States favoring gun owners tend to do more background checks

By Erick Payne,

WASHINGTON – States considered the most favorable toward gun owners tend to perform more federal background checks for people who want to get gun permits and buy firearms.

States that were among the least favorable to gun owners usually recorded fewer federal checks for firearm purchases and gun permits. The Scripps Howard Foundation Wire compared 2015 FBI records of the number of background checks with the list of the best states for gun owners in 2015 compiled by Guns and Ammo magazine and found there was a pattern. Guns and Ammo is published by the Outdoor Sportsman Group Network. The magazine ranked each state on five categories, including the right to carry a gun and the right to purchase certain types of rifles. State laws may differ from federal laws regarding access to firearms.

The FBI does background checks for 30 states, five territories and the District of Columbia.

Juarez prison workers expect pope’s visit to have lasting impact on inmates

When Pope Francis arrives in the borderlands on Wednesday to celebrate afternoon Mass before thousands at a freshly built altar and pavilion called “El Punto” on the old Juarez fairgrounds, the pontiff will also make a stop at the Cereso state prison to visit several hundreds prisoners and their families. The prison, known as the Centro de Readaptación Social para Adultos No. 3, has a reputation as a rough facility for hardened criminals and in the past has experienced several riots and killings. On Wednesday, a group of Cereso prisoners will greet “el Papa” with a special song when he arrives at the prison doors at about 10:30 a.m. It is his first stop along a 25-mile human chain leading from the Juarez airport to the site of the Mass at El Punto. As in his visits to prisons in previous tours of U.S. cities like Philadelphia, Pope Francis is expected to bring a message of love, hope and forgiveness to the Cereso inmates and their families.

Spice – Synthetic marijuana continues to claim victims who don’t realize its dangers

EL PASO — Doctors confirmed earlier this year that 19-year-old Alberto Guerrero had overdosed on an unknown substance that damaged his cardiac and respiratory systems.

After weeks of tests, Guerrero was told that something was attacking the muscle cells that contract his heart and lungs. He was told he had about a year to live, then given a bottle of pain killers and sent home. Three months later he died. Before his death, he confessed to his mother and a doctor that he was addicted to a drug called Spice, a synthetic marijuana that is highly addictive and may cause death. Spice became popular about five years ago among young people, including those in the military.

El Paso County Attorney awards scholarships to violence victims through Cycle for Change program

Overseeing daily cases of domestic violence prompted El Paso County Attorney Jo Anne Bernal and her staff to develop an idea for partnering with women to break the cycle of violence and help them to thrive. The idea gave birth to Cycle for Change, an annual cycling tour that began in 2013 to raise money for scholarships for women who are trying to move beyond a past of domestic violence. The scholarships can be used in pursuit of any endeavor, whether it be academic or therapeuticEl Paso’s county attorney’s office helps obtain protective orders for victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking. “When we deal with victims of domestic violence, we deal with women who are primarily in crisis,” Bernal said. Now, the county attorney’s office partners with Villa Maria, a homeless shelter for women without children, to put on Cycling for Change.

Campus crime reporting effectiveness questioned

By Nadia Dreid,

WASHINGTON – When Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., called for the repeal of the Clery Act at a campus safety conference in June, Annette Spicuzza clapped. She wasn’t alone – the room rumbled with the applause of a hundred plus educators. “I know the mess it is,” McCaskill said of the law. “So my goal would be to remove it.”

The Clery Act, enacted in 1991, requires all colleges and universities receiving federal money to collect and publish information on crimes that occur on or around campus. The law’s namesake, Jeanne Clery, a Lehigh University student, was murdered in her dorm room in 1986.

Special Report: The fragile ‘Miracle of Juarez’

The story has been told many times — how the infamous murder rate in Ciudad Juárez plummeted and its twin police forces were cleaned up.  Officials declared victory. But it’s a fragile peace.  The elements of a resurgence of violence are still lurking — including the lure of Juárez’s multi-million-dollar drug trade. View image |

 Special Report Ciudad Juarez was coordinated and edited by Ana Arana of Fundación MEPI in Mexico City. The reporters included Carlos Huerta, Herika Martínez and Beatriz Corral from Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, and Javier Huerta. The English-language editor was FIU journalism professor Neil Risnerand the Spanish-language editor was Maria Dolores Albiac.

