6A ∫ THE ALPENA NEWS ∫ Friday, April 16, 2010
Immigration agents raid van shuttle businesses PHOENIX (AP) — Federal agents on Thursday targeted more than 50 shuttle van operators and smugglers who are accused of using the vans to transport thousands of illegal immigrants from spots near the Mexican border to Phoenix. Investigators, who billed the bust as the largest human smuggling case in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s sevenyear history, said the operators of four shuttle services in Tucson and a fifth in Phoenix created their businesses solely to help immigrant smugglers move their customers to Phoenix under a veil of legitimacy. The shuttle operators are accused of producing fraudulent receipts for illegal immigrants and coaching them on what to say if the vans were pulled over by police. ‘‘They are in knee-deep. They know exactly what’s going on,’’ said John Morton, assistant secretary of Homeland Security for U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement. Arrests were made in Phoenix, Tucson and two other Arizona towns along the border, Nogales and Rio Rico. Investigators
also made arrests in Tennessee, and Mexican authorities made arrests in the case south of the border. More than 800 agents from nine law enforcement agencies were involved, authorities said. The number of arrests hasn’t yet been released. In Phoenix, dozens of agents — some wearing black hoods over their faces — swarmed two shuttle business early Thursday in a strip mall in a heavily Latino neighborhood, just west of the state Capitol. They seized at least a dozen vans from shuttle companies, including new full-size vans emblazoned with Sergio’s Shuttle and older full-sized and minivans from other companies. Sergio’s Shuttle advertises van shuttle services from northern Mexico to cities in Arizona, New Mexico, California, Nevada, Oregon and Washington. A phone call to the business was not answered Thursday morning. In Nogales, a southern Arizona border town, witnesses told the Nogales Inthey saw ternational helicopters and federal
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — President Barack Obama predicted Thursday his new space exploration plan would lead Americans beyond the moon and to Mars within his lifetime. ‘‘I expect to be around to see it,’’ he declared. Obama’s bold prediction was an answer to critics, including several former astronauts, that his changes would deal a staggering blow to the nation’s manned
space program. Speaking at the Kennedy Space Center, where America’s moon missions originated decades ago, Obama said he was ‘‘100 percent committed to the mission of NASA and its future.’’ He outlined plans for federal spending to bring more private companies into space exploration following the soon-to-end space shuttle program. ‘‘We want to leap into the future,’’ not continue on
Court: Medical marijuana can lead to firing
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — The Oregon Supreme Court has ruled that workers can be fired for using medical marijuana even if they have a card from the state program authorizing its use. The case involves a worker in Eugene who was fired after telling his boss before taking a drug test that he was using medical marijuana approved by his docAP Photo tor. In a 5-2 opinion, the court An Immigrations and Custom Enforcement agent looks on as a shutlte van is loaded onto a trailer on Terrace Avenue in downtown Nogales, Ariz., Thursday during a large-scale immigration raid that included sites in Tucson and Phoenix.
said state law is trumped by federal law that classifies marijuana as a drug with no proven medical value. A dissenting opinion said federal law did not bar Oregon from setting its own policy on medical marijuana. The ruling overturned a state Bureau of Labor and Industries decision that said the employer had to make a reasonable accommodation for a worker with a physical or mental impairment.
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — A Providence police officer was convicted Thursday of raping a woman in a police substation while on duty three years ago. A Providence Superior Court jury found Marcus Huffman, 39, guilty of firstdegree sexual assault after deliberating for about a day. He was ordered held without bail after a prosecutor argued that he was a flight risk and a danger to the public. He faces a possible life sentence. Huffman’s lawyer said he was disappointed by the verdict and planned to appeal. The woman, now 22, let out a loud sob as the verdict was announced while Huffman remained expressionless as he was led from the courtroom in handcuffs. The woman testified that Huffman raped her in the bathroom of a police substation in March 2007 after picking her up outside a
Providence nightclub where she was turned away for being too drunk. She said she could not remember what happened inside the bathroom, but that she woke up later with her pants undone and her undergarments removed. She then walked to her aunt’s house and was taken to a hospital, where she says Huffman showed up to take her report. Prosecutor Maureen Keough accused Huffman of taking advantage of an intoxicated and physically helpless woman. But lawyer Robert Caron attacked the woman’s credibility, suggesting she had a consensual sexual encounter with Huffman and then lied about being raped because she didn’t want to tell her girlfriend the truth. The woman identified herself at trial as a lesbian and said she hadn’t had consensual sex with a man since early in high school.
