The number of minors swept up in Mexico's drug wars -- as killers and victims -- is soaring, with U.S. and Mexican officials warning that a toxic culture of fast money, drug abuse and murder is creating a "lost generation."
Although the exploitation of children by criminals is timeless, authorities say the cartels are responding to new realities here. They have stepped up recruiting to replace tens of thousands of members who have been killed or arrested during President Felipe Calder?n's U.S.-backed war against the traffickers.
The crackdown has led the cartels to diversify their operations, moving from the transshipment of narcotics to extortion, immigrant smuggling and kidnapping. It also has sparked intense rivalries, with youngsters serving as expendable foot soldiers in battles over trafficking routes to the United States and local markets that serve a growing number of Mexican drug users.
"The cartels recruit by first involving them in some drug trafficking, then in selling drugs and finally, in some cases for as little as $160 a week, they are given the job of tracking down people the cartel wants to assassinate," said Victor Valencia, public security secretary in Chihuahua state, where Ciudad Juarez -- Mexico's most violent city -- is located.
From KVOA-TV Tucson, AZ, on the seizure of a million dollars worth of marijuana:
U.S. Border Patrol, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Arizona Department of Public Safety executed a search warrant on a residence Thursday evening, resulting in the seizure of more than 1,100 pounds of marijuana.
Border Patrol Agents from the Tucson Station observed a pickup truck traveling northbound from the U.S.-Mexico Border in a remote desert area notorious for drug smuggling. Agents were able to track the vehicle to a local residence. Additional agents responded to the location and, with the assistance of a canine unit, discovered several bundles suspected to be marijuana stacked up inside the house.
Upon entry, agents and officers discovered 52 bricks of marijuana with a combined weight of more than 1,100 pounds and an estimated street value close to a million dollars. The marijuana is being held by ICE for further processing.
From Chattanooga Times Free Press, on E-Verify:
Nearly two months after most federal contractors and subcontractors were required to use the government's employment verification program, local employers report things are running smoothly.
"We've been using E-Verify since the new rules went into effect Sept. 8, (and) so far we've not experienced any adverse financial or administrative issues using the system," said BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee spokeswoman Mary Thompson. "It's simply been another step in the hiring and employment verification process."
E-Verify is a free Web-based system operated by the Department of Homeland Security and the Social Security Administration that compares information from the employment eligibility verification form, the I-9, against federal government databases to verify workers' employment eligibility.
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