El frágil milagro de Juárez

La historia del milagro de Juárez se ha contado muchas veces: cómo descendieron sus infames índices de homicidios, cómo fueron purificados sus cuerpos policiacos y cómo las autoridades terminaron cantando victoria. Pero, ¿durará esta historia? La atracción que sigue generando el multimillonario negocio de las drogas en Juárez y las persistentes disparidades sociales que vive su gente son razones suficientes para nublar el optimismo. Una investigación de la Fundación MEPI. La siguiente investigación tomo seis meses y fue realizada por Carlos Huerta, Hericka Martínez y Beatriz Corral de Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua. El reportaje y elementos gráficos fueron publicados originalmente en El Daily Post y Animal Políitico. 
La editora y coordinadora del equipo fue Ana Arana de Fundación MEPI.

Pet ducks dumped at El Paso lake struggle to survive

EL PASO — Ascarate Park in East-Central El Paso has recently become home to a flock of aggressive, starved and abused birds — primarily ducks — as Easter gifts and unwanted pets have been dumped at the lake. Animal rescue workers estimate some 200 ducks and geese have been abandoned at Ascarate as the pets became too much for their owners to handle. “People sometimes don’t know what they are getting themselves into,” said Julie Ito Morales, member from local wildlife rescue Stick House Sanctuary. “They start as small cute birds, but they will grow in size and need care just like a dog or any other type of pet.” Although no official cause has been established as to how the large white ducks got into the park, Morales believes that it is the result of people who saw the park as a solution to their problem.

More than 20 years of community policing helps El Paso gain ‘safest city’ in the U.S. rank

EL PASO — When Slade Davis started patrolling the Northeast El Paso neighborhood once known as the Devil’s Triangle 22 years ago, it was plagued by drug dealers, gang violence, prostitution and violent crimes. The area was identified in the mid-1990s as a prime spot for community policing, a new law enforcement philosophy that emphasized a proactive approach to fighting crime based on community engagement and problem-solving techniques. Police area representatives, known as PAR officers, were trained to work with grassroots community groups to get to the root of problems in the neighborhood. Now the area bordered by the Patriot Freeway, Dyer, and Hondo Pass is known as the “Angel’s Triangle.” “With community policing we got the managers [of the apartments] involved, checking criminal histories, and working on the neighborhoods,” said Davis, now a community services officer in the Northeast Regional Command.

Families of missing Mexican students travel U.S. to find support for justice

EL PASO — Blanca Luz Nava Vélez gripped the tissue with both hands as if it were about to float away from the tears forming in her eyes as she forced herself to speak through the shake in her voice to say that even if the world were to end she will find her missing son Jorge and the 42 other students kidnapped in Ayotzinapa, Mexico, on September 26. “When I am at home, I want to die,” she said. “I feel like dying because I see the items that belong to my son, his guitar and I would go mad. That’s why I am doing something about what happened.”

Speaking at a forum at the University of Texas at El Paso, March 17, she said she finds comfort and consolation when she gathers with the other families who are trying to find their missing sons. Being with the families and staying at her son’s school is better than being home, she said.

Oriental Magpie Robin on Barbed Wire

Wildlife trafficking now considered a threat to national security

By Alicia Alvarez ,

WASHINGTON – Networks that illegally traffic in wildlife have grown, and authorities now regard the international trade as more of a national security issue than an environmental issue. Wildlife trafficking is thought to be the third-most valuable illicit business worldwide, with an estimated worth of $8 billion to $10 billion annually. According to theDepartment of State, people in the United States purchase nearly 20 percent of all legal and illegal wildlife products on the market. Birds are the most numerous contraband animals, along with millions of turtles, crocodiles, snakes and other reptiles. These trends in international environmental crime were discussed Monday at the Henry L. Stimson Center.

Take warning signs of dating abuse seriously, mother warns

EL PASO – When 16-year-old Monica Sanchez started dating high school senior Jorge Gurrola her mother warned her of his history of abusing other girlfriends. “I’m not stupid, it wont happen to me,” she told her mother, Maria Sanchez. But it did happen, Maria Sanchez said. Gurrola was jealous and possessive causing him to begin verbally abusing Monica Sanchez and threatening to hurt both of them if Monica hurt their relationship. Her mother would try to talk with her when she came home with bruises.

El Paso marchers join global protest against kidnapping of Mexican students in Ayotzinapa

EL PASO—With their fists raised in mid-air, more than 80 persons including students, and teachers, marched through downtown streets shouting out against the kidnapping and suspected killing of Mexican students in Ayotzinapa in the state of Guerrero. They started the march Friday, November 21,at the University of Texas at El Paso, ending at the main doors of the Mexican consulate. “Who has the leadership, the students or the government that killed them!” they shouted. Photo gallery: El Paso march, vigil demands justice for Mexican students
En español: Marcha en El Paso da grito de apoyo a Ayotzinapa
Voces / Commentary: Condenan en El Paso la muerte de los estudiantes y la corrupción en México

Different groups gathered in this march. The students came from the organizations Ayotzinapa Sin Fronteras and the Master of Social Work Student Organization.

