By contrast, towns on the US side of the border - particularly El Paso, sister city to the site of Mexico's worst cartel-related blood bath - ironically boast among the lowest crime rates in the state and are far safer places to live as a practical matter than, say, Houston or Dallas. That could just be because cartel leaders are smart enough not to s%*t where they sleep: According to Steve McCraw, head of DPS and formerly the Governor's top homeland security adviser, "command and control" of feuding Mexican gangs for the most part operates on the American side of the border.
At the Texas Observer, though, Melissa del Bosque describes another type of "spillover" that crime stats don't account for ("Borderline Paranoia," July 13): The spillover of irrational paranoia that's come to surround right-wing nativist thinking about immigration and border security. Her recent blog post opened:
It was an early morning in mid-May. Norberto Velez, 55, and his son Norangel, 32, were driving through ranchland in far West Texas. They were looking for a piece of property to buy near the U.S.-Mexico border in remote Hudspeth County.The shooter has yet to publicly explain his actions, but the victim thinks they were mistaken for illegal immigrants, though "I’ve lived here all my life,” he told a local TV station. Del Bosque concludes:
The Velezes made a wrong turn onto a road that apparently led to private land, and were met by an armed, 52-year old rancher named Joseph Denton who yelled, “Get down. Get down! I’m going to kill you!” Denton then quickly fired a rifle several times, Norangel Velez told El Paso’s KTSM-TV after the incident. “He never said freeze, he never gave us a warning, he never came out in front of us and say what we’re doing here, just boom, boom, boom,” Norangel said. Norangel was shot once. His father, Norberto, jumped on top of his son to absorb the brunt of the gunfire. The older man suffered three gunshot wounds.
The shooting comes amid growing panic in the area about “spillover violence.” Nearby El Paso was recently named the safest city of its size in the nation. Hudspeth County has seen only one murder in recent years. Yet Sheriff West has advised ranchers in the area to arm themselves in case of spillover from the drug war raging just across the border. “You farmers, I’m telling you right now: Arm yourselves,” he said during a crowded town hall meeting last year. “It’s better to be tried by 12 than carried by six, and I don’t want to see six people carrying you.” Denton may have just tested that frontier wisdom.It's terribly sad and ironic that the main "spillover" violence seen in Texas so far results from Americans shooting Americans. And nobody seems to care about the real spillover violence from US citizens committing violence in Mexico. Stopping that should be the Number One US law enforcement priority from the local to federal levels, but giving preference to that strategy would run counter to the politically convenient if tactically simplistic "spillover" myth, which holds that we only need worry when the killing crosses the Rio Grande and that Mexican violence has nothing to do with Americans. As yet, nobody in officialdom seems willing to buck that false, counterproductive narrative. (Grits believes that providing more on-the-ground detail on the drug war would protect journalists, who are among the main American "spillover" targets to date, but that idea has yet to catch on.) Eventually politicians and their MSM enablers must move beyond culture war rhetoric and confront the grim, messy realities of border corruption and violence, at least if they want to do something about the problem instead of just grandstand and demagogue about it. Despite the massive deployment of security personnel along the border, it's not entirely clear to me that's the case.