In reality, any close observer of border realities knows that the real "spillover" of violence along the border is in the other direction, with Texas-based prison gangs like Barrio Azteca serving as soldiers and assassins for feuding drug cartels. In rare moments of candor, DPS officials have told the Legislature that in many cases "command and control" of cartel activity has shifted to the US side, with cartel leaders themselves seeking safety from the chaotic and violent environments south of the Rio Grande.
So I wasn't surprised to see that DPS and (for some reason) the Texas Ag Department teamed up to hire two big-name ex-generals, including former Clinton-era "Drug Czar" Barry McCaffrey, to perform an anecdote-driven security study (pdf) released last week which contradicts all available data about crime on the US side of the border to falsely claim that violence on the American side poses as great a threat as in Mexican border towns. Reported the Austin Statesman ("Report cites anecdotes to claim spillover violence," Sept. 27), despite claims by the generals that South Texas has become a war zone:
Federal crime statistics from cities and counties along the Southwest border have not shown spikes in violence, and last year the Congressional Research Service found that FBI statistics do not indicate whether there has been spillover from the violence raging in Mexico. Officials along the border have presented differing accounts of drug cartel-related violence.Indeed, the sourcing for the most serious allegations in the report turns out to be unbelievably sketchy:
During a news conference after the report was released, McCaffrey raised eyebrows when he spoke of "hundreds of people murdered on our side of the frontier," a statistic that far exceeded the 22 killings between January 2010 and May 2011 identified by the Department of Public Safety as being related to drug cartels. When asked about the number, McCaffrey pointed to statements from a Brooks County rancher, who told reporters that hundreds of bodies had been found in the county in recent years.So the bulk of US side deaths McCaffrey attributes to drug cartels a) stem from failed attempts at illegal immigration, not the drug war, and b) weren't actually murders according to law enforcement. Such obfuscations are regrettable if not surprising, as border security issues have become highly politicized. The Statesman reported:
Most of the bodies were those of illegal immigrants crossing the brush trying to avoid the U.S. Border Patrol checkpoint in Falfurrias and not victims of direct assaults, according to the Brooks County sheriff's department.
The issue of spillover violence has increasingly pitted Republican lawmakers and leaders, including Gov. Rick Perry, against President Barack Obama's administration.But since law enforcement sources support President Obama's interpretation of what's happening on the border instead of Rick Perry's, McCaffrey and Co. relied on anonymous sources that blatantly contradict the law-enforcement interests who've received tens of millions in border-security grants from the governor. Apparently those folks are credible when it comes to doling out pork, but are all fibbing when they report the number of murders in their jurisdictions. How much sense does that make?
"Our pleas for help are being met with denial and lame jokes," Texas Agriculture Secretary Todd Staples said Monday. "The threat grows more violent every day, and more resources are needed."
In May, Obama traveled to El Paso and declared the border more secure than ever, accusing Republicans of using the issue of border security to delay discussion of immigration reform.
"Maybe they'll say we need a moat," Obama said at the time. "Or alligators in the moat. They'll never be satisfied."
Earlier this month, Perry blasted Obama during a presidential debate as either having poor "intel" or being an "abject liar."
Anyone familiar with McCaffrey's record as Drug Czar won't be surprised by such fabrications. Indeed, as Drug Czar he was literally statutorily obligated to mislead the public about the drug war. Apparently old habits die hard.