Marcha en El Paso da grito de apoyo a Ayotzinapa

EL PASO — Con los puños en el aire, más de 80 personas — un combinado de estudiantes, maestros y gente local — caminaban por las calles del centro de la ciudad pegando gritos de protesta, desde la Universidad de Texas en El Paso hasta las puertas del consulado mexicano. “Haber, haber, ¿quién tiene la batuta? ¡Los estudiantes o el gobierno que ejecuta!”, gritaban. Fueron varios los grupos y facciones que se juntaron en esta marcha fronteriza. Por el lado estudiantil, Ayotzinapa Sin Fronteras y la Organización Estudiantil de Trabajo Social tomaron las riendas de reunir a alumnos de la universidad.

Lawmakers call for more transparency in port-of-entry funding

WASHINGTON – Texas needs more funding for its ports of entry. So does Michigan. Lawmakers from both states berated federal officials Wednesday for failing to improve the ports and for not even having a current list of which ports are on a list for funding. “The lack of transparency is troubling, to put it kindly,” Rep. Candice Miller, R-Mich., said during a House subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security hearing. “Customs and Border Patrol cannot continue to be a big black hole when it comes to ports of entry infrastructure needs, which can impact both trade facilitation and homeland security.”

Infrastructure needs at ports of entry often refers to CBP staffing, identification technology and roads.

A smoke-free campus protects the health of all, but frustrates some

EL PASO — Some students and staff at The University of Texas at El Paso say that smoking cigarettes can ease the stress that comes with study or work, but that tension isn’t going away any time soon. After 100 years the cloud of tobacco smoke at UTEP is lifting. UTEP banned the use of all tobacco products from university property on February 20.Notifications for the major campus reform came through a mass email that afternoon but for some the full realization didn’t hit home until they arrived on campus the following week. The school mascot PayDirt Pete adorned Smoke Free Campus signs and orange flags representing tobacco litter on the floor were there like slaps in the faces of unaware smokers.This massive reform affects too many people to be broadcast through only an email, according to smoker Tony Acuna, who was one of many regulars hanging out outside the doors of the library. He said that his rights are at stake.“Smoking is my choice, just as eating fast food,” said Acuna.

Phony lawyers calling themselves notarios continue to scam unsuspecting immigrants

EL PASO — A “Now Renting” sign and an empty office is all Irma Castañeda found when she went to ask her immigration attorney how her deferred action petition was proceeding. She had paid the man who turned out not to be a lawyer at all $2000 to solve her immigration problem. Had the scam never happened, Castañeda would be done with her deferred action process. In the meantime, she is not allowed to work and she is desperate because her husband was deported recently, the house he started to build for them at Horizon City is unfinished, and she cannot feed or provide any comfort to her two daughters — Rosalva, 12, and Jackeline, 9, who was born with a developmental disability. According to immigrant advocates, individuals setting up phony legal offices on the bilingual U.S.-Mexico border are taking advantage of the frequent confusion between the term notario público understood to usually denote a lawyer in Mexico and notary public, which in the U.S. is a person with no legal training, with the very limited legal authority of a licensed notary public to basically attest to the validity of a signature on a document for a $6 fee.

A movement for cannabis legalization takes root in El Paso

EL PASO— On a recent Saturday afternoon, some 50 pro-cannabis legalization and decriminalization supporters and enthusiasts of all ages packed a stuffy bar here to rally for marijuana legalization in Texas.The crowd of mostly young people wearing Bob Marley T-shirts and Vans shoes stamped with marijuana leaves, crowded into the Soho Cocktail Lounge in downtown El Paso for the first formal meeting of the local chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML),which lobbies for marijuana legalization.The crowd also included casually dressed middle-aged persons as well as some dressed to the nines, along with a group of much older graying hippies. The assembly packed the bar with only standing room barely accessible. The organizers come from different professions but are joined by the same goal — “to achieve true individual liberty” by legally consuming marijuana. “If you feel that you are a free and beautiful individual human-being with inalienable rights, with self-ownership, you should be able to do whatever you want to do with yourself without having to harm anybody else… as long as you are not harming anyone else you should be free to do what you choose,” said Joshua Dagda, the organization’s communications director. Approximately 230 persons interested in the cause attended NORML’s inaugural organizational meeting January 11th at the Hilton Garden Inn on W. University Avenue.

Despite legalization in some states, local marijuana pushers peddle in the old fashioned way

EL PASO — Colorado and Washington State approved legal sale and personal use of marijuana last year paving the road for the rest of country to light legally, but, until that occurs, cannabis users will have to procure their weed the old fashioned way — from drug pushers.  

