Spill in Mexico sending millions of gallons of sewage into coastal waters off California

The recent break of a sewage pipe across the border in Mexico is allowing millions of gallons of sewage to flow into the Tijuana River — and, eventually, the Pacific Ocean — impacting coastal areas in California. The International Boundary and Water Commission notified local officials on Monday that a pipe had broken on Dec. … Continue reading “Spill in Mexico sending millions of gallons of sewage into coastal waters off California”

The recent break of a sewage pipe across the border in Mexico is allowing millions of gallons of sewage to flow into the Tijuana River — and, eventually, the Pacific Ocean — impacting coastal areas in California.

The International Boundary and Water Commission notified local officials on Monday that a pipe had broken on Dec. 7 and has since been sending between 6 to 7 million gallons of sewage per day into the river area, according to Imperial Beach Mayor Serge Dedina.

"It's absolutely outrageous and unacceptable," he told reporters at a press conference. "The biggest issue that we're concerned about is this happens again and again and then the Mexican government doesn't notify anybody. They sort of cover it up and they notify us at the last minute and then our kids are at risk of swimming in sewage."

There have been over 330 sewage spills into the Tijuana River Valley in the past three years, according to officials. (FOX5)

Dedina said that there have been over 330 spills into the river valley in the past three years. Pollution forced the closure of beaches in parts of Imperial Beach on more than 160 days the past two years.

A broken sewage pipe has been sending 6 to 7 million gallons of raw sewage per day into the Tijuana River. (FOX5)

"Not only does it impact Imperial Beach and Coronado, but all the residents of South San Diego are impacted by the smell," he said.

The latest spill has closed 12 miles of beach from the U.S.-Mexico border northward to Coronado, FOX5 San Diego reported.

CALIFORNIA MAYOR AMONG HANDFUL OF SURFERS SICKENED BY LATEST SEWAGE SPILL FROM MEXICO

Last year, the mayor was one of several surfers who became sick after surfing in the polluted waters off Imperial Beach due to ongoing sewage spills.

Sewage from Mexico closes California beaches near border

The San Diego County Department of Environmental Health officials posted beach closure notices after contaminated water flowed in to U.S. waters from the Tijuana River in Mexico.

In March, the city joined nearby Chula Vista and the Unified Port District of San Diego in a lawsuit against the IBWC for being in violation of the Clean Water Act.

The federal lawsuit contends that federal inaction has led to tens of millions of gallons of "almost continuous" sewage, and seeks to force federal officials to upgrade systems to divert polluted flows.

US 'DOESN'T GIVE A CRAP' ABOUT MEXICO SEWAGE SPILLS SICKENING CALIF. BEACHGOERS, CRITICS SAY

Officials on the other side of the border pledged to spend $4.3 million to clean the river channel earlier this year and renovate pumping systems, but no major progress has been seen.

The river valley area is still littered with trash such as car tires, car seats, and other debris — including an entire car.

The Tijuana River Valley is littered with various debris, including this car. (FOX5)

If this latest spill continues, it could be the largest since February 2017 when a pipe burst and flooded the river with at least 28 million gallons of raw sewage, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Travis Fedschun is a reporter for FoxNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @travfed

Migrant group demand Trump either let them in or pay them each $50G to turn around: report

Two groups of Central American migrants marched to the U.S. Consulate in Tijuana on Tuesday with a list of demands, with one group delivering an ultimatum to the Trump administration: either let them in the U.S. or pay them $50,000 each to go home, a report said.

Among other demands were that deportations be halted and that asylum seekers be processed faster and in greater numbers, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported.

The first group of caravan members, that included about 100 migrants, arrived at the consulate around 11 a.m. Alfonso Guerreo Ulloa, an organizer from Honduras, said the $50,000 figure was chosen as a group.

“It may seem like a lot of money to you,” Ulloa told the paper. “But it is a small sum compared to everything the United States has stolen from Honduras.”

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He said the money would allow the migrants to return home and start a small business.

A letter from the group criticized U.S. intervention in Central America and asked the U.S. to remove Honduran President Orlando Hernandez from office. They gave the consulate 72 hours to respond.

A letter from the second group of about 50 migrants arrived at the consulate around 1:20 p.m. asking the U.S. to speed up the asylum process and to admit up to 300 asylum seekers each day at the San Ysidro Port of Entry in San Diego. Currently, around 40 to 100 are admitted.

EIGHT-MONTH-OLD BOY PUSHED UNDER HOLE IN BORDER WALL

“In the meantime, families, women and children who have fled our countries continue to suffer and the civil society of Tijuana continue to be forced to confront this humanitarian crisis, a refugee crisis caused in great part by decades of U.S. intervention in Central America,” the letter states.

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Of the roughly 6,000 migrants who’ve traveled from Central America to Tijuana, around 700 have returned home, 300 have been deported and 2,500 have applied for humanitarian visas in Mexico, according to Xochtil Castillo, a caravan member who met with Mexican officials Tuesday.

MIGRANT CARAVAN SHELTER SHUT DOWN OVER 'BAD SANITARY CONDITIONS' AS HUNDREDS MOVE TO NEW FACILITY

Others have either crossed into the U.S. illegally, moved to other parts of Mexico or have fallen through the cracks, the Union-Tribune said.

“A lot of people are leaving because there is no solution here,” said Douglas Matute, 38, of Tijuana. “We thought they would let us in. But Trump sent the military instead of social workers.”

Migrants put US asylum plans on hold as they seek temp jobs in Tijuana

SAN DIEGO – Thousands of asylum-seeking migrants from Central America are starting to pick up day jobs in Mexico as they wait for their shot at legal entry into the United States.

Even though America is the ultimate goal, migrants including 20-year-old Josue Pineda understand it can take up to several months to get the asylum process rolling.

