Homeland Security

Multnomah County: Mexican Drug Cartels Issue a Prescription of Death

A well known fact, most of the illicit drugs killing Oregonians are produced, manufactured and smuggled into the state by drug cartels operating out of Mexico.

On June 4th the Oregon Medical Examiner (OME) reported 223 deaths in 2012 were caused by the illicit drugs; the preceding number of drug deaths being third highest number since 2002. The types of drugs by the numbers that killed 223 of the state’s residents last year were 147 from heroin, 19 from cocaine, 93 from methamphetamine or 33 from a combination of the preceding drugs.

When it came to illicit drug related deaths in the state last year, according to the OME, Multnomah County had the dubious distention of leading all 36 Oregon counties with 103 illicit drug related deaths (80 heroin, 15 cocaine, 28 methamphetamine or 18 from a combination of drugs).

Putting these numbers into perspective, Multnomah County residents are approximately 19.05 percent of Oregon’s population of 3.83 million, yet the county experienced 46.13 percent of the states illicit drug deaths.

Not only last year, but over the last seven years Multnomah has led all Oregon counties in OME reported illicit drug related deaths by number and percentage:

- 2006 the county had 95 drug deaths (44.60 percent);
- 2007 the county had 101 drug deaths (47.64 percent);
- 2008 the county had 106 drug deaths (46.28 percent);
- 2009 the county had 94 drug deaths ( 44.13 percent);
- 2010 the county had 87 drug deaths (43.50 percent);
- 2011 the county had 119 drug deaths (49.58 percent);
- 2012 the county had 103 drug deaths (46.13 percent).

Totaling the preceding numbers from seven years of OME reports, Multnomah County had 705 of the 1,530 illicit drug related deaths recorded in the state; 46.08 percent of the states drug deaths.

Moving beyond the OME report’s body counts, a look at the current Oregon Department of Corrections (DOC) prison population gives a picture of who is most likely dealing the drugs killing the state’s residents.

On May 1st in the DOC prison system there were 166 foreign nationals (prisoners with immigration detainers) incarcerated for drug crimes, 151 of those prisoners declared their country of origin being Mexico, that’s 91.00 percent of the foreign nationals in prison for drug crimes.

Locally, cases adjudicated in Multnomah County Circuit Courts have sent 46 Mexican nationals (30.46 percent of Mexicans convicted in the state for drug crimes) to serve time in DOC prisons.

A reasonable solution, to reduce future drug deaths, to keep the Mexican drug cartels in-check, to keep the drug cartels from easily distributing cartel drugs, drugs that are killing far too many of the county’s residents, Multnomah County’s elected officials, the county commissioners and sheriff, shouldn’t equivocate about providing the resources to enforce of the state’s drug laws.

Furthermore, the county commissioners and sheriff should put aside any pretense of political correctness about offending the county’s Hispanic community, many whom are undocumented residents, and fully cooperate with all federal law enforcement agencies, like Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) agency, because the illicit drugs poisoning and killing the county’s residents don’t discriminate against any one communities race, religion, country of origin or immigration status.

David Olen Cross of Salem writes on immigration issues and foreign national crime. He can be reached at docfnc@yahoo.com.

Source: Boehner Says No to Immigration Bill Without House GOP Support

House Speaker John Boehner appears to have put to rest rumors that he may break what is informally called the “Hastert Rule,” an unwritten guideline that a majority of the majority party should be needed to bring a bill to the House floor, in order to pass a version of amnesty like the “Gang of Eight” bill currently moving through the Senate.

A source with direct knowledge of these matters told Breitbart News that Boehner has decided to abide by the Hastert Rule in regards to immigration reform. “No immigration bill will be brought to the floor for a vote without a majority of the Republican conference in support,” the source told Breitbart News on Monday.

Around Washington, conservatives have worried that Boehner may back down from conservative principles on immigration and support the Gang of Eight bill. They fear he may rush the bill to the floor if the Senate passes it and try to move it through the House with a majority of Democratic votes.

Even though those rumors continue to fly, signs now indicate that Boehner will not break the Hastert Rule and will only bring a bill to the floor with the support of the majority of Republicans.

Reports from Ryan Lizza at The New Yorker and David Drucker at the Washington Examiner appear to support the idea that Boehner will not break with Republicans. It did take Rep. Steve King (R-IA) banding together more than 50 of his colleagues to call for a special GOP conference meeting on the topic, at which they expressed their dissatisfaction with the Senate bill and their hope that Boehner will stick to the Hastert Rule.

