"Obama doesn't have any money," the officer said.
"We found it very funny," Durazo said, but it wasn't a joke.
Soon, he was free along with hundreds of other illegal immigrants who were released by the Obama administration because of budget pressures. Officials have also scaled back border agent hours, drug patrols and staffing at border crossings - all during the peak illegal border-crossing season.
While prompted by the nation's money woes, the changes also come amid the nation's shifting immigration policy after years of mass arrests and deportations and billions spent on border security.
The long-term impact of that change has yet to be seen. The Border Patrol said January and February numbers showed a nearly 10 percent increase in apprehensions along the Mexico border for the first two months of the year, compared with 2012.
There could be several factors for the rise, including immigrants motivated by an improving U.S. economy or those anticipating congressional action that could create a path to citizenship. The cuts come as lawmakers are struggling to work out a comprehensive immigration reform package whose success may ultimately be tied to questions of border security.
On Wednesday, Sen. John McCain led a bipartisan group of senators on a tour of the border, and they said they were close to a deal but continued to tie it to keeping immigration in check. They promised more details next week, but McCain said that there's "no doubt" in his mind that the border is less secure because of the budget cuts.
The release of more than 2,200 immigrants like Durazo drew headlines this month as the government prepared for looming cuts that began in March. In February, the government let go of hundreds of immigrants from detention centers in states including Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia and Texas. The administration planned to let roughly 3,000 more go in March, according to an internal government budget document reviewed by the AP and later released by the House Judiciary Committee.
The moves were an attempt by Immigration and Customs Enforcement to get its detainee population in line with what it could afford. The released immigrants still face deportation but will not be held while awaiting their court dates.
Some in Congress said ICE should have explained beforehand that there wasn't enough money to keep everyone in detention.
The immigrants and their lawyers say they were released with little notice or instruction beyond being told to check in periodically.
In many cases, the immigrants were dropped off in the middle of the night at bus stations or airports in metropolitan centers without money to finish their journey home. In Florida, some were released from a facility bordering rural swamp land outside Miami.
Critics argue the plan allowed the release of thousands of criminals without regard to public safety, but officials say almost all the detainees were characterized as low risk. ICE Director John Morton told a congressional panel that 10 of the 2,228 people were the highest level of offender.
"In reducing detention levels, we took careful steps to ensure that national security and public safety were not compromised," he told a congressional hearing.
Meanwhile, the Obama administration, in the midst of trying to get immigration overhauled, switched from daily declarations that the border was secure to warning of the increasingly dire consequences of cutting $754 million from Customs and Border Protection's $12 billion budget.
In the first week of the cuts, some agents in South Texas reported a spike in arrests of immigrants who said smugglers told them they would be briefly detained and then released. The agents' union quickly spread word of a "tidal wave" of immigrants taking advantage of the situation.
Several immigrants interviewed at a migrant shelter in Reynosa, Mexico, across the border from McAllen, Texas, said they had not heard anything suggesting now was a particularly good time to cross. Instead, several said they were returning home because the drug cartel that controlled river crossings made it too expensive and dangerous.
"Here, they say you can't cross the river right now because there are a lot of kidnappings. They're killing a lot of people," said Josue Manuel Vazquez, who added that he escaped kidnappers who held him for five days as they tried to extort $4,500 from his daughter, a legal U.S. resident.
Some contend the budget cuts are relatively small when put in the broader context of the huge build-up of border security over the past decade.
According to the Government Accountability Office, the Department of Homeland Security assigned about 28,100 people in 2004 to patrol land borders and inspect travelers at all ports of entry at a cost of about $5.9 billion. By the end of 2011, those figures were 41,400 employees at a cost of $11.8 billion.
"The scale of (automatic budget cuts) is minuscule compared to the vast build-up," said Geoff Boyce, spokesman for No More Deaths, an immigration advocacy group in Tucson, Ariz.
The effects of the cuts are being seen in border cities and among agents. Customs and Border Protection reduced overtime for its officers at ports of entry. In San Diego and other crossing points, that translated to fewer lanes open at land crossings and longer waits for people and trucks carrying produce and other goods from Mexico.
Those waits are only expected to worsen in coming weeks as the agency begins furloughs amid a hiring freeze. In a letter to Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano warned that peak wait times at the busiest border crossings could reach five hours or more.
