Thursday, May 09, 2013

Border Violence Spillover to the U.S. Needs to Be Acknowledged

One early morning in mid-January of 2013, Jesús Juárez opened the front door of his Brownsville, Texas home and saw a package. It had the typical FedEx markings on it, and despite the fact that his daughter’s boyfriend didn’t see it on his way out the night before, Jesús brought the package inside and opened it. Fortunately, only one of the four pipe bombs inside the package detonated, but just that single device blew out the front door and windows and severely burned him, his wife and their young daughter. An investigation by the Brownsville Police Department began immediately, and was soon joined by the FBI. Local authorities told the media that the perpetrators knew what they were doing because the pipe bombs required a certain level of technical sophistication to create. However, they could only speculate on who might be interested in deliberately sending such a violent message to a quiet home in a nice south Texas neighborhood.  While cartel-on-cartel violence is the hallmark of drug-related violence in Mexico —along with violence directed at the Mexican police and army— DHS doesn’t take this type of violence into account when trying to assess the existence of such spillover. DHS officials have even stated in Congressional testimony that the agency doesn’t keep track of crime statistics involving cartel-on-cartel attacks in the U.S. Some U.S. law enforcement agencies are finally starting to acknowledge that these incidents are happening in their territory. In late October 2012, a Hidalgo County (also in south Texas) Sheriff’s deputy was shot three times by a gang member on the Gulf cartel payroll. Sheriff Lupe Treviño has traditionally been very hesitant to say spillover is a problem, but he had no qualms about telling the media after the shooting that this was the first authentic case of border violence spillover in his county. These two examples beg the question: how bad do things need to get along our southwest border before DHS —or any other agency, for that matter— will acknowledge that spillover violence is happening? The general message being sent is that no one seems to care as long as it’s just criminals getting killed or kidnapped in south Texas or Arizona. But in these cases, an innocent five year-old was burned to within inches of her life, and an American police officer —one of many involved in recent confrontations with cartel members and their associates— could have died...more

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