When not wrangling copy for the MoJo crew, Ian writes about immigration, sports, and Latin America. His work has appeared in ESPN the Magazine, Wired, and Slate. Got a comment or a tip? Email him: igordon [at] motherjones [dot] com.
In 2004, as Mexico's drug violence took a particularly bloody turn, Ioan Grillo was writing for the Houston Chronicle. His editor had one request: "Cover it like a war!" This graphic and fast-paced history covers south-of-the-border trafficking from '60s-era shipments of Acapulco Gold to the decapitation-filled headlines wrought by the likes of kingpin (and alleged billionaire) Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán and his rivals, the Zetas—special ops soldiers turned criminals. As Grillo tells it, the cartels' fratricide has barely dented an industry that nets an estimated $30 billion per year: "In the drug business, it seems, a war economy functions perfectly well."
It's a sunny fall day in Arlington, Texas, and some 80,000 fans have come from far and wide to cheer on America's Team, the Dallas Cowboys. Most of them showed up early outside the team's two-year-old, $1.2 billion stadium, filling 24,000 parking spots en route to some pregame tailgating. As they make their way to their seats in the largest domed structure in the world, (recyclable) commemorative plastic cups in hand, to watch the 'Boys take on the New England Patriots—who chartered a flight from Boston, about 1,500 miles away—many stare at the massive video boards, twin 160-foot-by-72-foot behemoths that require 30 million LED lightbulbs.
Here, at a venue that, according to Forbes, consumes as much energy as Santa Monica, California, it seems reasonable to ask: Big-ticket sports can't trulybe green, can they?
Well, they're trying. For all of Cowboys Stadium's in-your-face excesses, the organization reportedly hopes to reduce solid waste by 25 percent, energy use by 20 percent, and water consumption by 1 million gallons annually. Not convinced? Then try baseball's San Francisco Giants. "The way I look at it," says Jorge Costa, the Giants' senior vice president of ballpark operations, "this is a city of 42,000 people. And in a city of 42,000 people, you generate a lot of garbage." The reigning World Series champs are three-time winners of the Green Glove Award, awarded to the major league team that has recycled the most over the course of the season. In the past several years, the Giants have diverted 75 percent of their garbage from landfills via recycling and composting; have installed 590 solar panels at AT&T Park, enough to power more than 5,200 homes since 2007; have seen their ballpark earn LEED silver certification; and have even created more sustainable ways to produce their famous garlic fries.
Yesterday, the Department of Homeland Security released its deportation statistics for fiscal year 2011, disclosing 396,906 removals of unauthorized immigrants—the most ever. Today, a University of California-Berkeley study claims that Secure Communities, the much-maligned fingerprint-sharing program that links local jails to the DHS database and funnels even more people into deportation proceedings, has helped create a system "in which individuals are pushed through rapidly, without appropriate checks or opportunities to challenge their detention and/or deportation."
The report, based on federal government data and produced by the UC-Berkeley School of Law's Warren Institute on Law and Social Policy, points to a number of problems related to the poor management of Secure Communities (a.k.a. S-Comm), including:
S-Comm has led to the apprehension of some 3,600 US citizens due to problems with the DHS database (though none were later booked into Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention)
93 percent of S-Comm arrests have been of Latinos, who make up roughly 75 percent of the country's undocumented population
52 percent of people arrested through S-Comm receive a hearing before an immigration judge
24 percent of those arrested through S-Comm that had a hearing also had an attorney present
39 percent of people arrested through S-Comm report that their spouse or child is an American citizen
83 percent of people arrested though S-Comm end up in federal immigration detention; in comparison, 62 percent of those arrested by ICE are detained
"Based on our findings, we recommend that the Department of Homeland Security suspend the program until the government addresses the issues we identify, particularly wrongful US citizen arrests, potential racial profiling, and lack of discretion in detention," said Aarti Kohli, the Warren Institute's director of immigration policy, in a statement.
But Secure Communities doesn't seem to be going anywhere. With Republican candidates arguing about border fences and undocumented gardeners—and with one of President Obama's top immigration advisers, Cecilia Muñoz, telling PBS' Frontline, "As long as Congress gives us the money to deport 400,000 people a year, that's what the administration is going to do"—it seems unlikely that the administration will pull back from its support of the program anytime soon.
Check out the full report, "Secure Communities by the Numbers":
New York Jets owner Woody Johnson (center) has donated more than $115,000 to the GOP since January 2009.
By now, we've grown used to seeing gridiron stars transition into politics when their playing days are done. And whether it's former Buffalo Bills quarterback (and George H.W. Bush-era housing secretary) Jack Kemp or Hall of Fame wide receiver (and four-term Oklahoma congressman) Steve Largent—to say nothing of Rep. Heath Shuler (a Blue Dog Democrat in North Carolina)—these politically engaged former players have tended to lean right.
So perhaps it's no surprise that, according to a new study by the Center for Responsive Politics, the majority of contributions by NFL teams in the past couple of years have gone to the GOP. Of the more than $1.4 million donated by team executives, players, and coaches since January 2009, some $970,000, or 67 percent, has gone to Republicans, while Democrats have received $420,000.
Here's a look at the NFL's top political contributors, by team:
Texas Gov. Rick Perry and fellow Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney sparred last weekend over Perry's suggestion that the threat of Mexican drug violence spilling into the United States "may require our military in Mexico…to kill these drug cartels and to keep them off of our border and to destroy their networks." Liberals mocked Perry's comments, and on Thursday, a border town judge chided both candidates in a New York Times op-ed for their "quasi-military approach [that] ignores the need for real solutions to our economic and social challenges."
In her piece, El Paso County Judge Veronica Escobar claims that Perry's border hawk posturing—for instance, saying President Obama was either poorly informed or "an abject liar" for claiming in a spring speech that El Paso and other border cities had become safer on his watch—could actually end up hurting places like El Paso. According to a July report in USA Today, the border city has recently "seen sharp declines in violent crimes despite being in the shadow of Ciudad Juárez, one of the main battlegrounds of Mexico's drug wars where 3,400 people were murdered last year." Writes Escobar, a Democrat: "Claims about our supposedly dangerous border would be laughable if they didn't damage our image and our ability to recruit talent, investment and events."
Mr. Perry is far from alone. Many Republican politicians—and not a few Democrats, too—use the bogeyman of border violence to justify exorbitant security measures, like the ever-lengthening border fence that costs $2.8 million per mile (for a total of $6.5 billion, including maintenance, over the 20-year lifetime of the fence). Mr. Perry's brainchild, security cameras, have so far cost $4 million to put in place and maintain.
These measures do little besides waste money. Tunnels already run below the border fence. During their first two years in operation, Mr. Perry's cameras led to the arrest of a whopping 26 people—that's $154,000 per arrest. And once undocumented immigrants are apprehended, costs continue to mount: in this fiscal year alone, the federal government is budgeting $2 billion just for detention.
Those facts haven't stopped the likes of Romney and "every mile, every yard, every foot, every inch" Michele Bachmann from talking up the idea of a fence running the entire length of southern border. Still, as unlikely (and unmanageable) as it seems, don't look now: The Secure Border Act of 2011—which would require the Department of Homeland Security to gain "operational control" of US borders within five years—just recently made its way through the House Homeland Security Committee.