Another FBI watchlist terrorist was apprehended crossing the border, this time one day after Title 42 ended.
The terrorist came from Pakistan and was apprehended in Ajo, according to information provided by unnamed federal sources to The Washington Examiner. The terrorist was captured within a wave of around 700 illegal immigrants crossing in the area.
There has been a significant increase in terror watchlist apprehensions under Biden. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) disclosed on Wednesday that they’d apprehended 16 terrorists along the border in April alone — more than the total apprehensions from the 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020 fiscal years combined.
According to data from December, terror watchlist arrests have increased over sixfold since Biden took office.
So far this fiscal year, there have been over 1.4 million southern border encounters. That’s nearly 134,000 more encounters than from the same time span from the last fiscal year (October 2021 through April 2022).
That brings the total border encounters under President Joe Biden to over 5.6 million.
The average of these encounters totals over 201,000. If that average sustains through the remaining 21 months of Biden’s first term, there may be over 9.8 million illegal immigrant encounters by the end of next year.
Under former President Donald Trump, there were a total of over 2.3 million encounters. There may be four times as many illegal crossings by the end of Biden’s first term.
Despite the continued onslaught of the border crisis, Arizona’s Democratic leaders have been hesitant to fully back proposed remedies.
Congressman Ruben Gallego (D-AZ-03) last week supported the termination of Title 42, but criticized the Biden administration’s lack of action on meaningful immigration reform and infrastructure.
“While the specific needs and requests of each border community varied, one similarity was clear: the administration has not done enough to meet their needs, and these local officials require additional resources, personnel, and funds to ensure our border stays secure and that the processing of asylum seekers is done in a humanitarian way,” stated Gallego.
That same day, Gallego issued another statement dismissing his Republican colleagues’ border proposals as an unserious “sham” perpetuating “cruel” Trump-era policies. The proposals included detainment of unaccompanied children, and restricting asylum outside of legal ports of entry.
Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ-07) complained last August that too many Americans were caught up in the border crisis to notice the religious disrespect of illegal immigrants. Specifically, Grijalva complained that border agents were confiscating illegal Sikh immigrants’ religious items, such as their turbans and bracelets.
“All these festering issues get overwritten because everybody starts screaming about the border and the invasion, and so these go into the background,” said Grijalva. “I don’t think they’re background issues. Border Patrol is the largest law enforcement agency with the least amount of accountability in the country. And that’s the problem.”
Democratic congressional candidate Kirsten Engel supported ending Title 42 last year as part of her prior, failed campaign, and denied the existence of the border crisis.
On Wednesday, Riley Gaines urged Congress to pass Rep. Debbie Lesko’s (R-AZ-08) bill defining a woman.
Gaines is the former University of Kentucky swimmer forced to compete against a biological male who identifies as a transgender woman: Lia, formerly Will, Thomas. Gaines and other swimmers were also made to share private spaces with Thomas, such as locker rooms.
Gaines, who joined Lesko in a press conference on Wednesday, asserted defining the term “woman” was necessary to ensure equal protections under the law.
“Elected bureaucrats and judges and officials and administrators have altered the legal meaning of these sex-based terms to interpret it as they want, and to reflect identity rather than biology, and to require that men and women be treated not just equal but the same,” said Gaines. “The public knows what a woman is, and it’s time that our laws did, too.”
Lesko’s bill defines sex as the biological sex, either male or female, at birth. It also defines women and girls in reference to human females, and man and boy in reference to human males. Likewise, mother is defined as a “parent of the female sex,” and father is defined as a “parent of the male sex.”
“[T]here are important reasons to distinguish between the sexes with respect to athletics, prisons, domestic violence shelters, restrooms, and other areas, particularly where biology, safety, and privacy are implicated,” states the resolution.
Gaines lamented that modern political discourse has come to reckon anyone as “brave” for speaking the truth of biological reality out loud.
“In my mind, I can’t fathom how it is brave to say that men and women are different. I can’t fathom that requires courage. When I think of courage, I think of people on the front lines,” said Gaines.
Lesko noted that in one of her local school districts, two of the board members have fought to prevent boys from gaining access to girls’ bathrooms. However, the board members of the unnamed district were in the minority. Lesko noted that there have been violent assaults and rapes of girls and women in bathrooms by males pretending to be female.
“The left has declared a war on women,” said Lesko. “It is now more important than ever to affirm the biological differences between men and women to protect women’s hard-fought rights and ensure women have spaces reserved for them in society.”
Gaines also stressed that women’s feelings, privacy, safety, and self-esteem were sacrificed to spare the feelings of men suffering from gender dysphoria.
“What mattered to the left was protecting the feelings of a male at the expense of our own,” stated Gaines. “It’s 2023, we have the right to vote as women, we can own property. But we have to plead and beg for privacy in our locker rooms so we’re not violated. And when you do plead and beg, you’re called a ‘bigot,’ you’re called ‘transphobic’ for wanting safety.”
Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ-05) has also cosponsored the bill.
The 25 other cosponsors of the bill, titled the Women’s Bill of Rights, are Reps. Diana Harshbarger (R-TN-01), Mary Miller (R-IL-15), Kevin Hern (R-OK-01), Claudia Tenney (R-NY-24), Robert Aderholt (R-AL-04), Andrew Clyde (R-GA-09), Randy Weber (R-TX-14), Michael Guest (R-MS-03), George Santos (R-NY-03), Andrew Ogles (R-TN-05), Virginia Foxx (R-NC-05), Ralph Norman (R-SC-05), Burgess Owens (R-UT-04), Ronny Jackson (R-TX-13), Harriet Hageman (R-WY), Jeff Duncan (R-SC-03), Jake Ellzey (R-TX-06), Jim Banks (R-IN-03), Buddy Carter (R-GA-01), Greg Steube (R-FL-17), Ben Cline (R-VA-06), Doug LaMalfa (R-CA-01), Anna Paulina Luna (R-FL-13), Michael Burgess (R-TX-26), and Brian Babin (R-TX-36). The bill hasn’t gone further than its introduction in February.
Tucson taxpayers are likely to be on the hook for the costs of public transit indefinitely.
The city council voted last Tuesday to make public transit free for good, according to Councilman Steve Kozachik, after three years of not charging for transportation services.
Kozachik clarified to the University of Arizona (UArizona) student newspaper that the council’s actions last week meant that they wouldn’t reinstate transit fares until the council took an affirmative vote to do so.
The council voted to extend free public transit through this December during last Tuesday’s study session at a cost of $4.6 million. According to Kozachik, this motion was within the context of the council’s true intention to keep public transit free indefinitely.
The council also moved to establish a task force of stakeholders to determine how to keep public transit free. Mayor Regina Romero expressed concern that the council was essentially kicking the can down the road.
“To be honest, we’re moving the item every six months, and so I think we really need to figure out what is the long-term solution,” said Romero. “If we don’t have long-term funding options, then we need to start talking about what’s a fair fare. We just need to make sure that we do have the possible stakeholders and investors in the system.”
Councilman Steve Kozachik cautioned that this strategy of holding out to inspire funding from stakeholders was likely to backfire. He added that it was “highly improbable” the council would actually move to reinstate fares after December.
“I don’t agree that us treading water on the decision about fares is necessary to get the other stakeholders to the table. I don’t agree with that as a negotiating strategy,” said Kozachik.
Councilman Paul Cunningham raised the concern that the task force may not actually accomplish its appointed task of sourcing adequate funding or structuring the reinstatement of fares, pointing back to a three-year trend over the COVID-19 pandemic of alleged complacency and falling behind on goals due to virtual meetings.
“As much as I wish I was Obi-Wan Kenobi who could, like, use the Force to see what’s going to unfold, I can’t,” said Cunningham.
The council opted to maintain their position of free public transit, despite not having funding secured beyond December. Current funding sources for the remainder of the year, totaling $4.1 million — a $486,000 deficit, which Tucson will cover through the public Investment Plan funds — come from hotel and motel taxes, the Tucson Medical Center partnership, SunTran efficiency expense reductions, and a Visit Tucson funding formula adjustment.
UArizona also gave about $780,000 gleaned from student fees to fund the public transit. However, the estimated annual cost of public transit reaches around $11 million.
Some council members also mentioned that they’re attempting to tap Raytheon for long-term funding.
Prior to this year, federal COVID-19 relief funds covered the transit costs. Fares were scheduled to resume on January 1 of this year, but the city opted to source funds to cover the cost.
Back in December, the council considered additional parking garage fees or property taxes to cover the transit costs.
Tucson isn’t the first city to attempt totally free transit in the state, let alone in the country. Phoenix’s Valley Metro offers free busing for its neighborhood circulators, and the first year of its streetcar services is free. The city also subsidized a limited number of free public transit passes in 2021 using $1 million of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds.
There are dozens of other cities around the country, as well as university campuses, that offer free public transit.
As AZ Free News reported just prior to the Tucson City Council’s most recent decision, community members have criticized the three-year-long trial run of free public transit as more of a burden than a help. Locals have complained to several media outlets that the free transit enables criminal behavior and public nuisances.
Unionized bus drivers have also complained, claiming that free transit has lowered the quality of passengers and required them to become the “transit police.”
Gov. Katie Hobbs doesn’t appear to be in support of President Joe Biden seeking re-election anymore.
In a Friday interview with CBS News host Major Garrett on “The Takeout,” Hobbs shied away from answering directly whether she supported the president’s aspirations for a second term.
