The Obama Administration is deceiving Americans by underreporting serious crime along the Mexican border, according to the Texas lawmaker who chairs a congressional Homeland Security committee.Federal, state and local law enforcement officials who deal firsthand with violent Mexican drug cartels will deliver testimony to prove it at a special committee hearing this week titled “On the Border and in the Line of Fire: U.S. Law Enforcement, Homeland Security and Drug Cartel Violence.”Authorities at every level will tell the “real story” of how they are “outmanned, overpowered and in danger of losing control” of communities to “narco-terrorists,” says Michael McCaul, the Texas congressman who chairs the House Committee on Homeland Security. The lawmaker asserts that the Obama Administration “is not giving the American people a complete picture of security on our border with Mexico” and that data on crimes and violence along the southern border is “deceiving and underreported.”Among those scheduled to speak at Wednesday’s hearing in Washington D.C. are the director of the Department of Homeland Security’s counter narcotics enforcement office, the head of the Texas Department of Public Safety, Arizona’s attorney general and the sheriff of Zapata County Texas. Their testimony will contradict Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano’s claim that security along the Mexican border is “better now than it has ever been,” McCaul says.The House Homeland Security committee held a similar hearing in late March to address the crisis along the southwest border. A top Homeland Security official delivered gripping information outlining how Mexcian cartel drugs, money and weapons are part of a “complex interconnected system of illicit pathways and transitional criminal organizations that span the globe.”In a separate but related story on the administration’s handling of border security, Arizonalawmakers are seeking online donations to build fencing along the border with Mexicosince the federal government won’t do it. The plan includes using prison labor and launching a website to help raise money for the project. The state is already using donated funds to defend its immigration control law from the Obama Administration’s legal challenges.
Crucial border security programs are on the chopping block under a government spending bill proposed by Republicans, who have long called for strengthening security along the notoriously violent and porous southern border.The hypocritical move essentially puts Republicans on the same page as Democrats on a contentious issue that has long been the source of partisan battles. President Obama’s proposed 2011 budget, revealed just a few weeks ago, reduces the number of Border Patrol agents along the Mexican border by 180 and cuts $226 million in funding for an electronic “virtual fence.”The Republican government spending bill introduced just days ago slashes $600 million from border security and immigration enforcement funds. It would not reduce the number of Border Patrol agents but would decrease funding for border security fencing and technology by $350 million and a federal employment verification program (known as E-Verify) by about $33 million.House Republicans are touting the budget proposal as the “largest single discretionary spending reduction in the history of Congress.” It cuts government spending by a much-needed $100 billion at a time when the nation’s debt is $14 trillion, according to a statement released by the House Appropriations Committee. The entire Continuing Resolution can be viewed on the committee’s website.Ironically, Republicans blasted President Obama for not taking immigration enforcement seriously when his budget proposal was made public earlier this month. A ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, Lamar Smith of Texas, even accused the commander-in-chief of leaving the nation vulnerable to future terrorist attacks by underfunding key national security programs along the southwest border.Other high-profile Republicans have also denounced the administration’s efforts to secure the Mexican border. Among them is House Speaker John Boehner, who recently said “the violence on America’s border is out of control and the federal government isn’t doing its job.” Boehner was also critical of border enforcement under the George W. Bush administration.Now both parties have come together to slash funding for border security and the timing could not be worse. Mexican drug-cartel violence hit record levels in 2010 and more than 13,000 people were murdered in disturbing and cruel ways not commonly seen in previous years. In some areas the violence has spilled into U.S.communities, forcing local law enforcement agencies to create special units dedicated to combating criminal activity related to illegal immigration and Mexican drug cartels.
While the Department of Homeland Security claims terrorists are more likely to enter the United States through the northern border than the south, the agency secures only a tiny portion of the area though it assures that agents maintain “situational awareness” along dangerous stretches.Less than 1% of the 4,000-mile U.S.-Canada border is adequately secured by theU.S., according to a government audit that attributes the problem to rivalries and lack of coordination among various law enforcement agencies. As a result, the Border Patrol maintains an “acceptable level of control” over only 32 miles of the Canadian border stretching from Washington State to Maine.Not to worry. The Department of Homeland Security, which oversees the Border Patrol, told government investigators that agents still maintain “situational awareness” along the areas that appear to lack adequate security. These reassuring words are actually cited in the lengthy report released by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the investigative arm of Congress, this month.U.S. taxpayers doled out nearly $3 billion in 2010 to guard the Canadian border and federal agents made around 6,000 arrests and confiscated 40,000 pounds of narcotics but the area remains a national security threat. That’s because federal agents don’t have the ability to detect illegal activity across most of the area, according to the GAO probe. As a result, “few northern border miles” reached an “acceptable level of security” in 2010.In December a separate GAO report focusing on federal borderlands in the north and south revealed that a rural and dangerous portion along Canada is practically ignored by the U.S. As a result, the stretch—which runs from Washington State toMontana—is rife with drug smuggling and potential terrorism and gang threats. The area is also considered an important entry point for aircraft that smuggle drugs fromCanada.The problem is biggest in the Border Patrol’s Spokane sector, which is a prime entry point for high-potency marijuana from Canada. The sector covers five national forests, two wilderness areas and a national park. Border Patrol officials admit that the level of illegal activity is significantly higher than what’s reflected in the number of drug seizures and apprehensions, which has actually decreased in the last few years.
In a perpetual state of denial, Janet Napolitano insists that security along the Mexican border has been strengthened “in a way that many would not have thought possible,” even as drug-cartel violence reaches epic proportions and routinely spills into the U.S.The delusional assessment from the nation’s Homeland Security chief comes just a few months after her equally infuriating estimate that the southern border “is as secure as it has ever been.” Napolitano made that assertion in September, as violence escalated along the Mexican border and overwhelmed federal agents got attacked by heavily armed drug smugglers. In fact, days before Madam Secretary made that brilliant statement, Border Patrol agents came under siege during a bust that netted half a ton of U.S.-bound marijuana.As the crisis worsens, Napolitano continues to paint a rosy picture that certainly diminishes her credibility as the top official responsible for keeping the nation safe. During a speech at a Texas university this week she said that the Obama Administration’s “unprecedented effort” to intensify southwest border security “is working” and that the nation’s “partnership with Mexico is strong.” The U.S.government has given Mexico more than $1 billion in the last few years to combat drug violence, though its worst than ever.Napolitano did acknowledge that there are still “challenges” and that she’s “deeply concerned about the drug cartel violence taking place in Mexico.” That’s probably because the sophisticated operations have taken over northern portions of the notoriously corrupt Latin American country and the U.S. is feeling the spillover effects.In fact, Mexico’s most violent region (Ciudad Juarez) borders El Paso and the situation is so serious that bullets from shootouts among rival smugglers regularly spill into the city, once ranked among the nation’s safest. One example took place a few months ago when a myriad of bullets fired into El Paso, striking City Hall and a public university building. The local sheriff says the gun battles are breaking out everywhere but his hands are tied because he’s legally forbidden from intervening in another country’s war.Napolitano agrees that the U.S. must guard against such “spillover effects,” but insists that it “is inaccurate to state, as too many have, that the border is overrun with violence and out of control.” That statement is often made to “score political points,” Napolitano says, and it is “just plain wrong.” To assure that our southern neighbors get the speech, the Department of Homeland Security has posted aSpanish version on its web site.