Storm Clouds Gathering Along U.S.-Mexico Border
Embroiled in an ongoing clash between rival drug cartels, the region of Mexico directly across the border from Texas has become one of the most dangerous places in the world, with more than 28,000 people killed since 2006, a death toll more reflective of a war zone than a nation ostensibly at peace.
Wishful thinking won't keep such an overwhelming explosion of violence from creeping further north, so we must consider all our options as we determine the best way to protect our communities.
It all begins with a strong border, and a border is only as strong as the forces protecting it.
Amazingly, despite years of appeals and the continual disintegration of the communities in Northern Mexico, the U.S. government refuses to develop a cohesive strategy or deploy sufficient resources to ensure this deadly violence won't reach American soil.
It's already taking American lives. Recently, over the span of about a week, six U.S. citizens - five of whom were Texas residents - lost their lives to these drug wars. The circumstances surrounding their deaths vary, but the pain caused by their loss is all too familiar to a growing number of Texas families along our southern border.
While we can do little to save the lives of our citizens once they're in Mexico, we must do everything possible to protect the lives of those still within our borders.
Securing our southern border is a federal responsibility, but the effects of the federal government's failure to live up to that responsibility are big problems in Texas. As a result, our state has spent more than $230 million over the past several years to protect our communities and fill in the sizable gaps left by insufficient federal efforts.
Texas is paying overtime to border officers to stretch their training and abilities further. We've added state-of-the-art aviation assets, including helicopters, and advanced communications and tactical equipment.
The state has also established Joint Operation and Intelligence Centers in each Border Patrol Sector, and created quick-response units - like Trooper Strike Teams and Texas Ranger Recon Teams - that can effectively counter criminal activity in even the most remote areas of the border region.
Thanks to the hard work and dedication of our local sheriffs, local police officers, state troopers and game wardens, supported by the men and women of the Border Patrol, these initiatives have had a positive impact.
Despite our ongoing efforts, however, the situation in Northern Mexico continues to degenerate, and we have to expect the violence will eventually reach U.S. soil. Already, Falcon Lake, a reservoir along the border used by citizens of both nations, has turned into a dangerous feeding ground for drug-runners and modern-day pirates. The September slaying of David Hartley, who was murdered while touring Falcon Lake, is only the most publicized incident of violence in the area. It's likely there will be more.
The impact of these criminal activities is not limited to areas south of the border; drug cartels and transnational gangs have infiltrated Texas prisons, communities and schools. They work to recruit young people with the promise of fast money and easy living. Unfortunately, the only promises fulfilled by drug cartels are a lifetime in jail or an early death.
A porous border can only lead to more violence. Without border security, there can be no national security.
The Obama Administration must dedicate more Border Patrol agents to Texas. In fact, I have asked Secretary Napolitano to assign an additional 3,000 agents to the Texas-Mexico border. The current Texas Border Patrol staffing levels of 7,700 are entirely inadequate considering our state shares more than 1,200 miles of border with Mexico - roughly 64 percent of the entire American southern boundary.
Until those staffing levels are increased, in January 2009 I requested that 1,000 Title 32 National Guard troops be deployed along the Texas-Mexico border in direct support of current state border security operations. After nearly two years, I have yet to receive a substantial response to my request. Instead, under its own plan, the Obama Administration sent only 286 National Guardsman to the Texas border - a scant 20 percent of the 1,200 Guardsmen the White House deployed along the entire border.
I'll be the first to say that every little bit helps, and while we're certainly grateful for these fine Americans and their service, this is not nearly enough to make the difference we need.
As I wrote to President Obama last summer, the magnitude of the threat our nation faces demands a more serious and robust commitment from this administration.
In the meantime, Texas will not stand by while Washington drags its feet. Texas will fight back.
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