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Only a few weeks ago, seven police officers were killed over the course of an hour in Tijuana, Mexico, a city immediately across the border from San Diego. Those seven officers were targeted in coordinated attacks that took place in five different locations. After the killings, “narcocorridos,” or drug ballads, began playing over police radios, and an ominous voice threatened that more officers would die. This past February, the police chief in Juarez, Mexico, resigned after several officers were killed and more were threatened with death unless he quit. Last year, more than 60 officers were killed and more than 1,350 civilians were murdered in Juarez, a city that shares the international border with El Paso.
Such horrific violence has occurred along several areas of the border and has included decapitations, bodies hung from overpasses, corpses dissolved in vats of acid and attacks on anyone with the audacity to confront the narcoterrorists. A group of very well organized and equipped Mexican drug trafficking organizations have become increasingly ruthless as they seek to control the lucrative business of exporting drugs into the United States. It would be a serious mistake to underestimate the commitment and capability of these groups. They are extremely well funded, and equipped with technology and weaponry on par with sophisticated military operations.
Although much of the violence has stayed on the southern side of the border, there are some indications the violence may be spilling over. The American cities of Las Vegas, Phoenix and San Diego have all documented kidnappings related to the violence. Phoenix experienced an unbelievable number of kidnappings last year—almost 400—and this makes it second only to Mexico City for all cities in North America. In an interview with ABC News, Phoenix Police Chief Andy Anderson said, “We’re in the eye of the storm. If it doesn’t stop here, if we’re not able to fix it here and get it turned around, it will go across the nation.”
I certainly agree with Chief Anderson’s comments. In fact, I believe the threat to our national security is every bit as dangerous as anything that might take place in Iraq or Afghanistan. In no way is this comment meant to diminish the valiant efforts of our military. My point is that the war at our border is absolutely a clear and present danger to the United States.
Fortunately, it appears that leaders in Washington, D.C., have taken note and are taking significant steps to provide the resources needed to prevent an incursion of violence into the U.S. I am very encouraged by the actions of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. Unlike her predecessor, Secretary Napolitano has demonstrated the wherewithal to take action. Perhaps because of her experience as a border-state (Ariz.) governor, she understands what’s at stake for our country. Here’s a brief summary of some of the major steps already underway and what’s being invested to make it happen:
Double the Border Enforcement Security Task Force (BEST) staffing: BEST teams comprise federal, state, local and Mexican authorities who work together along the Southwest border. Ninety-five ICE agents will be added at strategic locations. About $5.7 million is being spent on this effort.
Triple the DHS intelligence analysts along the southwest border: Intelligence is absolutely vital to the work along the border and the $3.3 million spent to bolster this ability will pay big dividends in increased effectiveness and officer safety.
Double the ICE detention and removal operations (DRO) staffing: These key personnel address targeted violent criminal aliens and ensure their expedited identification and prosecution. The cost is approximately $2.3 million, but targeting the worst offenders ensures a significant return on investment.
Increase ICE attaché personnel in Mexico by 50%: There are already 24 ICE agents assigned in Mexico who work closely with the Mexican government to pursue major criminal investigations inside Mexico and provide information to domestic ICE offices. Bringing the number of agents to 36 will cost approximately $650,000 but will significantly improve key intelligence and enforcement efforts.
Deploy Secure Communities biometric identification: This is a comprehensive and expensive ($95 million) effort to modernize the identification of criminal aliens. Using biometrics and linking existing systems, the Secure Communities project will concentrate the greatest efforts on the worst offenders. Correctional facilities throughout the U.S. will be connected, and the system will support an integrated query capable of quickly identifying criminal aliens. Although costly, the system will provide long-term benefits that easily justify the investment. Many areas already have this capability, and there is a high priority being placed on linking agencies throughout the nation.
These steps are only the beginning of what is sure to be a long and involved effort to protect our citizens.
Stay tuned and stay safe.