“Most of these people are still dreaming of America, but if there’s a chance to get a job here, there’s no way I’m not going to take it,” the Honduran migrant told NPR recently.

Pineda and hundreds of other migrants spend their mornings looking for work.

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Most days they won’t know where they’re going or when they’ll be back. In a majority of cases, they’re just happy to leave the stifling conditions of the overcrowded, grimy shelters at the border. And, they get to pick up some cash to make their lives easier while waiting for asylum.

“Here you make a little money,” said Nelson Davis Landaverde, a 21-year-old Honduran man who was out looking for food for his 1 ½-year-old son when someone asked him if he wanted to work at a car wash. He didn’t hesitate and took it. He could earn 75 cents per car – so if he washes 10 cars a day, he’ll make more than Mexico’s minimum wage which is around $4.35 per day.

Since thousands of Central Americans marched into Mexico a few months ago, setting up temporary housing has become a problem. Officials recently closed the shelter near the border and relocated many of the migrants to another location deeper inland. Hundreds, though, refused to leave and have set up makeshift camps and tents. They've said it’s easier to find jobs nearby if they stay put.

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Migrants looking for longer-term jobs have gathered at a downtown location to begin paperwork for temporary visas in Mexico allowing them to work legally. Once they get their Mexican identification numbers, they can meet with recruiters for spots at assembly plants, where turnover is high and jobs are up for grabs.

In November, the Baja California state government even launched a month-long job fair, mostly for manufacturing positions along the border.

Francisco Iribe Paniagua, the state's labor secretary, told the Arizona Republic the idea for the job fair came after Haitian migrants swarmed the Tijuana area two years ago. When officials tried out a job fair program, many ended up staying and becoming productive residents in the city.

EIGHT-MONTH-OLD BOY PUSHED UNDER HOLE IN BORDER WALL

"They had also come with the purpose (of seeking asylum in the U.S.), but the reality on the ground forced many of them to stay in Baja California," he told the newspaper. "This time around we're acting more quickly, taking advantage of that experience."

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Attendance at a job fair set up to help the migrants find work has surged since a Nov. 25 march on the U.S. border devolved into chaos as some migrants rushed toward the border and U.S. agents responded by firing tear gas into Mexico. Before the march, only about 100 migrants were showing up each day, a number that has grown to 400 or more since.

HONDURAN WOMAN, 19, IN MIGRANT CARAVAN SCALES WALL TO GIVE BIRTH IN U.S.

U.S. officials announced Monday they will start withdrawing many of the active-duty troops that President Trump ordered to the U.S.-Mexico border in response to the caravan. About 2,200 of the active duty troops will be out before the holidays. The move by the Trump administration to beef up the military just before the midterm election was viewed by some as a political stunt and a waste of military resources.

Col. Rob Manning said there are currently 2,200 active-duty troops in Texas; 1,350 in Arizona; and 1,650 in California.

“Some units have completed their mission and they have already started to partially redeploy. Other units have been identified to rotate home and will be returning home over the next several weeks,” Manning said.

Fox News’ Travis Fedschun and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

You can find Barnini Chakraborty on Twitter @Barnini.

2 migrant children dropped over border wall by suspected smuggler, CPB video shows

Two small migrant children appeared to be dropped from the Mexico side of the border into the Arizona side by a suspected smuggler, according to surveillance footage provided by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) on Monday.

The children were dropped from the 18-foot wall near the San Luis Port of Entry, according to CBP release. One child suffered a facial injury.

At least one person in Mexico was seen helping adult members of the family group over the top of the wall, and then dropping the children to the waiting family members below, according to the release. The six family members were from Guatemala, including three children ages 2, 7 and 10, the release said. The ages of the two children who were dropped were unclear. All six were taken into custody.

The suspect who helped the children over the border wall to the group did not cross into the U.S., CPB said, according to Yuma's KYMA-TV.

That section of the wall where the incident took place is part of the 27 miles that has been selected for replacement in 2019, the station reported, citing the CPB.

Amy Lieu is a news editor and reporter for Fox News.

Grenade attack at US Consulate in Mexico may have been cartel hit

Law enforcement authorities from both the United States and Mexico are investigating a grenade explosion targeting the U.S. Consulate in Guadalajara, Mexico, on Friday evening.

It is believed two grenades were thrown, with one exploding on consular grounds around 7.30 Friday evening.

In a statement released Saturday, consular officials said they “were aware of a security incident that took place at the U.S. Consulate General” on Friday evening.

“The consulate was closed at the time and there were no injuries,” the statement continued. “U.S. and Mexican authorities are investigating. We will provide further information (including about consular operations) as it becomes available.”

While the investigation continues and there have been no culprits yet identified, the attack comes just a week after several videos were posted online showcasing an interrogation of a cartel “sicario”– otherwise known as a hitman — allegedly working for the dominant cartel in the area, Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG). He claimed he had orders to attack U.S. embassies or consulates from its leader, Rubén Oseguera González, also known as "El Mencho.”

Derek Maltz, former special agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration Special Operations Division, told Fox News that there was some “unconfirmed information” circulating last week that El Mencho or members of the CJNG had threatened to bomb the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in Mexico.

According to one Mexico-based law enforcement source, municipal police claimed Friday that there was a “false alarm” the previous day, and they found firecrackers.

“Sounds like a test run,” added the source, who was not authorized to speak in the record.

Maltz cautioned that Friday’s attack may have been carried out by a rival cartel as a means of further defaming the CJNG.

Nonetheless, El Mencho, as the leader of an up-and-coming cartel, is among the most wanted men in Mexico.

“CJNG is responsible for sending numerous tons of cocaine, methamphetamine and fentanyl/heroin into the United States,” Maltz said. “Like the Sinaloa Cartel which was headed by Chapo Guzman, the CJNG operates around the world  and has expanded operations beyond the U.S. to Europe, Australia and Asia.”

