In a recent interview with Brian Williams of NBC Nightly News, David Aguilar, Acting Commissioner of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency, said the Southwest borders of the United States are safer today than they have been in the last twenty years.
The crime rate is down 35% in some cases he said, with El Paso experiencing the 2nd year in a row as the safest large city in the United States. “It is not a war zone,” said Aguilar, in reference to recent comments made by residents living in nearby towns that it is just that; a war zone.
The years 2000 – 2001 were peak years for illegal activity; “Illegal immigration numbering 1.6 million apprehended,” Aguilar said, “when compared with last year when we had 340,000; an 80% drop.”
“Violence on the border does exist,” he said, stating that it is only on the Mexican side. The border Patrol officers are standing between the Mexican cartels and the American public. They are “standing between good and evil” he said; they are the ones holding it back.
He reiterated that it hurts the economy to let people think there is trouble at the borders. “Telling people that the border is out of control hurts the economic vitality of those cities along the Southwest border more than anything else,” said Aguilar.
Aguilar touted the current level of border patrol agents, the increase in electronic capabilities, and aerial patrol as major factors in our ability to raise efforts toward controlling the narcotics trafficking. He said two unmanned aircrafts presently patrol the Texas borders. He also cites the combination of 8,000 border patrol agents who patrol the areas between the ports of entry and 4,000 agents stationed at the actual ports of entry as contributing factors in our success. In addition, he named cooperation and partnership with state and local law enforcement and tribal entities working together. “We have the Government of Mexico also working with us as they have never done before,” Aguilar said.
A different view of the issue was presented by Professor Howard Campbell, of the University of Texas at El Paso, who spoke candidly with Brian Williams on NBC Nightly News about the spillover of crime into the US from Mexico which he had witnessed. “Bullets have flown from shootouts,” he says, “hitting the city hall where my wife works and the university campus where I work.”
Campbell cited political motivation as grounds for the portrayal of safety along the borders. “I think the Obama administration wants to portray the US/Mexico border as very safe. But,” he adds, “Perhaps they’re exaggerating the safety.” Campbell continues, “To claim that the border is peaceful, quiet; better than it’s ever been belies the real experiences of those that live on the border.”
The Mexican drug cartel culture says Campbell, has essentially taken over parts of some US cities and border towns with their drug trafficking activities; adding that we need to address the violence which has occurred as a result and insure that it does not spread into the rest of the country.