In addition to King’s efforts, conservative groups have circulated letters around Washington calling on the conference to formally codify the Hastert Rule into the House GOP conference rules so that it must be followed, instead of just being a guideline.

 

 


 

Border apprehensions wildly exaggerated in formula behind Senate bill, say critics

The 90 percent apprehension goal set by Senate and House bills seeking to rein in illegal immigration while establishing a path to citizenship for those crossing into the U.S. from Mexico is based on fuzzy math, according to critics.

The goal, which is supposed to give teeth to legislation some view as amnesty, would depend on a Department of Homeland Security formula for determining the success rate of catching illegal border crossers. That formula requires visual or physical evidence for determining someone got past the border patrol, evidence that simply isn’t left behind in most cases. The result, say critics, is a wildly exaggerated success rate for catching illegal border crossers.

“To calculate it, border patrol officers go out and look for physical evidence of crossings… you know, ‘I saw this person cross and I didn't get him.’ Or, ‘I saw footprints in the sand,’” John Whitley, an economist who analyzed such statistics while he served as the director of the DHS’s Program Analysis & Evaluation department under President Bush, told FoxNews.com.

The problem is that, no matter how hard border patrol officers try to find physical evidence of successful illegal crossings, they can’t find everything.

“We know that this method of calculation understates the number of successful crossings, because you're excluding anyone you don't have physical evidence for,” Whitley said.

Using that method, Department of Homeland Security data already indicate a border security effectiveness rate of 84 percent -- close to the 90 percent target.

Some congressmen are concerned about the numbers.

“To just look for footprints and have a guesstimate – that would be outrageous,” Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, told FoxNews.com.

“We can't go along with a bill that says, ‘Hey, we have a 90 percent requirement for security’ – when there is no way to verify whether or not the 90 percent is accurate.”

In addition to not being accurate, the DHS methodology presents other problems, according to critics. For instance, an administration looking to artificially inflate the border effectiveness rate could simply call Border Patrol officers off from looking for signs of successful crossings and assign them to other tasks.

“There is no way we could trust this Department of Homeland Security to verify,” Gohmert said. “And there are independent sources that we could trust. We could have drones and other monitoring where we can find out exactly how many make it across without being apprehended.”

Other methods of estimating border crossings show a much lower apprehension rate.

“Survey data, recidivism data, and press reports about the Vader radar system all put it in the 50 percent range,” Whitley said, referring to the DHS’s new airborne Vader radar system which, during a test last winter in the Sonora Desert, indicated that the Border Patrol caught 1,874 people but missed 1,962 who successfully crossed.

The Department of Homeland Security did not respond to a request for comment on Monday.

But groups that support more immigration said that border enforcement should not be a priority in the first place.

“Government obsession with the particulars of border enforcement metrics misses the point,” said Alex Nowrasteh, an immigration analyst at the CATO institute. “We know from experience that increasing legal immigration opportunities, especially for lower-skilled guest workers, is the best way to eliminate unlawful immigration. Border Patrol should operate as a funnel to channel would-be unlawful immigrants into the legal market rather than an agency that separates willing workers from willing employers.”

Policy questions aside, the formula some say is flawed makes the pending Senate bill being touted by Marco Rubio R-Fla., and others problematic, according to sources on Capitol Hill.

“It doesn’t make sense if you’re allowing the Department of Homeland Security to judge themselves,” a GOP Senate staffer told FoxNews.com. “They can game the system, game the statistics, and then end up meeting the requirements.”

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., announced Tuesday that he would introduce an amendment that would put Congress, not the DHS, in charge of making the determination about whether the border is 90 percent secure.

“My amendment requires Congress to vote every year on border security. If Congress votes that the border is not secure, elements of immigration reform will cease to go forward and visa programs will be slowed," Paul said in a press release.

As of now, the 90 percent goal remains only that, a goal – and the path to citizenship provisions for illegal aliens would be implemented even if the 90 percent target were not met. The only consequence of not meeting the target is the creation of a government committee that would issue a report with recommendations for meeting the target.

Gohmert says he does not want the bills to pass.

“Let's secure the border. And then we can get a deal worked out very, very quickly after that. But not until the border is secure.”

The writer of this piece can be reached at maxim.lott@foxnews.com or on twitter at @maximlott
 

Cartel towns pose challenge for immigration reform

Just across the Rio Grande from Brownsville, Texas, stands a dormitory-style shelter filled with people recently deported from the U.S. and other migrants waiting to cross the border.