“How excited are you about a Biden re-election campaign?” asked Garrett.
Hobbs laughed in response initially before adding: “As the newly-elected governor of Arizona, I’m very focused on Arizona. And that’s — I haven’t weighed in on the presidential election yet.”
Biden formally announced his re-election campaign last month.
Hobbs’ hesitancy to stump for Biden represents a complete reversal of her attitude back in January, a little less than a month into her administration. Four months ago, Hobbs expressed excitement at the prospect of re-electing Biden.
“Congrats to the newly elected @azdemparty board – I look forward to partnering with them and @a_dlcc over the next 2 years to win back our US House & Senate seats, deliver our electoral votes for Pres. Biden again, and flip the legislature blue,” said Hobbs. “Time to get to work.”
Also in January, Hobbs praised Biden for visiting the border.
“I am encouraged by the White House’s recent actions to finally visit the border and to start proposing real steps to begin addressing the problems of the current system,” said Hobbs. “And while optimistic, I will also continue to push Congress to do its job and pass comprehensive immigration reform.”
Hobbs then listed off several initiatives launched under Biden that she says she’s grateful for, such as the CHIPS Act and Inflation Reduction Act. The governor didn’t linger too long on the subject of Biden’s re-election campaign.
Hobbs appeared to flip back and forth on her perspective of Biden. She said that Biden was delivering positive results for Americans. She also claimed that he had better stamina than she does.
“Biden and Harris are an administration and right now they’re delivering for the people of America,” said Hobbs.
Yet, the governor also indicated that the Biden administration’s handling of the economy was causing the country to head into a recession. She said she sides with average Americans’ sense of the economy over purported experts.
“I think that the economists are more optimistic than folks on the ground,” said Hobbs. “A recession is more likely than the economists are projecting.”
Concerning a potential adversary for Biden, Hobbs said that current polling she’s witnessed has placed former President Donald Trump ahead of rumored challenger, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Hobbs also answered on several other topics, including her Republican gubernatorial opponent Kari Lake and her controversial veto of a bill allowing homemade food sales (mainly impacting tamales and other street vendor foods).
Concerning the homelessness crisis, Hobbs said that California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s more recent requirement that cities submit their homeless mitigation plans to him for approval was the role model for handling homelessness.
“I think Governor Newsom’s done great things around homelessness, and certainly there are some pages we can take out of his playbook,” said Hobbs.
According to a US News analysis of the Annual Homelessness Assessment Report, Arizona has two out of the top 25 cities for largest homeless populations in the country. California has eight, with Los Angeles holding the number-one spot for the most homeless in the nation.
Tucson was listed as having the 25th-largest homeless population, with just over 2,200 homeless individuals reflecting a 68 percent increase from 2020 to last year. Phoenix had the seventh-largest homeless population of just over 9,000, with a 22 percent increase from 2020 to last year.
On the water crisis, Hobbs said that cotton and alfalfa growers should expect “difficult conversations” around the future of their business.
“If you’re a farmer that grows alfalfa, do you want to be told you can’t keep growing that? No,” said Hobbs.
Garrett pointed out that 60 percent of farmers today are Native American, and that they had thousands of years of their ancestral history rooted in agriculture. Hobbs said she wasn’t aware of that fact. However, the governor said that the Native American communities could adjust.
“I think that our Native American communities are some of the most adaptable anywhere, and I think they could shift their agriculture if they needed to,” said Hobbs.
Abe Hamadeh argued for a new trial on Tuesday before the Mohave County Superior Court.
The judge, Lee Jantzen, seemed interested in sampling the evidence presented by Hamadeh’s team in the case, Boyd v. Mayes, despite multiple objections from opposition. Arguments presented by the opposition — the attorney general, secretary of state, and Maricopa and Pima counties — mainly focused on the amount of time that’s transpired since the election and Hamadeh’s December trial. Arguments presented by Hamadeh’s team focused on evidence of allegedly disenfranchised voters, claiming that hundreds of “lost” (uncounted) votes from undervotes and provisional ballots proved that Hamadeh won the race.
Lawyers present for the oral arguments included former assistant attorney general Jen Wright, State Rep. Alex Kolodin (R-LD03), and James Sabalos for Hamadeh; Alexis Danneman and Paul Eckstein for Attorney General Kris Mayes; Craig Morgan for Secretary of State Adrian Fontes; Daniel Jurkowitz for Pima County; and Joseph La Rue for Maricopa County.
Sabalos opened up the oral arguments, quoting Thomas Jefferson and summarizing general discoveries in the course of their months-long review of voter data as a precursor to Wright’s arguments.
“We do not have a government by the majority; we have a government by the majority who vote,” quoted Sabalos.
