Monday, October 03, 2011

Lies, damn lies and border security rhetoric: New study aims to fabricate fear

In order to justify massive amounts of border security pork and to bolster the Governor's anti-immigration bona fides, since 2006 the Governor and his former homeland security director Steve McCraw, who now leads the Department of Public Safety, have consistently overstated the amount of crime in border counties, raising the spurious specter of "spillover" violence from the cartel wars in Mexico onto the US side of the river.

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.

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.
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:
The issue of spillover violence has increasingly pitted Republican lawmakers and leaders, including Gov. Rick Perry, against President Barack Obama's administration.

"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."
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?

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.


Texas Maverick said...

Old habits die hard. This are the sound bites used by Perry's reelection campaigns for governor, that nobody but Grits ever checks, so they think nobody will check the facts at the national level. Hopefully, the other candidates will. We can only hope.

Texas Maverick said...

Ouch, it's too early this morning. These are.

ckikerintulia said...

Amarillo Globe News--cheers to AGN on this one--recently ran an op. ed. piece by an El Paso Texas representative debunking the border crime claims. El Paso has been cited as one of America's safest cities with fewer murders than Amarillo

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Thanks for pointing that out, Charles. I found the op/ed you mentioned here.

A Texas PO said...

Whenever I talk to out-of-staters about the border, they instantly tell me that it's a dangerous place to be and don't understand why anyone would want to live there. These are the same comments I hear when people talk about how "dangerous" Memphis, Detroit, or Miami are. In actuality, the threat of harm in those places is really no worse than any where else. Hell, you have as much luck of being shot in Amarillo (or outside Perry's campaign bus) as you do on the border. As Texas Maverick stated, one would hope that the other candidates would point out some of this hypocrisy, yet from the last debate I saw, Perry appeared to be the most lenient on border security (BTW, that was hard to type out). Is there a credible threat that violence from Mexico could spill over to the US? Of course! Has it happened? Not quite. From my own LE sources, most of those deaths that have been attributed to cartel violence were people involved in smuggling or other cartel activities. The average citizen has nothing to fear any more than in any other place in America. I think you have a greater chance of winning the Powerball than being a victim on the border.

Anonymous said...

They cross over the border like its not there. Then the liberals jump in to complain that not enough run across.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

11:52, try addressing things somebody has actually said instead of arguing against some fact-free self-referential stereotype running around in your head with no basis in reality. Your comment was completely non-responsive. What specifically in this post do you disagree with?

Anonymous said...

Pols want people to "fear" something so they can get elected and spend taxpayer money. Usually in that order. The drug cartels know better than to bring major violence over here. Politics.

RSO wife said...

Texas Maverick is right. That's a lot of old Perry campaign grabage, straight from the files.

It would seem to me that Perry wants it both ways. With one hand he wants to hold back the Feds from interfering in Texas government, while he holds out the other hand for Federal money for his pet projects.

I have a trucking company and move lot of freight into and out of the south Texas valley, from Laredo to Brownsville, to South Padre Island. My trucks are safer there than they are on the streets of Houston where my equipment gets vandalized on a regular basis, even sitting in a well guarded truck stop.