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — White House officials say President Barack Obama still will recognize a National Day of Prayer after a federal judge’s ruling the day is unconstitutional. U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb in Madison, Wis., ruled Thursday that the day violates separation of church and state. The ruling comes in a lawsuit filed against the federal government by the Freedom From Religion Foundation.
But Crabb says her order doesn’t block a prayer day until after all appeals are exhausted. Obama spokesman Matt Lehrich says in an e-mail to The Associated Press that the ruling therefore doesn’t prevent the president from issuing a proclamation for the day recognized in May. A spokesman for the U.S. Justice Department, which represented the government in the case, declined to comment on the ruling.
COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Two Columbia sanitation workers who apparently couldn’t stand by and let beer go down the drain allegedly took dozens of cases of expired brew from the city landfill. Police and city supervisors are trying to determine if the salvage was a crime — theft of city property — or just a policy violation. ‘‘If we determine it’s a police matter, we will take some action,’’ said Officer Jessie Haden, a Columbia police spokeswoman. A Columbia distributor,
Scheppers Distributing Co., sent 1,500 cases of expired beer to the landfill on April 1 in two shipments. The first shipment was destroyed immediately, but the second, containing about 700 cases of Budweiser and Michelob Ultra, was not. Margrace Buckler, the city’s human resource director, said two Solid Waste Division workers, who haven’t been identified, brought a city pickup truck to the landfill and hauled off about 50 cases of the beer.
agents swarming sites downtown. They converged around 8 a.m. on the Union Transportes de Nogales, which houses several shuttle companies and a money-changing house. Nearby, agents surrounded a duplex with a shuttle van parked in front. The Arizona Daily Star in Tucson reported that agents raided three sites in the southern Arizona city, making two arrests and seizing seven vans. Morton said investigators gathered evidence that will show the shuttle operators were knew they were moving illegal immigrants. ‘‘It’s a calculated farce,’’ Morton said of the five shuttle services. Investigators say smug-
glers would guide immigrants from the Mexican border 65 miles north to Tucson so that they could walk around Border Patrol checkpoints. Once in Tucson, the immigrants would get into shuttle vans would take them to Phoenix via Interstate 10, a route that is patrolled by police but doesn’t have checkpoints. Immigration agents said the five shuttle businesses didn’t perform legitimate transportation services by bringing customers to airports. ‘‘They didn’t advertise at all, because they didn’t need to, they had a built-in clientele,’’ said Matthew Allen, the chief of investigations for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Arizona.
the same path as before, Obama said as he sought to reassure NASA workers that America’s space adventures would soar on despite the termination of shuttle flights. Obama acknowledged criticism for his drastic changes to the space agency’s direction. But, he said, ‘‘The bottom line is: Nobody is more committed to manned space flight, the human exploration of space, than I am. But we’ve got to do it in a smart way; we can’t keep doing the same old things as before.’’ Obama said that by 2025, the nation would have a new spacecraft ‘‘designed for long journeys to allow us to begin the firstever crewed missions beyond the moon into deep space.’’ ‘‘We’ll start by sending astronauts to an asteroid for the first time in history. By the mid-2030s, I believe we can send humans to orbit Mars and return them safely to Earth. And a landing on Mars will follow,’’ he said. Obama said the space program is not a luxury but a necessity for the nation. He noted that the Kennedy Space Center has inspired the nation and the world for half a century. He said NASA represents what
it means to be American — ‘‘reaching for new heights and reaching for what’s possible’’ — and is not close to its final days. Obama sought to explain why he aborted President George W. Bush’s returnto-the moon plan in favor of a complicated system of public-and-private flights that would go elsewhere in space, with details still to be worked out. ‘‘We’ve been there before,’’ Obama said of the nation’s moon landings decades ago. ‘‘There’s a lot more of space to explore.’’ He said his administration would support continued manned exploration of space ‘‘not just with dollars, but with clear aims and a larger purpose.’’ The Obama space plan relies on private companies to fly to the space station, giving them almost $6 billion to build their own rockets and ships. It also extends the space station’s life by five years and puts billions into research to eventually develop new government rocket ships for future missions to a nearby asteroid, to the moon, to Martian moons or other points in space. Those stops would be stepping stones on an eventual mission to Mars itself.
Obama: Americans to Mars within his lifetime
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