Sabalos insisted their case wasn’t about fraud, but about the evidence and facts supporting the reality of Hamadeh as the winner of last November’s election contest. He claimed that Gov. Katie Hobbs, in her former capacity as secretary of state, was aware of and neglected to immediately publicize 63 Pinal County undervotes that lent to Hamadeh’s claims last December of lost votes.
Sabalos said this intentional concealment of facts served to handicap their team’s due diligence of reviewing election data for the courts. Sabalos further claimed that there were 76,339 votes counted as undervotes in the attorney general’s contest. Of the approximately 2,000 ballots they inspected, 14 were misread (.61 percent). With that percentage applied to the larger total of undervotes statewide, Sabalos said that amounted to 466 or more votes — more than the 288-vote lead Mayes holds over Hamadeh.
Sabalos then claimed that there were uncounted provisional ballots that constituted legal votes, and that the majority of those would’ve turned in favor of Hamadeh.
“We don’t come today with hyperbole or speculation. We come with some reasonably solid evidence, and we need a heck of a lot more for this judge and this court to get its hands around,” said Sabalos.
Wright followed up Sabalos’ arguments by first focusing on Hobbs. She said that Hobbs didn’t fulfill her duty of being a neutral, nominal party, since Hobbs argued heavily that Hamadeh had no evidence to support his claims, while allegedly knowing of the dozens of undervotes recovered during the recount, and pushed for his case to be dismissed. Wright further noted that Maricopa County Elections Director Scott Jarrett admitted during the December trial that he wasn’t sure why certain votes weren’t counted, and instead counted as undervotes.
Wright expanded on Sabalos’ claim of the 63 undervotes, noting that they were counted as valid during the recount. Wright asserted that Hobbs knew of this fact, which she said rendered Hamadeh’s claims during the December trial valid. Wright also dismissed Hobbs’ claim that she was under an order preventing her from disclosing the undervotes, since the order only applied to counties discussing the recount results from vote totals. Wright claimed that the judge would’ve permitted Hamadeh a review of the evidence had Hobbs been forthright all those months ago.
“I find it questionable that a government agent would take support of or opposition to a candidate in an election contest,” said Wright.
Wright further noted that Hamadeh was unable to obtain the provisional ballot data from Maricopa County until days after the trial occurred, further hindering his ability to meet statutory deadlines.
When Wright attempted to discuss the evidentiary numbers on undervotes, both Mayes and Fontes’ legal teams raised objections. The judge overruled their objections, however.
Wright claimed that their team interviewed hundreds of high-propensity voters affected by statewide computer system changes, which allegedly altered their registration address without their consent and therefore deprived them of the right to vote. She claimed that over 1,100 Election Day provisional voters were disenfranchised.
Election Day votes went overwhelmingly for Hamadeh: over 69 percent to nearly 29 percent for Mayes. Wright said that this would mean about 760 of provisional ballots would be for Hamadeh, and 316 for Mayes. By Wright’s math, Hamadeh would prevail on the provisional ballot issue alone by 165 votes.
Wright further noted that their team had collected sworn affidavits of hundreds of voters claiming disenfranchisement due to bureaucratic failures. When she attempted to read the account of one allegedly disenfranchised voter, Mayes’ team raised an objection. The judge promptly overruled.
The allegedly disenfranchised Maricopa County voter, Marlena, attempted to vote on Election Day but was denied. Marlena had reportedly experienced issues with the county’s registration system for months: earlier that year, she discovered that her registration had changed without her knowledge and consent. Wright presented evidence that on October 10, 2022, Marlena attempted to correct her voter registration before the deadline. Wright also presented evidence from Maricopa County confirming Marlena’s registration. Yet, she was denied on Election Day.
Danneman, Mayes’ lawyer, said Hamadeh’s claims were speculative and based on unsworn opinions. She emphasized repeatedly the timeliness of his contest, noting that it has been over five months since the December trial and that their team could only present an argument that they needed more time to look for votes.
Danneman further rejected the argument that Hamadeh should be granted a new trial to undertake further investigation. She said that evidence must be material, in existence at the time of trial, and not be discovered with reasonable diligence.
She added that Hamadeh’s request for a more complete ballot inspection proved there wasn’t any newly-discovered evidence warranting a new trial.
The provisional voters list didn’t hold much weight in Danneman’s view. She claimed Hamadeh was undertaking a “fishing expedition” for evidence, which she pointed out was prohibited by court precedent.
“This list of names proves nothing,” said Danneman. “The plaintiffs had their day in court.”
Morgan, with Fontes, added that it was “long past time” for this election contest to end. He said that Hamadeh’s challenge impugns the validity of election processes as well as the integrity of election officials.
La Rue with Maricopa County concurred. Jurkowitz with Pima County argued further that statute time bars any further contest.
Following the hearing, Hamadeh expressed optimism that the oral arguments ultimately were in his favor.
The judge promised to issue a ruling within the next couple of weeks.