Mencho has been designated a kingpin under the U.S.Treasury Department designation and is a top fugitive. There is a $10 million dollar reward.

“The latest information is that the CJNG is extremely violent and also concerned they have lost money on the human smuggling business in Mexico recently due to the caravans,” Maltz added. “When the migrants are moving in larger caravans being protected by government officials the cartels are losing money, which is causing some anxiety over lost revenue.”

Hollie McKay has a been a Fox News Digital staff reporter since 2007. She has extensively reported from war zones including Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Burma and investigates global conflicts, war crimes and terrorism around the world. Follow her on twitter and Instagram @holliesmckay

Chapo may be on trial, but his Sinaloa cartel still doing huge U.S. business

As Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman stands trial in a New York federal courthouse, facing life behind bars, the massive drug empire he allegedly ran for decades continues to claim lives and pad the pockets of a multibillion dollar operation with tentacles across every region of the United States.

The Drug Enforcement Administration's (DEA) 2018 National Drug Threat Assessment, released earlier this month specifically named Guzman’s Sinaloa cartel as one of the “Mexican transnational criminal organizations” that represent “the greatest criminal drug threat in the United States,” responsible for a wide range of crimes including murder, kidnapping and human smuggling in addition to traditional drug trafficking activiites.

The report said the influence of cartels continue to grow in U.S., and that the Sinaloa in particular – characterized as one of the oldest and most established – maintains distribution hubs in cities that include Phoenix, Los Angeles, Denver, and Chicago. Illicit drugs distributed by the Sinaloa cartel are “primarily smuggled into the United States through crossing points located along Mexico’s border with California, Arizona, New Mexico, and West Texas,” the report said.

And while the profits continue to flow to Sinaloa and other cartels, the bodies continue to pile up. The DEA asserts that in 2016, approximately 174 people died every day from drug poisoning. And in 2017, synthetic opioids like fentanyl were involved in nearly 30,000 deaths – outnumbering those caused by firearms, motor vehicle accidents, suicide, and homicide.

“Mexican cartels continue to make large quantities of cheap methamphetamine and deliver it to the United States through the Southern border,” the report said. “Seizures at the border increased from 8,900 pounds in 2010 to nearly 82,000 pounds thus far in 2018.”

U.S. Attorney Robert Capers, right, speaks during a news conference, announcing charges for Mexican drug kingpin Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman as the murderous architect of a three-decade-long web of violence, corruption and drug trafficking in Jan., 2017. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan) (The Associated Press)

And the Sinaloa is alleged to be operating in every region of the U.S., with its distribution network supplying the overwhelming majority of the cocaine, heroin, marijuana and methamphetamine flooding the black markets. The four reigning hotspots for running the networks, analysts told Fox News, are in Chicago, Los Angeles, Atlanta, and Miami.

“Sinaloa and other cartels often employ smugglers or force unpaid, unwitting parties to march many miles, under challenging conditions and harsh terrain, to smuggle sacks of marijuana – sometimes weighing as much as 100 pounds – into southern U.S. cities, while utilizing other smuggling organizations to move hard narcotics,” said Joshua Fruth, a former military intelligence officer and consultant on transnational threat networks.

Fruth said Sinaloa “uses vehicles traveling along major routes through Tijuana, Nogales, and other areas, ranging from passenger vehicles with women and children as occupants, disguised vehicles, and semi-trucks falsely moving narcotics under the premise of legitimate commercial business.”

But the smuggling methods vary, and the cartel often relies on high-level corruption to penetrate the U.S. Such methods include the use of subterranean tunnels, commercial cargo trains and passenger buses, maritime vessels, backpackers or mules on covert land trails, as well as aerial methods including ultralight aircraft and unmanned aerial systems and drones to conduct air drops and monitor U.S law enforcement along the southwest border.

A common means of getting large drug shipments into the U.S., according to Derek Maltz, former Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration Special Operations Division in New York, is by using legitimate trucking companies to unwittingly move the product.

“The cartels will hide the cocaine in the produce shipments in very sophisticated ways,” he said. “The tractor trailers will then deliver the large shipment of both legitimate goods and contraband to warehouses where the cocaine is then separated and picked up by the local Sinaloa cartel cell representative.”

And creativity is key. New York federal prosecutors unveiled footage in the trial last week showing how the accused kingpin at one point made arrangements to run contraband narcotics stuffed into jalapenos, via a tunnel, into California. And just 50 feet from an official border crossing.

“There are thousands of smuggling methods to export drugs across the border. Drugs can be hidden in toys and food; concealed inside fuel tanks; hidden in mechanical traps; inserted in bodies, or dissolved in water,” noted James Jeffrey Higgins, a retired Supervisory Special Agent with the DEA and author of “The Narco-Terrorist.” “Drugs are too small and the border is too large to catch much of it. Groups like the Sinaloa Cartel transport the drugs using a higher number of smaller-sized shipments to minimize loss if a shipment is intercepted by law enforcement.”

In this photo provided U.S. law enforcement, authorities escort Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, center, from a plane to a waiting caravan of SUVs at Long Island MacArthur Airport on Thursday, Jan. 19, 2017, in Ronkonkoma, N.Y. (The Associated Press)

The drugs are then dispersed to every region of the country, through well-established distribution hubs, and smaller cells.

“The product most often enters the U.S. through the Tijuana, Tucson, and El Paso areas, and is most often transferred to the western transshipment hub, Los Angeles, or the eastern transshipment hub of Chicago, where it’s broken down into smaller loads for regionalized shipping,” said Fruth, who has also served as a law enforcement officer. “Cities like Atlanta, Minneapolis, and Oklahoma City may be used as intermittent trans-shipment points. L.A. serves as the hub for product movement into Canada, landing in Vancouver, B.C.”