The long rows of bunk beds offer immigrants a place to rest on their long journey. But the shelter is no safe haven in a town controlled by the Gulf cartel. Armed men once showed up and took away 15 men, who were probably put to work as gunmen, lookouts or human mules hauling bales of marijuana into the United States.

As Congress takes up immigration reform, lawmakers may have to confront the reality of this place and others like it, where people say the current system of immigration enforcement and deportation produces a constant flow of people north and south that provides the cartel with a vulnerable labor pool and steady source of revenue.

"This vicious circle favors organized crime because the migrant is going to pay" for safe passage, said the Rev. Francisco Gallardo, who oversees immigrant-assistance efforts for the Matamoros Catholic diocese.

If Congress sends more resources to the border, the government will also need to account for shifting patterns in immigrant arrests.

The cartel controls who crosses the border and profits from each immigrant by taxing human smugglers. At the shelter, the cartel threat was so alarming that shelter administrators began encouraging immigrants to go into the streets during the day, thinking they would be harder to round up than at the shelter.

There have been record numbers of deportations in recent years and tens of thousands landed in Tamaulipas already this year, the state that borders Texas from Matamoros to Nuevo Laredo. Arizona is often singled out as the busiest border crossing for immigrants entering the U.S., but more and more migrants are being caught in the southernmost tip of Texas, in the Border Patrol's Rio Grande Valley sector.

Apprehension statistics are imperfect measures because they only capture a fraction of the real flow, but the arrest numbers are definitely shifting.

Arrests in the Tucson, Ariz., sector dropped 3 percent last year, while Rio Grande Valley arrests rose 65 percent. In March alone, the Border Patrol made more than 16,000 immigrant arrests in the Rio Grande Valley sector, a 67 percent increase from the same month last year, according to the agency.

Immigrant deaths are also up. The sector reported last month that about 70 bodies were found in the first six months of the fiscal year, more than twice as many as the previous year.

The makeup of the immigrants apprehended here is changing, too, driven by people flowing out of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador. The Border Patrol made 94,532 arrests of non-Mexican immigrants along the Southwest border last year, more than double the year before. And nearly half of those came in the Rio Grande Valley sector.

The Border Patrol is responding by redirecting personnel, including sending most new graduates from its academy to the Rio Grande Valley, according to senior Border Patrol officials.

When immigrants from Central America and Mexico arrive in Matamoros ahead of their trip to America, they are met by smugglers who have to pay the cartel tax for every person they take across the border.

Attempts to cross alone are met with violence. Some immigrants are kidnapped and their families extorted by the organization.

Reported murders in Tamaulipas, the state that borders Texas from Matamoros to Nuevo Laredo, increased more than 250 percent in the past four years, according to the Mexican government. Official statistics are generally thought to undercount the real toll. Soldiers recently killed six gunmen in a clash in Matamoros.

And yet, even with the high-degree of danger for immigrants crossing this part of the border, they keep coming.

Central American migrants continue to use the route up the Gulf Coast side of Mexico and through Tamaulipas because it's the shortest to the U.S., said Rodolfo Casillas Ramirez, a professor at Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales in Mexico City. The smugglers choose the route, and even if immigrants have heard about the violence in Tamaulipas, "they trust that the premium they've paid includes the right of passage," he said.

They continue to leave their home countries for economic reasons. Although the U.S. economy has provided fewer jobs for immigrants during the Great Recession and a long, slow recovery, opportunities south of the border have been even more limited, Casillas said.

That's why the Rev. Alejandro Solalinde, a Roman Catholic priest who founded a shelter for immigrants in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca, said the answer is in regional development, not increased border security.

"This situation has grown because ultimately the migrants are merchandise and organized crime profits in volume," he said during a recent visit to Matamoros.

Rep. Filemon Vela, a member of the House Homeland Security Committee whose district includes Brownsville, said the immigration-reform debate has so far left out discussion of the security and economic development in Mexico.

"The incentive for people to cross over illegally from Mexico will never subside until these individuals feel safe and until they are able to feed themselves and their families," Vela said.

At the 150-bed shelter, more than half of the immigrants have just been deported from the U.S., Gallardo said. The others are immigrants preparing to cross. He said shelter workers constantly chase out infiltrators who are paid by smugglers to recruit inside.

