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The 2012 Stories From The Border

Gov. Mitt Romney in a Spanish-language television ad that aired during the 2012 presidential election.
Gov. Mitt Romney in a Spanish-language television ad that aired during the 2012 presidential election.

As 2012 comes to a close, we take a look back at some of the year's important stories and share some our favorites.

The Historic Latino Vote

The sleeping giant is waking up. The large, young, Latino population made this year's national and state elections historic. As a bloc they voted to reelect President Obama by a 75 percent margin, surpassing a previous record vote for Democrat Bill Clinton, at 72 percent.

Latino Decisions called Latino voters in battleground states like Colorado (87 percent in favor of Obama) and Nevada part of the Western firewall that helped protect the president’s lead.

Credit: Latino Decisions
Latino Decisions
Credit: Latino Decisions

But they also under performed. The Pew Research Center noted "the nation’s 53 million Hispanics comprise 17% of the total U.S. population but just 10% of all voters this year."

The biggest reason more than 40 million Latinos in the United States did not vote was due to age: 17.6 million Latinos, are still under 18.

By 2060, one out of three U.S. residents is likely to be Hispanic.

Here's a revealing statistic: The largest age group for whites is between 50 to 54 years old. For Latinos it's children under the age of five.

One of the next big conversations in the coming new year is going to be immigration reform. And in the coming years, the former political jumping off point for President W. Bush - the state of Texas - might be the battleground for a Latino blockbuster election, pitting a Castro against a Bush.

But, the state of Texas is symbolic of the shifting political landscape in this country that Latinos may come to define. It leads some to question not if but when will Texas turn blue?


Where Does The Ubiquitous Tijuana Plaster Piggy Bank Come From?

Plaster Piggy Banks Made in Tijuana

Top 5 drone donors to drone caucus members from border states, 2010-2012
Lockheed Martin Corporation$214,500
The Boeing Company$205,000
Northrop Grumman Corporation $149,000
General Atomics Aeronautical Systems$141,150
General Dynamics$137,750

Donations from drone companies to drone caucus members from border states, 2009-2012
Buck McKeon (R-CA)$124,500
Jerry Lewis (R-CA)$108,000
Ken Calvert (R-CA)$106,500
Silvestre Reyes (D-TX)$97,000
Duncan Hunter (R-CA)$96,225
Brian Bilbray (R-CA)$54,500
Kevin McCarthy (R-CA)$52,500
Darrell Issa (R-CA)$45,000
Loretta Sanchez (D-CA)$43,500
Trent Franks (R-AZ)$34,500
Mike Conaway (R-TX)$33,000
Pete Olson (R-TX)$32,500
Henry Cuellar (D-TX)$32,400
Michael McCaul (R-TX)$30,500
David Dreier (R-CA)$16,000
Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA)$16,000
Gene Green (D-TX)$8,000
Blake Farenthold (R-TX)$4,000
Elton Gallegly (R-CA)$2,000
Paul Gosar (R-AZ)$1,000
Steve Pearce (R-NM)$1,000

Source: Center for Responsive Politics, Investigative Newsource, Fronteras Desk

Drones Flying Across The Border

The Department of Homeland Security's unmanned aerial vehicle, or drone, program has grown exponentially since its creation just a few years ago. While Congressional allies and the DHS herald the success of border drones, critics have questioned the cost and effectiveness of the program.

The program is operated by the Office of Air and Marine, a division of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and "the fleet has grown to 270 aircrafts, including 10 drones with bases at the U.S-Mexico border in Arizona and here in Corpus Christi, on the Texas Gulf Coast about 150 miles southeast of San Antonio."

The drone caucus — like the technology it promotes — is becoming increasingly important in the nation’s capitol as the government looks to unmanned vehicles to help save money on defense, better patrol the country’s borders and provide a new tool to U.S. law enforcement agencies and civilians.

“It’s definitely a powerful caucus,” said Alex Bronstein-Moffly, an analyst with First Street Research Group, a D.C.-based company that analyzes lobbying data.

“It’s probably up there in the more powerful caucuses that sort of is not talked about.” And, he says, caucus members are well placed to influence government spending and regulations.
It’s hard to find military or national security experts who are not supporters, if not all-out cheerleaders, for the use of high-tech surveillance systems to protect the nation’s borders. But there is a question if they're being used effectively.
The DHS' Office of Inspector General issued a scathing report in May on this issue. It questioned why drones are being put to use for fewer than 4,000 flight hours per year when they could be up in the air for more than 13,000 hours.

Trucks line up for for inspection at the World Trade Bridge in Laredo, Texas. About 5,000 trucks per day travel through this commercial crossing.
Mónica Ortiz Uribe
Trucks line up for for inspection at the World Trade Bridge in Laredo, Texas. About 5,000 trucks per day travel through this commercial crossing.

The Border After 20 Years of NAFTA

The North American Free Trade Association treaty was signed in San Antonio 20 years ago. Since the treaty, trade between the US and Mexico has quintupled. Everyday, more than a billion dollars worth of goods moves across the border between Mexico and the United States. Today, some six million American jobs depend in some way on trade with NAFTA.

However with 9/11 and outdated infrastructure, wait times can bottleneck traffic at the border. On bad days, some wait for over five hours to cross their goods.

“Customs and Border Protection has identified a $6 billion deficit between where we are now and where we need to be to keep up with all the people and goods that are flowing across the border everyday”

While some border towns like El Paso have boomed with NAFTA, some states like Arizona are just now seeking to tap into treaty's potential.

How Mezcal Is Reuniting Mexican Families

Distilled mezcal is filtered into a storage drum.
Lorne Matalon
Distilled mezcal is filtered into a storage drum.

A story about where mezcal’s made, how it’s made, and how an unexpected thirst for mezcal in the United States is bringing some people home to Mexico.

DACA, Dreamers and A New American Generation

President Obama announced Deferred Action For Early Childhood Arrivals this year.

Under the policy, undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. before they were 16, who have lived here for five consecutive years, and are under 30 years old won’t be deported and will be eligible for a two-year work permit. They must be either high school students or graduates, hold a G.E.D., or have served in the military. If they’ve committed a felony, major misdemeanor, or multiple misdemeanors, they won't qualify and would still face deportation.

The policy has a long reach, affecting a potential 1.26 million young immigrants. Since August there have been over 360 thousand requests for applications, with an average of 4,433 requests a day.

The Best Quesadilla Of 2012

Our reporter Monica Ortiz Uribe recently spent the night in Chilapa, Guerrero Mexico. The tiny town won our first ever Quesadilla Of The Year Award. Monica said about the winning Quesadilla, "I Never knew flowers could taste soooo good. Flor de calabaza: google it."

Making Quesadillas in Chilapa, Guerrero, Mexico