Day of the Dead takes on new meaning amid violence in Mexico

TEPOZTLAN, Mexico -- "Dia de los Muertos," the traditional Mexican commemoration of deceased loved ones, has taken on a deeper meaning in light of drug-related violence in recent years.

Drug-related killings have been on the rise since 2006, surpassing 15,000 in 2010, according to a study commissioned by the Trans-Border Institute at the University of San Diego.

"We're living in a barbarian age," said Argelia Barcas Bello, a teacher at Santiago in Tepoztlan, a town built on Tepozteco Mountain near Mexico City. The town receives many visitors who come to see a nearby ancient pyramid.

Barcas and other merchants set up shops, selling items for "ofrendas," altars set up to remember deceased loved ones for the annual Day of the Dead observance.

"We're seeing many more deaths because of the delinquency," Barcas said, adding that those who died accidentally or due to violence are remembered in her town Oct. 28.

Alejandro Alvarez, another merchant, said Mexico has many ways of representing death -- the skull, or "calavera," and "Catarinas," dressed-up female skeletons, are two such ways.

"Since the Aztecs, we've been laughing at death," Alvarez said.

Arizona, Utah debate immigration bills

PHOENIX -- The Arizona Senate voted down five immigration bills March 17 that proponents argued would crack down on illegal immigration even further than last year's S.B. 1070, which is still hung up by court challenges.

Meanwhile, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert March 15 signed a series of bills that have been described as a state equivalent of comprehensive immigration reform being sought at the national level. They step up enforcement, but also create a guest worker program that itself is likely to face court challenges.

Among the bills Arizona's legislators rejected were those that would have required hospitals to verify patients' legal status before admitting them for nonemergency care, required schools to collect data on immigration status and challenged the 14th Amendment's provision for birthright citizenship.

"All of the most problematic bills were defeated soundly on the Senate floor," said Ron Johnson, executive director of the Arizona Catholic Conference, which represents the state's bishops in public policy matters.

Some flee Arizona law; others plan for arrests

MESA, Ariz. -- Thirty-five years after he first began trying to make a life in the United States, Manuel Gutierrez, a legal resident from Mexico, is taking his family out of Arizona.

Although Gutierrez first came to the United States illegally in 1975 and was soon deported, he returned several times, pursuing legal residency that finally became permanent in 2007. He now runs a successful business and all but his eldest child are U.S. citizens.

But after Gov. Jan Brewer signed a tough immigration bill that would make being in the state illegally a crime, Gutierrez is worried enough about repercussions, especially for his eldest son, that he has found a job in another state.