The affiliates within the U.S., the DEA report said, are an array of compartmentalized cells assigned with specific functions, such as drug distribution or transportation, consolidation of drug proceeds, or money laundering.

“Operatives typically embed themselves in demographically homogeneous Hispanic population centers. Generally, like most of the cartels, Sinaloa operatives, who may or may not have U.S. citizenship due to Sinaloa’s ‘federation’ of international allied criminal organizations, tends to lay low to evade detection,” said Fruth. “Typically, at operational/logistical phases across the U.S. border, Sinaloa operatives’ roles range from logistical support to money laundering cells.”

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Sinaloa is also said to diversify its money laundering tactics to “legitimize” and relocate its ill-gotten funds back to Mexico. Such tactics include “limited bulk cash smuggling through vehicles and coyotes. But the majority of funds are tied to trade-based money laundering schemes that make extensive use of layered front, shell, and shelf companies.”

“These companies, which may include Mexican restaurants, convenience stores, gas stations, import/export firms, construction, farming, automotive repair, nightclubs, and others, provide means to justify cash-intensive deposit activity through U.S. banks,” Fruth continued. “Front companies will often be tied to ‘straw men,’ also known as ‘smurfs’ who act as money laundering intermediaries used to provide layers of separation that anonymize the connections to Sinaloa leadership. “

He also pointed out Sinaloa is becoming more tech-savvy, exploiting cryptocurrency ‘privacy coins,’ which are exchanged with Bitcoin to remove the need for bulk cash smuggling and provide increased anonymity that makes audit traceability by investigators more challenging.

But it's not cartel members themselves who peddle drugs in the U.S. That's generally handed off to street gangs.

“Sinaloa makes extensive use of its relationships with American street gangs, like the 5/6 Point Gangs of Chicago, known as Gangster Disciples, or Folk Nation,” Fruth said. “Inclusion of other gangs to facilitate narcotics trafficking after the transshipment points have only increased after the arrest of El Chapo, due to power-struggles, in-fighting, and mistrust among Sinaloa’s leadership echelon.”

Once the local cell distributes the cocaine and collects the proceeds from their shipments, Maltz said, they will turn the money over – which would in many cases goes right back into the same tractor-trailer compartments back to Mexico.

While the DEA’s Threat Assessment points out Mexican cartel members inside the U.S. “strive to maintain low visibility and generally refrain from inter-cartel violence so as to avoid law enforcement detection and scrutiny,” some experts say that's changing.

“Sinaloa’s egregious acts of violence, drug trafficking tactics, and money laundering approaches are starting to become more prevalent in U.S. based, Sinaloa-allied street gangs, with increased reporting of torture, kidnapping, assassination, and other heinous acts intended to instill fear in rivals, demand loyalty from subordinates, and maintain territorial control,” Fruth observed.

As of 2015, Mexican outfits were able to expand into gaining larger shares of eastern U.S. heroin markets, entering into the lucrative “white power” heroin market historically dominated by Southeast and Southwest Asia.

Jan. 28, 2014: Coast Guard officer William Pless communicates on the radio  during a patrol off the San Diego coast. With the drug war targeting land routes across Latin America and the U.S. border, smugglers have been increasingly using large vessels to carry multi-ton loads of cocaine and marijuana hundreds of miles offshore. (AP)

The DEA found heroin-related drug-poisoning deaths are at their highest-ever recorded level, and almost doubled between 2013 and 2016. They also said the heroin available in U.S. markets is “primarily sourced from Mexico, where opium poppy cultivation and heroin production have both increased significantly in recent years.”

Sinaloa, one of at least eight Mexican cartels operating in the United States, still has by far the broadest reach, experts said. Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada-Garcia, a former top Sinaloa honcho who has been extradited to the U.S and testified against his former associate, Guzman, told the court last week that $9 million upfront on a 15-ton shipment of cocaine generally makes $39 million if purchased in Los Angeles, and upwards of $78 million when venturing as far as New York.

The U.S. has charged Guzmán with making more than $14 billion during his 28-year reign as one of the world’s most wanted men. His high-priced defense team argues he was nothing more than a middle-man in the operation.

Hollie McKay has a been a Fox News Digital staff reporter since 2007. She has extensively reported from war zones including Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Burma and investigates global conflicts, war crimes and terrorism around the world. Follow her on twitter and Instagram @holliesmckay

Has Bible-carrying El Chapo really found God? Skeptics aren’t buying it

Accused Sinaloa Cartel drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman is apparently playing the God card and is exercising his Catholic faith during his trial - though not everyone is buying it.

According to an official source connected to the case, the drug kingpin has perhaps conveniently “found Jesus” in the almost two years since he was extradited from Mexico to the United States.

The source said Chapo requested a Spanish-language Bible when he was brought to the U.S., after informing authorities of his faith and filling out the appropriate legal paperwork with the U.S Marshals. He is said to carry the Bible everywhere – including every time he leaves his cell. And it apparently “sits in his suit pocket during court,” a source said.

“It is small like the size of an iPhone or wallet. It’s like a travel edition,” said the law enforcement source, who was not authorized to speak on the record. “I don’t think he’s reading any of it. He carries it like it’s a symbolic peacemaker. I haven’t seen him pray at all.”

Beyond his Bible, Guzman’s only reading material is in the form of legal paperwork. He is allowed absolutely no computer access, and up until the trial which began earlier this month, spend around 23 hours a day in solitary confinement.

“It seems like Chapo is trying to find religion as he sits in solitary confinement in prison,” said Derek Maltz, former Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Special Operations Division in New York.

Maltz and others have pointed out Guzman and his Sinaloa cartel were not particularly known to be as faith-driven as other rival cartels in Mexico. But in a region that is overwhelmingly Catholic, church-cartels relationships have a somewhat complicated history.