At Solalinde's shelter in southern Mexico, threats from organized crime forced them to bring in four state police officers and four federal ones, who have lived at his shelter for the past year as protection. Solalinde now travels with bodyguards after having fled Mexico for a couple of months last year following threats.

One immigrant at the Matamoros shelter was a 48-year-old man who would only give his name as "Gordo" because he feared for his safety. He said he had arrived two days earlier after traveling from Copan, Honduras. Gordo said he had lived in Los Angeles for 10 years but had been in Honduras for the past four. He was trying to make it back to California, where he has a 15-year-old daughter.

Asked about his prospects for successfully crossing the river, he said: "It's difficult, not so much for the Border Patrol" but for the cartels.
___

Associated Press Writer Elliot Spagat in San Diego contributed to this report.

Judge lets Ariz. immigrant license policy stand

A judge on Thursday refused to halt Gov. Jan Brewer's order that denies driver's licenses for young immigrants in Arizona who have gotten work permits and avoided deportation under an Obama administration policy.

U.S. District Judge David Campbell denied a request from immigrant rights advocates for a preliminary injunction and threw out one of their arguments, but their lawsuit remains alive as they pursue arguments that the young immigrants are suffering from unequal treatment.

Arizona's refusal to view those in President Barack Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program as legal residents has become the most visible challenge to his announcement in June that some young immigrants would be protected from deportation. The Department of Homeland Security has said immigrants with work permits issued under the policy are lawfully present in the U.S.

Campbell rejected the argument by immigrant rights advocates who said Brewer's policy was unconstitutional because it's trumped by federal law.

"This portion of the ruling is not only a victory for the state of Arizona _ it is a victory for states' rights, the rule of law and the bedrock principles that guide our nation's legislative process and the division of power between the federal government and states," Brewer said in a statement.

But the judge said the immigrant rights advocates are likely to succeed in arguing that the state lets some immigrants with work permits get driver's licenses but won't let immigrants protected under Obama's program have the same benefit.

Cecillia Wang, a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union, one of the groups representing the immigrants, said those who challenged Brewer's policy will examine their options in court for protecting the young immigrants.

"It's keeping people out on a limb," Wang said of the ruling.

Last summer, the Obama administration took administrative steps to shield thousands of immigrants from deportation. Applicants for the deferment program must have come to the U.S. before they turned 16, be younger than 30, have been in the country for at least five continuous years, be in school or have graduated from high school or GED program, or have served in the military. They also were allowed to apply for a two-year renewable work permit.

Arizona's policy allows anyone with lawful immigration status to get a driver's license, and more than 500 immigrants with work permits have obtained Arizona driver's licenses in recent years. But Arizona officials have said they don't want to extend driver's licenses to those in the new program because they don't believe the youths will be able to stay in the country legally.

Brewer's lawyers argued that Obama's policy isn't federal law and the state has the authority to distinguish between immigrants with work permits who are on the path toward permanent residency and those benefiting from Obama's policy. The state's lawyers argued Arizona isn't violating its own policy by refusing to grant licenses to the immigrants in the program, because the youths haven't been granted legal protections by Congress.

Immigrant rights advocates filed their lawsuit in November on behalf of five young-adult immigrants who were brought to the U.S. from Mexico as children. They were granted deferred-deportation protections under the Obama administration's policy but were denied driver's licenses in Arizona.

The lawsuit said Brewer's policy makes it difficult or impossible for such young immigrants to do essential things in their everyday life, such as going to school, going to the grocery store, and finding and holding down a job.

A similar lawsuit was filed in Michigan after officials there initially decided to deny young immigrants licenses, but the case was dropped when the state changed its policy last month. At least 38 states have agreed to give driver's licenses to immigrants benefiting from the Obama policy, but Nebraska and Ohio officials have also balked.

Brewer has clashed with the Obama administration in the past over illegal immigration, most notably in the challenge that the federal government filed in a bid to invalidate Arizona's 2010 immigration law. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the law's most contentious section, but threw out other sections.

DHS confirms cheaper to deport every illegal alien than allowing them to stay

On December 3, Department of Homeland Security Assistant Secretary for Legislative Affairs, Nelson Peacock, responding to request from several U.S. Senators, including Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), wrote: “Our conservative estimate suggests that ICE would require a budget of more than $135 billion to apprehend, detain and remove the nation’s entire illegal immigrant population.”

