge wrote.
He said it would have been one thing had Moore, after speaking the police, slammed the door and locked the deadbolt.
"Moore simply remained in the house while (his fiancee) worked with the police to gain entry to the house,'' Silverman wrote.