On the one hand, professing faith has been a popular tack with drug runners. A few years before being killed in 2014 shootout, Guzman’s competing drug gang chief – Nazario Moreno Gonzalez, who first headed the La Familia drug syndicate before leading the Knights Templar Cartel – self-published his own 104-page booklet “Thoughts.”

The faith-driven publication, brimming with crosses and images of Jesus, offered impassioned passage of “Christian living” advice – which included love and respect for others Cartel underlings were reportedly made to take up Bible study and pray the rosary – even if the next orders were to slaughter civilians or manufacture methamphetamine for the black market.

And while there is no evidence the Vatican in any way condoned or enabled suspicious dealings with the cartels, critics have accused the Catholic Church of speaking out harshly against the cartels in public, while quietly accepting “narco alms” – otherwise characterized as dirty money allegedly donated by cartel leaders to finance a variety of reconstruction and charity projects.

In 2009, a church in a poor neighborhood of the Mexican city of Pachuca unveiled a 65-foot-high metal cross. While celebrated by some, an accompanying plaque expressed gratitude to the since-killed top brass of the Zetas Cartel, Heriberto “The Executioner” Lazcano, as the sole benefactor for the project.

A tomb that was allegedly built by Heriberto Lazcano Lazcano, leader of the Zetas, stands at a cemetery in the neighborhood of Tezontle in Pachuca, Mexico, Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2012. The tomb is a small scale copy of a church in Tezontle, which at one point had a plaque naming Lazcano as the donor. (AP Photo/Alexandre Meneghini)

One U.S law enforcement official explained that devout cartel leaders have since taken to funneling money to the church through “middlemen” – leaving the church unaware of the real source of the donations.

“Religiosity is often employed in the service of deeper, more unconscious motivations. Some cartel members may speak in the name of religion in an effort to assuage a sense of personal guilt for their criminal actions,” explained New York clinical psychologist, Dr. Norman Fried. “Psychiatric events such as mania or hypomania are often correlated with strong religious statements. The connection to religion is often intense, unwavering and all-consuming. Then the religiosity wanes, and the individual seems less interested in God.”

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But concerns are also growing for the safety of church leaders in the face of intimidation and warnings by those very same cartels.

“Christian leaders are under threat from drug cartels in Mexico. Cartels target those who speak out against the scourge of drugs on their communities, which puts priests and pastors in their bullseye,” said David Curry, President and CEO of Open Doors USA, a Christian watchdog group.

Curry noted the Vatican has indeed recognized the violence of persecution of Christians in Mexico but insisted the Mexican government can still “do more to protect easy targets like churches and priests in communities where the cartels are working and threatening the clergy.”

In an official visit to Mexico in early 2016, Pope Francis – the first to hail from Latin America – encouraged Mexicans to thwart the lure of illicit drugs and cash. Yet despite an initial sense of hope, observers said, standing up to the violence remains very dangerous.

A statue of Pope John Paul II stands outside the Basilica of Guadalupe during heavy rain in Mexico City, Friday, July 5, 2013. (AP Photo/Ivan Pierre Aguirre) (AP2013)

Some religious leaders have been forced to take desperate measures for their survival. Catholic priest Gregorio “Father Goyo” Lopez has taken to wearing a bulletproof vest from his pulpit in the southwestern state of Michoacán, after repeated death threats.

“I saw how they were killing my friends, my brothers, my sheep, as the pastor I have an obligation for speaking out,” Lopez told TIME. “If a dog bites your children, and you do nothing, then you are worse than the dog.”

Last year, reports surfaced that Mexican cartels had taken up forcibly “taxing” churches in their areas. While the practice was deemed to be “very common,” most cases are believed to go unreported.

Jan. 16, 2014 – Apatzingan, MICHOACAN, MEX – Father Gregorio Lopez Geronimo models the bulletproof vest that he now uses when he celebrates Mass at the Cathedral in Apatzingan, a small city in Mexico’s Michoacan state, Jan. 16, 2014. (Credit Image: © Tim Johnson/TNS/ZUMAPRESS.com)

More than 30 church leaders have been slain in Mexico in the past decade, as documented by the Centro Catolico Multimedial – directly or indirectly caught in the crossfire. In 1993, the Church’s top official, Cardinal Juan Posadas Ocampo, was shot dead at the airport in Guadalajara, Mexico.

“The Roman Catholic Church has expressed concern that violence and corruption have diminished the number of parishioners in the past decades, although Mexican drug cartels have also been increasing their donations to various Mexican Catholic dioceses,” explained J.T. Patten, a former government intelligence operative. “In hearts and minds campaigns for the power to rule people, it is less about religion and more about who can control the message to the masses.”

Pope Francis receives a cross made by an inmate at the CeReSo n. 3 prison in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2016. The pontiff is wrapping up his trip to Mexico on Wednesday with a visit in the prison, just days after a riot in another lockup killed 49 inmates, and a stop at the Texas border when immigration is a hot issue for the U.S. presidential campaign. (Gabriel Bouys/Pool photo via AP)

As for Chapo, he "always saw himself as some kind of Robin Hood,” observed one Mexican law enforcement source. “It is part of the branding.”

That might explain the presence of a six-inch figurine of Mexico's "narco-saint" Jesus Malverde, a popular figure with those in the drug trade, in the conference rooms for Guzman's defense team at the Brooklyn courthouse. The “generous bandit” hailed from Sinaloa in the 19th Century, and was said to have stolen from the rich to give to the poor.