In July 2010, the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) released the results of a study which examined the costs of illegal immigration at the federal, state and local levels. The study found that U.S. state and local governments shell out $84.2 billion annually in various services (law enforcement, schools, social services, etc.), with California taxpayers alone, spending $21 billion on illegal aliens every year.

The same study found that $29 billion is spent every year in federal funds on illegal aliens.

So, while it would cost a one-time fee of about $135 billion to deport every single illegal alien in the country, it is actually a bargain considering the fact that it already costs us $113 billion annually to keep them here.

In other words, the mass deportation would pay for itself in a little over a year. Incidentally, in 2007, the DHS estimated the cost of deporting all illegal aliens to be approximately $94 billion.

Immigration Reform Bill Includes National Biometric Database

A national biometric database of virtually every adult in the United States would be created under the comprehensive immigration reform legislation currently being debated in the Senate.

Such a database, introduced on page 178 of the 844-page bill, has privacy groups fearing that it is the first step toward a national identification system, Wired.com reports.

The reform bill would create a “photo tool” — a huge federal database — that would be administered by the Department of Homeland Security, Wired reports.

It would contain the names, ages, Social Security numbers and photographs of everyone in the nation with a driver’s license or other state-issued photo ID.

Employers would be required to check the database for every new hire to verify that they match their photo, Wired reports.

The database seeks to curb the employment of undocumented immigrants, but privacy advocates fear widespread abuse on many levels.

“It starts to change the relationship between the citizen and state. You do have to get permission to do things,” Chris Calabrese, a congressional lobbyist with the American Civil Liberties Union, told Wired. “More fundamentally, it could be the start of keeping a record of all things.”

The legislation currently allows the database to be used solely for employment purposes — though such limitations haven’t lasted long historically, privacy advocates say.

They cite the Social Security card, created in 1936 to track individual government retirement benefits.

Now, the number is necessary virtually any major purchase, including health insurance.

“The Social Security number itself, it’s pretty ubiquitous in your life,” Calabrese said.

David Bier, an analyst with the Competitive Enterprise Institute, the libertarian think tank, agreed.

“The most worrying aspect is that this creates a principle of permission basically to do certain activities — and it can be used to restrict activities,” Bier told Wired. “It’s like a national ID system without the card.”

The Senate Judiciary Committee has not yet examined this part of the immigration bill, formally known as the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act.

Debate is scheduled to continue on Thursday.

Gov't acknowledges thousands released from jails

The Obama administration reversed itself Thursday, acknowledging to Congress that it had, in fact, released more than 2,000 illegal immigrants from immigration jails due to budget constraints during three weeks in February.

The director of U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, John Morton, said his agency had released 2,228 illegal immigrants during that period for what he called "solely budgetary reasons." The figure was significantly higher than the "few hundred" immigrants the Obama administration had publicly acknowledged were released under the budget-savings process. He testified during a hearing by a House appropriations subcommittee.

Morton told lawmakers Thursday that the decision to release the immigrants was not discussed in advance with political appointees, including those in the White House or Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. He said the pending automatic cuts known as sequestration was "driving in the background."

"We were trying to live within the budget that Congress had provided us," Morton told lawmakers. "This was not a White House call. I take full responsibility."

The Associated Press, citing internal budget documents, reported exclusively on March 1 that the administration had released more than 2,000 illegal immigrants since Feb. 15 and planned to release 3,000 more in March due to looming budget cuts, but Napolitano said days later that the AP's report was "not really accurate" and that the story had developed "its own mythology."

"Several hundred are related to sequester, but it wasn't thousands," Napolitano said March 4 at a Politico-sponsored event.

On March 5, the House Judiciary Committee publicly released an internal ICE document that it said described the agency's plans to release thousands of illegal immigrants before March 31. The document was among those reviewed by the AP for its story days earlier.

The immigrants who were released still eventually face deportation and are required to appear for upcoming court hearings. But they are no longer confined in immigration jails, where advocacy experts say they cost about $164 per day per person. Immigrants who are granted supervised release _ with conditions that can include mandatory check-ins, home visits and GPS devices _ cost the government from 30 cents to $14 a day, according to the National Immigration Forum, a group that advocates on behalf of immigrants.

Morton said Thursday that among the immigrants released were 10 people considered the highest level of offender. Morton said that although that category of offender can include people convicted of aggravated felonies, many of the people released were facing financial crimes. Four of the most serious offenders have been put back in detention. Other people released include immigrants who had faced multiple drunken driving offenses, misdemeanor crimes and traffic offenses, Morton said.