The illegal drug providers include individuals who put themselves at the risk of getting caught by police while obtaining the drugs from major traffickers and, then disbursing their product to a plentiful clientele anxiously awaiting their high.  

One local drug pusher who travels regularly from here to California to get his merchandise at the best market price now marvels at the irony while drug sellers are just retail merchants paying taxes elsewhere, he is considered a criminal here.  

In the meantime, he travels to get the best wholesale price. “They would give me 10 pounds every month, maybe 20,” said a source who wishes to remain nameless.

Supreme Court rules for gay marriage in two cases, ends term

WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court handed supporters of gay marriage a pair of victories Wednesday on the final day of its term. The Supreme Court ruled that the federal Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional and determined that it could not rule on California’s Proposition 8. Both decisions were 5-4. In United States v. Windsor, the DOMA case, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy said the act violated the equal protection clause of the Fifth Amendment. DOMA, enacted in 1996, defines marriage as between one man and one woman.

Affirmative action returned to lower court, Title VII of Civil Rights Act further defined

WASHINGTON – In a day full of discrimination decisions, the Supreme Court sent an affirmative action case back to a lower court and ruled on a critical aspect of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The court did not decide whether the University of Texas at Austin acted unconstitutionally in using race as a factor for admissions, leaving the debate over affirmative action unresolved. Justices said that the university must prove to an appeals court that using affirmative action in its admissions process achieves educational benefits from diversity. Essentially, the school must define its criteria for using affirmative action before a decision can be reached. “The particular admissions process used for this objective is subject to judicial review.

Paisano Green Community (Amber Watts/

El Paso struggles to fit families into public housing after sequestration cuts

EL PASO – Families living in public housing will find their quarters shrinking as a result of the federal budget slashing known as the sequester, but local officials say they hope to avoid putting anybody out on the street. “We are hoping for the best, but preparing for the worst,” said Shane Griffith, El Paso Housing Authority (HACEP) public information officer. HACEP had already been planning how to meet the needs here when the spending reductions cut of $85 billion in revenue to non-exempt domestic programs for the next 10 years were declared in late March. The housing assistance payment (HAP) standard, which is the federal subsidy allocated to landlords of the Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) Program, has been reduced from a proration of 99 percent to 94 percent. The proration for the operating subsidy of the Public Housing Program – the funds HACEP receives to operate its 46 public housing properties – has been reduced from 92 percent to 77 percent.

Juarez couple narrates torture suffered under officers from the Mexican Federal Police. (Francisco Alarcón/

Juarez couple declares they were kidnapped and tortured by Mexican Federal Police

Translated by Roberto Perezdíaz
Lea esta historia en español

EL PASO – A Juarez woman together with her husband affirmed in an immigration and political asylum forum that she was tortured and threatened by death by Mexican Federal Police. “Although we are safe and are still alive, we are nobody here,” she said before a hundred or so people while her face was covered by a black cloth to protect her identity. She spoke here Friday, April 27 at the Multi-Use Center of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral hosted by Annunciation House, an organization that offers refuge for immigrants and political exiles. “We sacrificed a lot to achieve our careers in Ciudad Juárez, and they (a group of federal policemen deployed to our sister city) destroyed them in minutes,” she said fighting her tears. The couple, whose names and faces remained anonymous for security reasons, fled Juarez City and took refuge in El Paso when some alleged agents from the above agency “picked them up” on two occasions.

U.S. teens ages 13-17 text-messaged an average of 1,742 times a month. (iStockphoto)

Warning — No Such Thing as Safe Sexting

EL PASO, Texas — A young high school girl in Cincinnati committed suicide because her boyfriend leaked photos of her naked to the whole community. The leaked photo caused so much humiliation, ridicule and abuse that it drove the young teen into hanging herself. This story made national headlines a few years back because the sexting phenomena and its effects were just starting to become a fad. The personal words and intimate photos that used to be part of love letters and kept private in an intimate relationship are now becoming public on mobile phones.  The new it thing is called “sexting.”

UTEP’s Women’s Resource Center along with the Sexual Trauma & Assault Response Services (STARS), told students that “sexting” has both legal and personal consequences. The spokesperson for STARS, Katherine Jones said, “Many people sext today with another person without thinking of the damage that sending sexual content (i.e. pictures and messages) via text or e-mail can have on their reputation, careers and their future if that content happens to slip into the wrong hands.”

There is currently no legal definition of sexting, but according to the Teen Health section of, “Sexting is the use of a cell phone or other similar electronic devices to distribute sexually explicit pictures or video.