"Most cartel leaders don't believe that what they are doing is wrong. Many can feel like they are just doing what they need to in order to feed their families or make a living; considering themselves ‘family men’,” added Kati Morton, a California-based licensed therapist. “In a way, they compartmentalize their life, and therefore still believe that religion and God are important and necessary. If they ever do feel guilty or like they have done wrong, if they ask God for forgiveness, they can let go of their guilt and be okay.”

The Vatican and Guzman’s lawyers did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In this Jan. 8, 2016 file photo, a handcuffed Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman is made to face the press as he is escorted to a helicopter by Mexican soldiers and marines at a federal hangar in Mexico City. (AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo)

But for many U.S. law enforcement professionals, such proclamations of faith when facing the fate of the judicial system is a tried and true hat trick pulled by everyone from mobsters to gangsters to serial killers to drug lords.

“I wouldn't know what's in anyone's heart – only they and God know that. But I highly doubt that the likes of Chapo and any money they gave to the Church was not achieved by killing a few hundred people and running drugs,” added Craig Caine, retired Inspector United States Marshal's Service, Eastern District of New York and the New York and New Jersey Regional Fugitive Task Force.

“In other words, they are full of sh*t. This is part of the business. That’s it.”

Hollie McKay has a been a Fox News Digital staff reporter since 2007. She has extensively reported from war zones including Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Burma and investigates global conflicts, war crimes and terrorism around the world. Follow her on twitter and Instagram @holliesmckay

Caravan migrants accuse US border agents of ‘repression’ by using tear gas

A group of Central American migrants camped at the U.S.-Mexico border said Tuesday that they were "victims of repression" by American border agents who launched tear gas over the weekend at a crowd that included angry rock-throwers and crying children.

"We were only walking [to the border checkpoint] so that we could be visible, so that they would recognize that we are a large group of people who just want to be heard so that international law can protect us as we migrate and seek to improve our lives," the group, calling itself Central American Exodus for Life, said in an English-language statement.

The showdown at the San Diego-Tijuana border crossing has thrown into sharp relief two competing narratives about the caravan of migrants who've aimed to apply for asylum but have gotten stuck on the Mexico side of the border.

"There are international organizations here that accept as fact that we will not be able to enter the United States and that we should be returned," the migrant statement said, "but many of those of us who are travelling have to continue trying because they will kill us if we return to our countries."

Migrants stuck in Mexico face difficult decision

With hopes of asylum in the U.S. dimming, thousands of Central American migrants stranded in Tijuana must decide whether to stick it out or return home; Jeff Paul reports.

In their statement, the migrants made five requests, including an end to what they called "arbitrary, manipulative and involuntary deportations"; an accelerated process for applying for asylum in the U.S.; a permanent accommodation for migrants wishing to stay in Mexico, to be negotiated by that country's incoming government; the public release of the identities of deported migrants; and "Human Rights accompaniment at all times and during an detention to prevent the violation of migrant human rights."

U.S. officials Tuesday lowered the number of arrests in Sunday's confrontation to 42 from 69. Rodney Scott, chief of the Border Patrol's San Diego sector, said the initial count included some arrests in Mexico by Mexican authorities who reported 39 arrests. Mexico's Interior Ministry said in a statement that it would immediately deport the people arrested on its side of the border and would reinforce security.

On Monday, President Trump defended the use of tear gas by border agents, saying "they were being rushed by some very tough people."

"Here's the bottom line: Nobody is coming into our country unless they come in legally," the president said.

Scott also defended the agents' decisions to fire tear gas into Mexico, saying they were being attacked by "a hail of rocks."

Controversy after border agents clash with caravan migrants

U.S. border agents fire tear gas into Mexico to stop group of migrants from breaching border; reaction and analysis on ‘The Five.’

"That has happened before and, if we are rocked, that would happen again tomorrow," he told reporters.

The city of Tijuana said that as of Monday, 5,851 migrants were at a temporary shelter, 1,074 were women, 1,023 were children and 3,754 were men, including fathers traveling with families, along with single men.

JUSTICE DEPARTMENT TO APPEAL JUDGE'S ORDER BARRING U.S. FROM REFUSING ASYLUM TO ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS

The U.S. military said Monday that about 300 troops who had been deployed in south Texas and Arizona as part of a border security mission have been moved to California for similar work.

The military's role is limited largely to erecting barriers along the border and providing transportation and logistical support to Customs and Border Protection.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan said the administration's concerns about the caravan "were borne out and on full display" Sunday.

McAleenan said hundreds — perhaps more than 1,000 — people attempted to rush vehicle lanes at the San Ysidro crossing. Mexican authorities estimated the crowd at 500. The chaos followed what began as a peaceful march to appeal for the U.S. to speed processing of asylum claims.

PUERTO RICO APPROVES LAWS FOR INSURANCE HOLDERS POST-MARIA

McAleenan said four agents were struck with rocks but were not injured because they were wearing protective gear.

Border Patrol agents launched pepper spray balls in addition to tear gas in what officials said were on-the-spot decisions made by agents. U.S. troops deployed to the border on Trump's orders were not said to have been involved in the operation.

Fox News’ Lee Ross and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Has Bible-carrying El Chapo really found God? Skeptics aren’t buying it

Accused Sinaloa Cartel drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman is apparently playing the God card and is exercising his Catholic faith during his trial - though not everyone is buying it.

According to an official source connected to the case, the drug kingpin has perhaps conveniently “found Jesus” in the almost two years since he was extradited from Mexico to the United States.

The source said Chapo requested a Spanish-language Bible when he was brought to the U.S., after informing authorities of his faith and filling out the appropriate legal paperwork with the U.S Marshals. He is said to carry the Bible everywhere – including every time he leaves his cell. And it apparently “sits in his suit pocket during court,” a source said.

“It is small like the size of an iPhone or wallet. It’s like a travel edition,” said the law enforcement source, who was not authorized to speak on the record. “I don’t think he’s reading any of it. He carries it like it’s a symbolic peacemaker. I haven’t seen him pray at all.”