Border Patrol agents received notices advising them they would face up to 14 days of furloughs during the next six months and would no longer be eligible for overtime that for years has added an average of two hours to every agent's shift.
The agency is also suspending assignments known as "details" that sent agents from slower parts of the border to busier areas for months at a time. Agents on detail are often put up in hotels and receive a per diem.
The cuts have also forced the government to pull back on flight and ship patrols in the drug war in Central America.
Durazo learned about the budget issues while watching the news at his sister's home in the Phoenix area after his release. He crossed into the U.S. from his native Mexico in 1969 when he was 19, and he said he doesn't know what will happen next with his immigration case. He has, however, decided to embrace his good fortune.
"We gave many thanks to God, because we prayed a lot while we were in there," he said. ---
The ads feature sad, real-life stories: There is Terrie, a North Carolina woman who lost her voicebox. Bill, a diabetic smoker from Michigan who lost his leg. And Aden, a 7-year-old boy from New York, who has asthma attacks from secondhand smoke.
"Most smokers want to quit. These ads encourage them to try," said Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The CDC campaign cost $48 million and includes TV, radio and online spots as well as print ads and billboards.
The spending comes as the agency is facing a tough budget squeeze, but officials say the ads should more than pay for themselves by averting future medical costs to society. Smoking is the leading cause of preventable illness and death in the United States. It's responsible for the majority of the nation's lung cancer deaths and is a deadly factor in heart attacks and a variety of other illnesses.
Last year's similar $54 million campaign was the agency's first and largest national advertising effort. The government deemed it a success: That campaign triggered an increase of 200,000 calls to quit lines. The CDC believes that likely prompted tens of thousands of smokers to quit based on calculations that a certain percentage of callers do actually stop.
Like last year, the current 16-week campaign spotlights real people who were hurt and disfigured by smoking. Terrie Hall, a 52-year-old throat cancer survivor makes a repeat performance. She had her voice box removed about a dozen years ago.
In last year's ad there's a photo of her as a youthful high school cheerleader. Then she is seen more recently putting on a wig, inserting false teeth and covering the hole in her neck with a scarf. It was, by far, the campaign's most popular spot, as judged by YouTube viewings and Web clicks.
In a new ad, Hall addresses the camera, speaking with the buzzing sound of her electrolarynx. She advises smokers to make a video of themselves now, reading a children's book or singing a lullaby. "I wish I had. The only voice my grandson's ever heard is this one," her electric voice growls.
One difference from last year: The new campaign tilts more toward the impact smokers have on others. One ad features a Kentucky high school student who suffers asthma attacks from being around cigarette smoke. Another has a Louisiana woman who was 16 when her mother died from smoking-related causes.
The return of the campaign is already being applauded by some anti-smoking advocates, who say tobacco companies spend more on tobacco product promotion in a week than the CDC spends in a year.
After decades of decline, the adult smoking rate has stalled at roughly 20 percent in recent years. Advocates say the campaign provides a necessary jolt to a weary public that has been listening to government warnings about the dangers of smoking for nearly 50 years.
"There is an urgent need to continue this campaign," said Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, in a statement.
It would seem like a bad time for the CDC to be buying air time - the agency is facing roughly $300 million in budget cuts as part of the government's sequestration cuts in federal spending. However, the ad money comes not from the CDC's regular budget but from a special $1 billion public health fund set up years ago through the Affordable Care Act. The fund has set aside more than $80 million for CDC smoking prevention work.
Frieden argues that the ads are extremely cost-effective - spending about $50 million a year to save potentially tens of thousands of lives.
"We're trying to figure out how to have more impact with less resources," he said.
The ads direct people to call 1-800-QUIT-NOW. PlowShare Group, of Stamford, Conn., is again the advertising company that put the ads together. ---
Homeowners who live near a Bridgeton landfill should learn more about what Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster has planned concerning their complaints. Koster will speak with reporters later this morning about the stench that has lingered for months.
The Department of Natural Resources recently ran test of the area. State officials determined the area tested for high levels of hydrogen sulfide in the air. Hydrogen sulfide often causes headaches and irritation to eyes, nose and throat.
The DNR then sent the findings to Koster’s office.Republic Services owns the Bridgeton Landfill. The company sent a statement that said there is no proof the hydrogen sulfide in the air is from their landfill.