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Border Roundup

Sen. John McCain and Congressman Jim Kolbe teamed up with Sen. Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts, Rep. Jeff Flake of Arizona and Rep. Luis Gutierrez of Illinois to introduce an immigration-reform proposal that's relatively humane and sensible, which means it will likely go absolutely nowhere in Congress. Rather than the current system, which requires foreign workers to prove their mettle by sneaking across inhospitable stretches of desert before they can land a low-wage job, the new proposal would create a new guest-worker program that would force migrants to show they have a job waiting for them in the United States before they could enter the country. Key points:

· Foreign workers, who would have to pay a $500 fee and pass security and medical checks before entering the United States, would be able to stay in the U.S. for six years before either returning to their home country or getting in line for a green card.

· Employers, who would face bigger fines for hiring illegal immigrants, would use an electronic program that would track workers more effectively than the current fraud-prone, paper-based system.

· Illegal immigrants who now live in the United States would be able to remain in the country if they pay a fine of at least $2,000 and pass a background check.

· The federal government would further beef up border enforcement and provide more money to states to deal with the financial impact of illegal immigration.

Meanwhile, reporter Jerry Seper of The Washington Times reported that more than a dozen Border Patrol agents in the Naco area say they were told by supervisors to not apprehend border crossers following the conclusion of the Minuteman Project for fear that higher arrest numbers would suggest that the volunteer border-patrol effort had effectively deterred migrants. Border Patrol officials denied the report.

Across the border, Mexican President Vicente Fox made headlines by proclaiming that Mexican workers "are doing the work that not even blacks want to do in the United States." After African Americans reacted negatively to Fox's comment, he declined to apologize.

The wire services also reported that Fox was planning to lodge some sort of official protest, perhaps at the United Nations, regarding plans to build a fence along the U.S.-Mexico border, as well as efforts to deny driver's licenses to illegal immigrants. We're sure John Bolton is quaking at the thought.


Smuggler's Blues

Busted! Sixteen current and former U.S. soldiers and cops copped pleas in downtown Tucson's federal courthouse last week on charges of aidin' and abettin' a phony cocaine smuggling ring that was cooked up by the FBI. Another five Davis-Monthan airmen were facing charges in military court as part of Operation Lively Green, which has been up and running since December 2001.

The suckers, who each pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy, fell for a sting operation that lured them into such schemes as using their badges and cars to elude detection while transporting large loads of blow or letting cars they believed to be loaded with the drug to slip right by border checkpoints. In one case, U.S. Army Reserve soldiers were lured into moving 60 kilograms of coke from a private plane near Benson into two military Humvees for delivery to an undercover FBI agent at a Phoenix resort.

The conspiracy charges carry maximum penalties of five years in prison and/or a $250,000 fine, according to the feds.


Open Skies

Southern Arizona's two largest military bases, Davis-Monthan Air Force Base and Fort Huachuca, were both spared closure by the Pentagon's Base Realignment and Closure Commission. The news was met by nearly universal relief by a wide range of local officials, with a handful of sleep-deprived residents remaining concerned about the possibility of louder jets in Tucson's future.


That Championship Season

Congrats to the softball players at Sabino High and their coach, Galen Paton, for their win in the state championships. The bloodied-but-unbowed Sabercats, lead by pitcher Valerie George, shut out Goodyear Millennium 8-0 to capture the 4A crown last Saturday, May 14.


Big-Box Fascism

Another dispatch from the We-Hate-Wal-Mart Department: In an effort to defeat a Big Box ordinance that Flagstaff voters were scheduled to decide this week, the retail megalomart ran an ad in the Arizona Daily Sun that used a photo of Nazis burning books. The company apologized for the ad, which was designed by Phoenix political consultants HighGround, according to Rachel Peterson of the Arizona Daily Sun.

The final tally in Flagstaff was unavailable as of press time.

More by Jim Nintzel

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