Beyond his Bible, Guzman’s only reading material is in the form of legal paperwork. He is allowed absolutely no computer access, and up until the trial which began earlier this month, spend around 23 hours a day in solitary confinement.

“It seems like Chapo is trying to find religion as he sits in solitary confinement in prison,” said Derek Maltz, former Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Special Operations Division in New York.

Maltz and others have pointed out Guzman and his Sinaloa cartel were not particularly known to be as faith-driven as other rival cartels in Mexico. But in a region that is overwhelmingly Catholic, church-cartels relationships have a somewhat complicated history.

On the one hand, professing faith has been a popular tack with drug runners. A few years before being killed in 2014 shootout, Guzman’s competing drug gang chief – Nazario Moreno Gonzalez, who first headed the La Familia drug syndicate before leading the Knights Templar Cartel – self-published his own 104-page booklet “Thoughts.”

The faith-driven publication, brimming with crosses and images of Jesus, offered impassioned passage of “Christian living” advice – which included love and respect for others Cartel underlings were reportedly made to take up Bible study and pray the rosary – even if the next orders were to slaughter civilians or manufacture methamphetamine for the black market.

And while there is no evidence the Vatican in any way condoned or enabled suspicious dealings with the cartels, critics have accused the Catholic Church of speaking out harshly against the cartels in public, while quietly accepting “narco alms” – otherwise characterized as dirty money allegedly donated by cartel leaders to finance a variety of reconstruction and charity projects.

In 2009, a church in a poor neighborhood of the Mexican city of Pachuca unveiled a 65-foot-high metal cross. While celebrated by some, an accompanying plaque expressed gratitude to the since-killed top brass of the Zetas Cartel, Heriberto “The Executioner” Lazcano, as the sole benefactor for the project.

A tomb that was allegedly built by Heriberto Lazcano Lazcano, leader of the Zetas, stands at a cemetery in the neighborhood of Tezontle in Pachuca, Mexico, Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2012. The tomb is a small scale copy of a church in Tezontle, which at one point had a plaque naming Lazcano as the donor. (AP Photo/Alexandre Meneghini)

One U.S law enforcement official explained that devout cartel leaders have since taken to funneling money to the church through “middlemen” – leaving the church unaware of the real source of the donations.

“Religiosity is often employed in the service of deeper, more unconscious motivations. Some cartel members may speak in the name of religion in an effort to assuage a sense of personal guilt for their criminal actions,” explained New York clinical psychologist, Dr. Norman Fried. “Psychiatric events such as mania or hypomania are often correlated with strong religious statements. The connection to religion is often intense, unwavering and all-consuming. Then the religiosity wanes, and the individual seems less interested in God.”

CHAPO'S BEAUTY QUEEN WIFE LIVING LAVISHLY – AWAY FROM THE COURTROOM

MANIPULATION, FEAR, SNITCHES, AND A NEW CELL: BEHIND THE SCENES AS EL CHAPO GOES TO TRIAL

But concerns are also growing for the safety of church leaders in the face of intimidation and warnings by those very same cartels.

“Christian leaders are under threat from drug cartels in Mexico. Cartels target those who speak out against the scourge of drugs on their communities, which puts priests and pastors in their bullseye,” said David Curry, President and CEO of Open Doors USA, a Christian watchdog group.

Curry noted the Vatican has indeed recognized the violence of persecution of Christians in Mexico but insisted the Mexican government can still “do more to protect easy targets like churches and priests in communities where the cartels are working and threatening the clergy.”

In an official visit to Mexico in early 2016, Pope Francis – the first to hail from Latin America – encouraged Mexicans to thwart the lure of illicit drugs and cash. Yet despite an initial sense of hope, observers said, standing up to the violence remains very dangerous.

A statue of Pope John Paul II stands outside the Basilica of Guadalupe during heavy rain in Mexico City, Friday, July 5, 2013. (AP Photo/Ivan Pierre Aguirre) (AP2013)

Some religious leaders have been forced to take desperate measures for their survival. Catholic priest Gregorio “Father Goyo” Lopez has taken to wearing a bulletproof vest from his pulpit in the southwestern state of Michoacán, after repeated death threats.

“I saw how they were killing my friends, my brothers, my sheep, as the pastor I have an obligation for speaking out,” Lopez told TIME. “If a dog bites your children, and you do nothing, then you are worse than the dog.”

Last year, reports surfaced that Mexican cartels had taken up forcibly “taxing” churches in their areas. While the practice was deemed to be “very common,” most cases are believed to go unreported.

Jan. 16, 2014 – Apatzingan, MICHOACAN, MEX – Father Gregorio Lopez Geronimo models the bulletproof vest that he now uses when he celebrates Mass at the Cathedral in Apatzingan, a small city in Mexico’s Michoacan state, Jan. 16, 2014. (Credit Image: © Tim Johnson/TNS/ZUMAPRESS.com)

More than 30 church leaders have been slain in Mexico in the past decade, as documented by the Centro Catolico Multimedial – directly or indirectly caught in the crossfire. In 1993, the Church’s top official, Cardinal Juan Posadas Ocampo, was shot dead at the airport in Guadalajara, Mexico.

“The Roman Catholic Church has expressed concern that violence and corruption have diminished the number of parishioners in the past decades, although Mexican drug cartels have also been increasing their donations to various Mexican Catholic dioceses,” explained J.T. Patten, a former government intelligence operative. “In hearts and minds campaigns for the power to rule people, it is less about religion and more about who can control the message to the masses.”

