After a decade of playing one on television, I, along with my brother Aaron, was blessed a few months ago to become a real Texas Ranger in the presence of Gov. Rick Perry, fellow Texas Rangers and many others.
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, 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 upfront and clear about what’s really happening along our borders.”
The latest statistics show that 34,000 people have been killed in Mexico because of organized crime and drug trafficking during the past five years alone, and officials expect that number to rise. 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, 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’ Judiciary and Homeland Security committees, 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 reportedly was shot by a Mexican gunman.
–In November, the University of Texas at Brownsville temporarily canceled classes because of ongoing gunfire across the border in Matamoros, Mexico.
And what about violence in other border states? Exaggerating border violence?
I agree with 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 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 the states in our union are taking matters into their own hands regarding border enforcement and immigration. Arizona-style laws have 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 ProtectYourTexasBorder.com, where users can upload pictures and videos about their experiences with suspected drug traffickers at the Mexican border. The goal of the website is to warn the public about not only 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 Texan border alone there are:
–Close to 8,200 farms and ranches, covering more than 15 million acres.
–Producers of beef, fruits and vegetables that are essential to the nation’s food supply.
–Counties that account for about half the state’s fruit and vegetable production and about 4 percent of the state’s total agricultural income.
–Farms and ranches that make more than $700 million in agricultural sales every year.
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 United States’ southwestern border.
In fact, this past Thursday, Napolitano continued her same Obama-victorious-song-and-dance act at the U.S.-Mexico Congressional Border Issues Conference, boasting of (as summarized by her office) 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 to embellish its record, PolitiFact pointed out that it’s actually stealing its 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, Ariz., put it well when he said that Napolitano’s talking points about security on the border have “more to do with political pivoting for the 2012 elections than (they do) with what is happening on the border.”
Ms. Napolitano, the truth is it’s you who is misleading the public. Playing down border violence and trumping up Washington’s successes may 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, let’s “be honest with the people we serve. … Let’s stick with the facts. We need to be upfront and clear about what’s really happening along our borders.”