Violent Mexican drug cartels offer their victims a Faustian choice: “Plata or plomo? Silver or lead? The bribe or the bullet?” said Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Tex., in his opening remarks during a congressional hearing on the status of our southern border held on Capitol Hill Wednesday.
In response to criticism that the Obama administration is not protecting the nation from an unprecedented invasion, Department of Homeland Secretary Janet Napolitano insisted last year that “the [southern] border is better now than it has ever been.”
But that’s only true if you happen to be an illegal immigrant or a member of one of Mexico’s violent drug cartels. For Americans living in border states – or in one of the 276 U.S. cities that Napolitano’s own department acknowledges has been infiltrated by drug-funded narco cartels – this is hardly the best of times.
“Mexico is losing this war, and so are we,” said a somber Rep. McCaul, R-Tex., chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security’s Subcommittee on Oversight, Investigations and Management, as he introduced witnesses.
Arizona Attorney General Thomas Horne testified that the crime wave that has convulsed Mexico has spilled into the U.S. In October, he said, the Phoenix area experienced its first beheading. But there are only 500 National Guard troops in the Tuscon sector, compared to 6,000 in 2006.
And as many as 400,000 –plus foreigners still stream across the U.S. border annually, Horne added. “That is equivalent to an invasion, from various countries, of 20 divisions.”
Warning about the potential for complete economic collapse in Mexico, Horne compared these criminal enterprises to “a pack of wolves which may decimate a deer population without a thought about what that may mean to future wolves years hence. They act like wolves because that is their nature.”
Which is why McCaul and Homeland Security Committee chairman Peter King are co-sponsoring HR 1270, which would designate Mexican drug cartels as foreign terrorist organizations.
The designation would give law enforcement more tools to combat them, including seizure of assets.
“We are outmanned, overpowered, and in danger of losing control of our own communities to narco-terrorists,” McCaul warned, adding that spillover violence on the U.S. side of the border is seriously underreported. Since January 2010, 22 murders, 24 assaults and 15 kidnappings were directly related to drug cartel activity, including the murder of a Colorado man while he was jet-skiing with his wife on Falcon Lake, which straddles the U.S.-Mexico border.
However, these crimes are not counted in the FBI’s Uniform Crime Statistics, which McCaul pointed out excludes “home invasions, kidnappings, extortion, and trafficker on trafficker violence – all the things the cartels do best.”
Assistant Attorney General Amy Pope admitted during the hearing that the “executive branch has no definition of spillover violence,” undercutting Napolitano’s assurances that the border is more secure than it’s ever been.
Spillover crimes are still happening – even if Napolitano refuses to count them.