/ Modified feb 4, 2021 4 p.m.

News roundup: Border wall vivisects Indigenous communities, report scrutinizes border patrol rescue operations

Recent coverage impacting Southern Arizona, Feb. 4.

Arizona COVID-19 cases: 7 days

Map shows COVID-19 cases and case rates over the week preceding the last update.

Credit: Nick O'Gara/AZPM. Sources: The New York Times, based on reports from state and local health agencies, Census Bureau. Case reports do not correspond to day of test.

Cases 771, 796 | Deaths 13, 752

On Thursday, Feb. 4, Arizona reported 4,417 new cases of COVID-19 and 176 additional deaths.

Border wall scars: 'It feels like if someone got a knife and dragged it across my heart.'


By the time President Donald Trump left office, contractors had erected a wall along just over 450 miles of the international boundary with Mexico. Nearly 230 miles of it was in Arizona, according to figures provided by U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

The new wall stops short of some 60 miles of border located in the Tohono O’odham Nation, but it hasn’t spared the ancestral land of O'odham tribes, which spreads across central and southern Arizona and into northern Mexico.

Verlon Jose, the former vice chairman of the Tohono O’odham Nation, now serves as one of the traditional O’odham leaders in Mexico. Jose told AZPM, “When people ask me, ‘What does this feel like to you?’ It feels like if someone got a knife and dragged it across my heart.”

Learn more here.

New report raises concern about Border Patrol search and rescue efforts for migrants


A new report by the advocacy group No More Deaths alleges U.S. Border Patrol agents have failed to carry out search and rescue efforts for migrants lost in the borderlands.

The report uses data from calls made between 2015 and 2016 to the Derechos Humanos Migrant Crisis Hotline, a 24-hour service families used to locate loved ones who have gone missing in the desert.

The report’s authors found that 63% of all cases directed to Border Patrol by either the migrant hotline or individual families did not result in a confirmed rescue mission. In some cases, families and aid workers reported being told directly that a search would not be carried out, while in others, they did not receive any kind of response.

Learn more here.

Rights advocates applaud Biden's planned review of public charge rule


President Joe Biden signed a series of executive orders focused immigration yesterday. Rights advocates are applauding one order that called for a review of the Trump administration’s public charge rule.

The Trump administration enacted the regulation in 2019 to deny green cards and visas to immigrants who use, or might use, government aid like food stamps and housing assistance.

Angie Rogers is the president of the Arizona Food Bank Network, her network was part of a coalition who co-signed a letter urging Biden to repeal the rule ahead of the inauguration. She said her facility saw a 25% decline in legal permanent residents seeking services after the rule took hold.

Learn more here.

BLM plans prescribed burn in San Pedro conservation area


The San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area was established by Congress in 1988 to protect about 40 miles of the upper San Pedro River and its associated habitat. Sometime between now and the end of February, the Bureau of Land Management plans to burn about 780 acres of wetland and upland habitat when weather conditions are optimal.

Natural Resource Specialist Mark McCabe said the goal is to improve the habitat by putting nutrients back into the soil and opening up space for wildlife, the way natural fires do.

Learn more here.

Arizona reports 4,417 new virus cases, 176 more deaths


PHOENIX — Arizona is reporting more than 4,400 new COVID-19 cases and over 170 additional deaths.

The state Department of Health Services released its latest figures on additional confirmed cases and hospitalizations Thursday. There are 4,417 new cases and 176 related deaths.

The total number of cases in Arizona since the pandemic started now stands at 771,796 and the death toll at 13,752.

Meanwhile, the number of people hospitalized due to the virus is on a steady decline. As of Wednesday, there were 3,303 COVID-19 patients and 946 of those were in the ICU. Still, those figures are similar to when Arizona’s summer virus surge was at its peak.

Learn more here.

Navajo Nation reports 70 new COVID-19 cases, 6 more deaths


WINDOW ROCK — Navajo Nation health officials on Wednesday reported 70 new COVID-19 cases and six more deaths.

The latest numbers raised the totals to 28,544 cases and 1,038 known deaths since the pandemic began.

On Tuesday, tribal officials said they received word that U.S. President Joe Biden had signed a long-awaited major disaster declaration for the Navajo Nation. It will provide more federal resources and prompt the release of federal funds for the reimbursement of emergency funds expended to address the COVID-19 pandemic on the Navajo Nation which covers parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah.

The tribe extended its stay-at-home order with a revised nightly curfew to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Learn more here.

Arizona Sues Over Biden Plan To Pause Deportations

Fronteras Desk

The most recent federal data show that field offices in San Antonio and Phoenix ranked No. 1 and No. 2 respectively for deporting the most people in a year.

The Arizona Attorney General’s Office, just like its Texas counterpart, is now suing the Biden administration over an order to pause deportations.

The federal judge overseeing the Texas case has put a temporary block on Biden’s policy. But Attorney General Mark Brnovich worries it could expire. He sent a letter to Homeland Security last week asking that officials honor a deal signed near the end of the Trump administration. The agreement reportedly says the Department would talk with Arizona’s top law enforcement agency before pausing deportations.

Learn more here.

Judge Hears Oral Arguments In Oak Flat Mine Case

Fronteras Desk

A judge heard oral arguments Wednesday in a case involving Oak Flat, a section of the Tonto National Forest that could become one of the largest copper mines in the United States.

A coalition of tribes and conservation groups has tried to block a land swap that would give part of the forest to a London-based mining company.

Representatives of the tribe argued the mine would violate a treaty and destroy an area with religious significance to the Apache people.

Critics of the mine say that environmental review was fast-tracked during the Trump administration.

The judge said he hopes to rule on the case Feb. 12.

Senate panel OKs ban on abortions for genetic problems


PHOENIX — A proposal that would make it a felony in Arizona for a doctor to perform an abortion because the fetus has a genetic abnormality such as Down Syndrome has been approved by a Republican-dominated state Senate panel.

The measure also adds a slew of other anti-abortion provisions. Republican Sen. Nancy Barto of Phoenix says her proposal protects the most vulnerable and also restores dignity to aborted fetuses by requiring that they be buried or cremated.

Democrats call the proposal approved by a 5-3 party-line vote on Thursday a distraction that bars women from getting needed medical care and imperils doctors. They could face nearly nine years in prison.

Learn more here.

Asylum Seekers Waiting In Mexico 'Disappointed' Biden Hasn’t Addressed Their Plight

Fronteras Desk

This week, President Joe Biden signed three executive orders repealing some of the immigration policies implemented by the previous administration. But those actions haven’t provided relief for many asylum seekers waiting south of the border for protection in the United States.

Now, after waiting a year or more in Mexico for U.S. asylum protections, some migrants are disappointed Biden hasn’t moved more quickly to help them, as he had promised during his presidential campaign.

"Well the truth is that I feel disappointed," said Jacquelin, from Honduras, who has been waiting in Mexico to ask for asylum with her two U.S.-citizen children for more than a year.

Learn more here.

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