Pope Francis receives a cross made by an inmate at the CeReSo n. 3 prison in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2016. The pontiff is wrapping up his trip to Mexico on Wednesday with a visit in the prison, just days after a riot in another lockup killed 49 inmates, and a stop at the Texas border when immigration is a hot issue for the U.S. presidential campaign. (Gabriel Bouys/Pool photo via AP)

As for Chapo, he "always saw himself as some kind of Robin Hood,” observed one Mexican law enforcement source. “It is part of the branding.”

That might explain the presence of a six-inch figurine of Mexico's "narco-saint" Jesus Malverde, a popular figure with those in the drug trade, in the conference rooms for Guzman's defense team at the Brooklyn courthouse. The “generous bandit” hailed from Sinaloa in the 19th Century, and was said to have stolen from the rich to give to the poor.

"Most cartel leaders don't believe that what they are doing is wrong. Many can feel like they are just doing what they need to in order to feed their families or make a living; considering themselves ‘family men’,” added Kati Morton, a California-based licensed therapist. “In a way, they compartmentalize their life, and therefore still believe that religion and God are important and necessary. If they ever do feel guilty or like they have done wrong, if they ask God for forgiveness, they can let go of their guilt and be okay.”

The Vatican and Guzman’s lawyers did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In this Jan. 8, 2016 file photo, a handcuffed Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman is made to face the press as he is escorted to a helicopter by Mexican soldiers and marines at a federal hangar in Mexico City. (AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo)

But for many U.S. law enforcement professionals, such proclamations of faith when facing the fate of the judicial system is a tried and true hat trick pulled by everyone from mobsters to gangsters to serial killers to drug lords.

“I wouldn't know what's in anyone's heart – only they and God know that. But I highly doubt that the likes of Chapo and any money they gave to the Church was not achieved by killing a few hundred people and running drugs,” added Craig Caine, retired Inspector United States Marshal's Service, Eastern District of New York and the New York and New Jersey Regional Fugitive Task Force.

“In other words, they are full of sh*t. This is part of the business. That’s it.”

Hollie McKay has a been a Fox News Digital staff reporter since 2007. She has extensively reported from war zones including Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Burma and investigates global conflicts, war crimes and terrorism around the world. Follow her on twitter and Instagram @holliesmckay

Caravan migrants accuse US border agents of ‘repression’ by using tear gas

A group of Central American migrants camped at the U.S.-Mexico border said Tuesday that they were "victims of repression" by American border agents who launched tear gas over the weekend at a crowd that included angry rock-throwers and crying children.

"We were only walking [to the border checkpoint] so that we could be visible, so that they would recognize that we are a large group of people who just want to be heard so that international law can protect us as we migrate and seek to improve our lives," the group, calling itself Central American Exodus for Life, said in an English-language statement.

The showdown at the San Diego-Tijuana border crossing has thrown into sharp relief two competing narratives about the caravan of migrants who've aimed to apply for asylum but have gotten stuck on the Mexico side of the border.

"There are international organizations here that accept as fact that we will not be able to enter the United States and that we should be returned," the migrant statement said, "but many of those of us who are travelling have to continue trying because they will kill us if we return to our countries."

Migrants stuck in Mexico face difficult decision

With hopes of asylum in the U.S. dimming, thousands of Central American migrants stranded in Tijuana must decide whether to stick it out or return home; Jeff Paul reports.

In their statement, the migrants made five requests, including an end to what they called "arbitrary, manipulative and involuntary deportations"; an accelerated process for applying for asylum in the U.S.; a permanent accommodation for migrants wishing to stay in Mexico, to be negotiated by that country's incoming government; the public release of the identities of deported migrants; and "Human Rights accompaniment at all times and during an detention to prevent the violation of migrant human rights."

U.S. officials Tuesday lowered the number of arrests in Sunday's confrontation to 42 from 69. Rodney Scott, chief of the Border Patrol's San Diego sector, said the initial count included some arrests in Mexico by Mexican authorities who reported 39 arrests. Mexico's Interior Ministry said in a statement that it would immediately deport the people arrested on its side of the border and would reinforce security.

On Monday, President Trump defended the use of tear gas by border agents, saying "they were being rushed by some very tough people."

"Here's the bottom line: Nobody is coming into our country unless they come in legally," the president said.

Scott also defended the agents' decisions to fire tear gas into Mexico, saying they were being attacked by "a hail of rocks."

Controversy after border agents clash with caravan migrants

U.S. border agents fire tear gas into Mexico to stop group of migrants from breaching border; reaction and analysis on ‘The Five.’

"That has happened before and, if we are rocked, that would happen again tomorrow," he told reporters.

The city of Tijuana said that as of Monday, 5,851 migrants were at a temporary shelter, 1,074 were women, 1,023 were children and 3,754 were men, including fathers traveling with families, along with single men.

JUSTICE DEPARTMENT TO APPEAL JUDGE'S ORDER BARRING U.S. FROM REFUSING ASYLUM TO ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS

The U.S. military said Monday that about 300 troops who had been deployed in south Texas and Arizona as part of a border security mission have been moved to California for similar work.

The military's role is limited largely to erecting barriers along the border and providing transportation and logistical support to Customs and Border Protection.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan said the administration's concerns about the caravan "were borne out and on full display" Sunday.

McAleenan said hundreds — perhaps more than 1,000 — people attempted to rush vehicle lanes at the San Ysidro crossing. Mexican authorities estimated the crowd at 500. The chaos followed what began as a peaceful march to appeal for the U.S. to speed processing of asylum claims.

PUERTO RICO APPROVES LAWS FOR INSURANCE HOLDERS POST-MARIA

McAleenan said four agents were struck with rocks but were not injured because they were wearing protective gear.

Border Patrol agents launched pepper spray balls in addition to tear gas in what officials said were on-the-spot decisions made by agents. U.S. troops deployed to the border on Trump's orders were not said to have been involved in the operation.

Fox News’ Lee Ross and The Associated Press contributed to this report.