Thursday, December 23, 2010

Going to the Sun Bowl in El Paso? Customs & Border Protection has ‘travel tips’

On New Year’s Eve, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the Miami Hurricanes will renew a heated rivalry for the first time in 20 years. In the Ft. Wayne, Indiana Journal Gazette, Fighting Irish beat writer Tony Krausz has a few travel tips for fans visiting El Paso, the site of the game, courtesy of the Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection.

EL PASO, Texas – The city of El Paso is expecting to host a large number of college football fans from around the country who will be in town to attend the annual Sun Bowl football game December 31. Historically some college football fans visit neighboring Juarez, Mexico during their time in El Paso. U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is reminding the visiting Notre Dame Fighting Irish and Miami Hurricanes fan base that there are a number of border crossing requirements they need to be aware before venturing across the international boundary.

U.S. citizens returning at an international land border crossing like El Paso must present a U.S. passport, U.S. passport card, or other Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) compliant document to enter the United States. For more information on the U.S. passport card or other WHTI compliant documents, travelers should visit:

h/t Jay Christiansen

CBP doesn’t offer this advice, but I sure will:  Stay the hell out of Cuidad Juarez, or make sure you travel in a heavily armored SUV convoy with trained paramilitary bodyguards. Juarez has become one of the central battlegrounds in the bloody war between two rival drug cartels. The body count since the bloodshed began in 2007 is staggering:  1,600 dead in 2008; 2,600 in 2009 and this year the 3,000 mark was passed. That brings the death toll in Juarez to a total of 7,200 people.

By way of reference, that number is more than twice the worst estimates of total US troops killed in combat for the entire Iraq War since the March 19, 2003 invasion.

From the El Paso Times:

U.S. anti-narcotics officials said the cartel war began after the collapse of an alliance between the drug-trafficking organizations of Sinaloa kingpin Joaquin "Chapo" Guzmán Loera and the Juárez cartel led by Vicente Carrillo Fuentes. Both kingpins remain at large.

Guzmán had made inroads into Chihuahua state, and several Juárez cartel lieutenants switched to his organization. The dispute set off a war that spawned a violent crime wave in Juárez and other parts of the state.

Along with the cartel war, there was a rise in carjackings, auto thefts and extortionists collecting protection quotas from bars, schools, medical offices and other businesses.

On Monday, about 4,000 doctors, nurses and other medical professionals in Juárez went on a 24-hour strike to protest the lack of security. The strike was spurred by the slaying of José Alberto Betancourt, an orthopedic surgeon kidnapped on Dec. 2 and found dead two days later.

"Drug violence also appears to be affecting people more broadly and more publicly than in the past," stated a midyear report on drug violence in Mexico by the Trans-Border Institute at the University of San Diego.

"While the government estimates that 90 percent of drug violence impacts individuals involved in organized crime, in 2010 there has been a worrying tendency to target high-profile victims (including politicians and public officials), drug rehabilitation centers, and private parties. In this sense, Mexico's drug-related violence is becoming a much wider societal phenomenon that engages wider sectors of the society."

Here’s another story about football, and how three brave men are trying to help bring order to a city more dangerous than Baghdad.