After the administration challenged the AP's reporting, ICE said it didn't know how many people had been released for budget reasons but would review its records.

DHS plans to release 5,000 illegal immigrants due to sequestration

House investigators learned Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials developed plans to release about 5,000 illegal immigrant detainees, although Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has denied responsibility for the decision.

“An internal document obtained by the House Judiciary Committee shows that Administration officials at ICE prepared cold calculations to release thousands of criminal aliens onto the streets and did not demonstrate any consideration of the impact this decision would have on the safety of Americans,” committee chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., announced.

The ICE document contains a table that proposes “reduc[ing] invoiced daily population by 1,000 weekly.” Between February 22 and March 31st, this plan would drop the number of detainees from 30,748 to 25,748.

“The decision to release detained aliens undermines the Department of Homeland Security’s mission to keep our homeland secure and instead makes our communities less safe and more vulnerable to crime,” Goodlatte said. “[R]egardless of sequestration, DHS actually has plenty of funding to pay for the detention of criminal aliens. Unfortunately, it seems Administration officials are more interested in using sequestration to promote their political agenda than as an opportunity to get our nation’s fiscal house in order.”

Napolitano said that it wasn’t her decision, even though ICE is part of DHS. “Detainee populations and how that is managed back and forth is really handled by career officials in the field,” she told ABC.

She also confirmed that the releases would continue. “We are going to manage our way through this by identifying the lowest risk detainees, and putting them into some kind of alternative to release,” Napolitano said at a Politico event, per The Daily Caller.

The New York Times profiled a “low risk” detainee released by ICE. The detainee was taken into custody “when it was discovered that he had violated probation for a conviction in 2005 of simple assault, simple battery and child abuse, charges that sprung from a domestic dispute with his wife at the time.” NRO’s Jim Geraghty asked, “If convictions for ‘simple assault, simple battery and child abuse’ make you ‘low-risk,’ what do you have to do for Janet Napolitano to consider you ‘high-risk’?”

A Washington Narrative Meets Reality

During his visit to El Paso in May 2011, President Obama mocked calls for border security. After declaring that sufficient measures had been taken to stem illegal crossings, he joked that his critics would always demand more, perhaps even calling for alligators in a moat. While the line drew howls from the national media, local residents did not laugh. The quip revealed only ignorance or callousness to the escalating dangers that are part of their daily life. Since that time the administration has repeatedly declared the border more secure than ever while simultaneously making it more vulnerable with executive pardons for whole classes of illegal aliens and calls for a mass amnesty that have triggered an exponential increase in human smuggling.

We got a local perspective of the situation during our recent tour through south Texas. Led by Jerry Kammer, our group followed the Rio Grande from Del Rio to Brownsville on an itinerary that covered more than 1,100 miles. In meetings with various people along the way, common themes emerged: Illegal crossings are soaring, violence and exploitation are routine, and area residents are increasingly alienated.

A group of ranchers who manage game lands about 70 miles from the border told us that they have seen a 500 percent increase in illegal-alien traffic since last summer. In past years the flow has fluctuated with the seasons, but there has been no recent cessation. Nearly every day they encounter groups of illegal aliens who have been left by smugglers to wander the vast landscape. Sometimes they find dead bodies or loads of drugs. The Border Patrol can take hours or even days to arrive because of staff limitations and the agents will not come at all if the number of illegal aliens reported is deemed too small. It is estimated that only 10 percent are detained.

The continuous flow of human traffic requires constant vigilance from the ranchers, who must devote considerable time to managing the dangers and disruptions. Another group we spoke to agreed with this assessment and is working closely with the county sheriff, the state’s Department of Public Safety, and volunteers in attempts to stem the flow.

Throughout the region people told us that illegal crossings have increased significantly. These observations parallel recent trends in Arizona. Just south of Laredo we stopped for a few minutes beside the Rio Grande and happened to see Border Patrol agents apprehend a group of Honduran illegal aliens who had just crossed in the middle of the afternoon. The incident occurred on private property belonging to a couple who told us that foreign nationals cross through their land on almost a daily basis.

A woman we visited near Brownsville told us that the commotion from people crossing regularly wakes her at night. She advised against driving down to the river, which is only a few hundred feet from her house, even though it was midday. She said that a local golf course has recently lost business and that the University of Texas at Brownsville has had to relocate student parking because of gunfire coming from the border.

