After a decade of playing one on television, a few months ago, my brother, Aaron, and I were blessed to become real Texas Rangers, in the presence of Gov. Rick Perry, fellow Texas Rangers and many others.
Gov. Perry mentioned at that induction, “As the drug cartels have turned up the heat on the other side of that border over the past few years, we have invested significant state resources to secure our border, looking to local police departments, county sheriffs, game wardens and even Texas military forces. However, when it was time to take the fight to the bad guys, there was only one choice to lead our efforts, so we formed our Ranger recon teams. It is reassuring to know that our Rangers are on the job, especially in light of ongoing reports of deteriorating conditions with kidnappings, assassinations and terroristic acts just miles from Texas communities.”
Only weeks later, on Jan. 31, 2011, U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano asked public officials to stop exaggerating claims of violence on the U.S. side of the border and “be honest with the people we serve.” She added, “Let’s stick with the facts. We need to be up front and clear about what’s really happening along our borders.” And the very same day she told a group at the University of Texas in El Paso that it is inaccurate to say that the border is out of control and overrun with violence, citing statistics from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting program.
However, Sylvia Longmire, a former special agent with the Air Force Office of Special Investigations and a senior intelligence analyst and border security expert for the California Emergency Management Agency, says Napolitano’s statements don’t have a leg of credibility to stand on. Longmire recently retorted, “There are too many ways in which the data can be broken down and interpreted, and simultaneously not enough ways to define it. While some crime reports contain information about the offenders and victims, many do not, and I say with confidence that most people in either category wouldn’t voluntarily affiliate themselves with a Mexican drug cartel. So how can Secretary Napolitano use FBI crime statistics for support when she says our Southwest border has never been more secure, and subsequently accuse lawmakers of exaggerating the levels of border violence? She can’t, with any credibility anyway.”
As recent as last Tuesday, during a hearing of the House Homeland Security Committee’s Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security, which examines the Department of Homeland Security’s efforts to secure the border, several congressional representatives serving near the U.S. border contested Napolitano’s reductionism of border violence. For example, testifying to the violence spilling over from Mexico’s drug wars into the United States, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, said, “I think, frankly, we are at the worst point we have ever seen. I think it has been steadily deteriorating.”
Latest statistics show that 34,000 people have been killed in Mexico due to organized crime and drug trafficking during the last five years alone, and officials expect those numbers to rise. And yet, we don’t expect that escalating violence to increasingly spill over into the U.S.?
Consider just a few recent tragedies in my own state of Texas:
- In April 2010, on a street in Fort Hancock, Texas, roughly 25 miles west of Fort Quitman, four Hudspeth County employees were working on a remote, unpaved road when an unknown gunman fired from across the Rio Grande. (In a January 2011 letter to the U.S. House of Representatives’ Committees on the Judiciary and Homeland Security, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott described the shooting as “yet another incident involving cartel-related gunfire.”)
- In June 2010, El Paso’s City Hall was struck by at least seven shots fired from across the border in Ciudad Juarez, the epicenter of Mexico’s ongoing drug war.
- In August 2010, at least one stray bullet from Mexico hit a building at the University of Texas at El Paso.
- In October 2010, U.S. tourist David Hartley was reportedly shot by a Mexican gunman.
- In November, the University of Texas at Brownsville temporarily canceled classes due to ongoing gunfire across the border in Matamoros, Mexico.
And what about the other border states?
Exaggerating border violence?
I agree with U.S. Rep. Ben Quayle, R-Ariz., who said that, for cattle ranchers, the daily reality of drug and human smugglers traversing their property is “far more impacting” than Janet Napolitano conveys. Quayle went on to say, “Statistics and averages might mean something to government bureaucrats and analysts in Washington, but try telling the people who deal with these realities every day that the violence along the border has subsided.”
Because of the feds’ ineptness and passivity, it’s no wonder that half of the states in our union are now taking matters into their own hands regarding border enforcement and immigration. Arizona-style laws have now been proposed in approximately 24 other states. A total of 346 laws and resolutions related to immigration were approved by state lawmakers in 2010, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. More than 100 immigration-related bills are pending in Texas.
Texas Department of Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples just launched a ProtectYourTexasBorder website, where users can upload pictures and videos about their experiences with suspected drug traffickers at the Mexican border. The goal of the website is not only to warn the public about the dangers to farmers and ranchers but also the potential impacts on the nation’s food supply.
According to the Texas Department of Agriculture, at the Texas border alone there are:
- close to 8,200 farms and ranches covering more than 15 million acres,
- a large production of beef, fruit and vegetables that are essential to the nation’s food supply,
- counties that account for about half of the state’s fruit and vegetable production and about 4 percent of the state’s total agricultural income
- and farms and ranches that make more than $700 million in agricultural sales every year.
And here’s what Texas Border counties provide in the U.S. food supply:
- 439 million lbs. of grapefruit
- 135 million lbs. of oranges
- 116 million lbs. of cabbage
- 252 million lbs. of onions
- 65 million lbs. of potatoes
- 6 million lbs. of cantaloupes
- 20 million lbs. of honeydew melons
- 173 million lbs. of watermelons
- 332,000 head of cattle that will produce almost 250 million pounds of beef
- 27 million lbs. of cotton
- 248 million lbs. of corn
- 3 billion lbs. of sugarcane
- 1 billion lbs. of grain sorghum
Exaggerating border violence?
The only ones exaggerating are the feds: under-exaggerating the threat and severity of border violence, and over-exaggerating their success of securing the U.S. southwest border.
In fact, on Thursday, U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano continued her same Obama-victorious-song-and-dance act at the U.S.-Mexico Congressional Border Issues Conference, boasting of the “Obama administration’s unprecedented efforts to strengthen security along the Southwest border, which include increasing the number of Border Patrol agents from approximately 10,000 in 2004 to more than 20,700 today.”
But, while the Obama administration continues embellishing its record, PolitiFact has rightly pointed out that it’s actually stealing their predecessor’s glory: “President George W. Bush was responsible for adding many of the agents on the ground now.”
Paul Babeu, sheriff of Pinal County, 35 miles outside Phoenix, put it well when he said that Napolitano’s talking points about security on the border “has more to do with political pivoting for the 2012 elections than it does with what is happening on the border.”
Mrs. Napolitano, the truth is that it’s you who is misleading the public. Playing down border violence and trumping up Washington’s successes might be effective for campaign rhetoric, but it’s killing our citizens – literally. At least I can agree 100 percent with you on this point: As you said back on Jan. 31, 2011, let’s “be honest with the people we serve. … Let’s stick with the facts. We need to be up front and clear about what’s really happening along our borders.”