Two of Mexico’s most notorious gangs, the Zetas and the Gulf Cartel, are headquartered just across the river in the Mexican state of Tamaulipas. Their influence has been so devastating to civil society that some observers say Tamaulipas is a failed state. A couple years ago, authorities found the bodies of 72 Central and South Americans who were slaughtered en masse after refusing to work for a drug gang who had intercepted them on their way to America. The violence has eroded any sense of community. Jim Kuykendall, the former head of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s office in Guadalajara, told us that public events such as festivals and rodeos no longer take place.

A young woman who manages a motel in Rio Grande City said that her family owns a house just across the river. They have been unable to collect rent from their delinquent tenant for four years because they will not risk venturing into the area, which she describes as a ghost town. Not one person we spoke to in the entire region still travels into Mexico.

The people who live on this side of the Rio Grande say that the cartels are always monitoring their property in order to funnel drugs and humans into the country and that theft and vandalism are rampant. Dob Cunningham, a retired border patrolman who was born and raised on the border, claims that the behavior of the crossers has fundamentally changed. Decades ago most illegal aliens came from rural parts of Mexico. They were tough young men who came on their own, respected property, and offered to do the most menial tasks in exchange for assistance. Cunningham says that illegal aliens now arrive from all over the world. They pay smugglers exorbitant fees to get them into the United States and are ruthlessly exploited, oftentimes kidnapped, raped, or forced to carry loads of drugs.

Recently retired Sheriff Sigifredo Gonzalez has spent more than 30 years enforcing the law in Zapata County. He served his last 16 years as sheriff after his predecessor was indicted for drug smuggling, an offense that is now routinely committed by law enforcement officials along the border. The sheriff told us stories of nihilistic violence as he showed us around San Ygnacio, Zapata, and Falcon Lake.

He said that the Mexican side is patrolled by young gang members armed with automatic weapons. The cartels, always looking for ways to shock and intimidate competing organizations, have resorted to gruesome methods of execution. Severed torsos and bodies that have been boiled to death have been found. The violence is mostly meted out on rival syndicates, but sometimes innocents get caught in the struggle. This is what Gonzalez alleged happened in the highly-publicized murder of David Hartley, who was sightseeing on Falcon Lake with his wife. Mexican authorities later arrested a Zeta member in the case.

Sheriff Gonzalez explained that spillover violence in Zapata has typically been home invasion burglaries. Wealthy border residents with no apparent connection to the drug trade have been targeted. What is more prevalent, however, is a type of capitulation along the border. While showing us around downtown Laredo, Kuykendall explained how vibrant and exciting the city was in his youth. Those days are gone as fancy shops and hotels have been replaced with thrift stores and rundown housing. Days before we visited, three grenades exploded feet from the U.S. consulate across the river in Nuevo Laredo. Such incidents have had a depreciating effect on local enterprise. Longtime border residents have witnessed dramatic changes. Kuykendall says that there are so many illegal aliens in Laredo nobody really makes a distinction. Two nations have become one. This includes the influence of the cartels, which employ a growing number of people on this side of the border.

In the midst of all this, residents are alienated. Mexican authorities have proven incapable of combating the cartels and they actually encourage illegal immigration. But more frustrating than the corruption there, is the political environment here. Despite his years in the Border Patrol, Cunningham emphatically stated that he fears being prosecuted by the United States federal government more than being harmed by foreign nationals. He knows several people who are serving lengthy prison terms for trying to stop illicit activity.

The perception that federal prosecutors are focused on diplomacy and accommodation rather than law and order also applies to the Department of Homeland Security. Most of the people we spoke to have good working relationships with their local Border Patrol agents. But climbing the political hierarchy brings disillusionment. Washington has repeatedly made decisions that undermine enforcement, so much so that the Border Patrol unions devote a considerable amount of time fighting management to retain their stated responsibilities. Swaths of the border go unmonitored due to inadequate numbers and agents who do their job face political obstacles. This has led Sheriff Gonzalez to believe that the only way to secure the border is through local control.

Recent declarations that the border is secure are intended to encourage congressional passage of a mass amnesty. The politicians and activists who are pushing this couch their efforts in humanitarian terms, questioning the morality of those in opposition. But what they do not understand is that amnesty benefits human smugglers. Their business of exploiting the desperate booms every time a careless politician or commentator starts self-righteously talking about a pathway to citizenship. Such talk creates chaos on the border and undermines the rule of law.


 


 

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