Lawmen are warning that growing violence along the Mexican border poses a threat to national security. Chief Lynne Underdown, retiring Border Patrol chief for the Rio Grande Valley sector, told reporters at a press conference in Edinburg, TX, April 6, that attacks on border agents are fast escalating. She especially cited a December 2005 incident in which assailants on the Mexican side of the Rio Grande shot at agents on boat patrol, where they were at “maximum exposure.” Ironically, she admitted the increased violence is a result of more agents with more equipment and firepower—making more drug seizures and raising the stakes for smugglers.
Underdown joined the Border Patrol in 1982 in California, when the border force had only 2,000 agents and equipment was a “flashlight, radio, and a blanket.” The agency now has some 12,000 agents and is slated to grow to 18,000 under directive from President Bush. Agents now patrol with state-of-the-art jeeps and Humvees, use high-tech mapping devices, remote sensors, cameras, helicopters, and unmanned aerial drones.
Underdown boasted of her effective crackdown on migrants, especially those from countries other than Mexico. When she arrived in the Rio Grande Valley in 2005 as sector chief, non-Mexican migrants were released onto the streets with a notice to appear before an immigration judge. Few returned for court. “It got my attention my first day,” she said. “It was an unacceptable security situation.” Added detention space and an effort to quickly process immigrants for deportation has addressed the situation, Underdown said. (AP, April 6)
Similar concerns were voiced recently by Sheriff Clarence W. Dupnik of Arizona’s Pima County. He lambasted the federal government for misdirecting Homeland Security funds and not sufficiently supporting overwhelmed local law enforcement agencies. Dupnik told reporters: “The violence associated with the problem of migration and narcotics and other contraband going both north and south has reached epidemic proportions, and the safety of everyone in this state, if not in this country, is in some way affected by what’s occurring.” (Tucson Citizen, March 31)
Feds raid Phoenix drop house
Federal agents said April 8 they rescued more than 70 illegal immigrants being held for ransom in a raid on a suspected drop house in suburban Phoenix. The raid by immigration agents and Peoria police netted at least seven suspected human smugglers, and a cache of weapons. Virginia Kice, spokeswoman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), said agents got calls from relatives in two eastern cities about their family members being held in the home. Kice said the smugglers abused the migrants, didn’t feed them and were holding them against their will.
Peoria police spokesman Mike Tellef said authorities shot tear gas into the house to clear it out, but some migrants were still too scared to leave and hid in the basement. “We’re very fortunate that nobody got hurt,” he said. “We’re lucky that we’re not running into 100-degree temperatures yet.” Tellef said the drop house was the second the department had found that
week. On April 2, he said 30 suspected illegal immigrants and four smugglers were found in a Peoria home.
On April 5 in Phoenix, police found 60 undocumented migrants packed in a home after responding to a call about shots being fired. No one was hurt, and the migrants were turned over to ICE. (AP, April 8)
Gunmen fire on migrants —again
On March 31, two Mexicans were killed in the Tucson area by gunmen who apparently believed a pickup truck filled with undocumented migrants contained drugs. Consuelo Perez Roman, 28, and her brother-in-law, Antonio Perez Perez, 30, both of Chiapas, were found dead by Pima County sheriff’s deputies. They had been in a truck with 21 other migrants that was heading north toward Tucson when it was sprayed with high-powered weapons fire, deputies said.
Perez Perez’s two children, a 7-year-old girl and 2-year-old boy, were in the truck with him but were not hurt. A Guatemalan man was also shot, but his wounds were not life-threatening. All the survivors are being held as witnesses.
Border Patrol agents have arrested Rosario Humberto Araujo Monares, 21, and Martin Flores Gaxiola, 18, both of Sinaloa, as the suspected gunmen. Authorities said they admitted to staking out the desert road to hijack drug-smuggling vehicles. (AP via North County Times, March 31)
We have noted a wave of such indidents in recent weeks.
The account of the shooting incident in the San Diego area’s North County Times elicted the following comment from one reader—a barely concealed call for vigilante violence:
Daniel wrote on April 01, 2007 6:44 PM: “It is amazing how fast things are now deteriorating. Illegals preying on illegals. They know they can literally get away with murder in our country and that they are seldom caught, tried and punished. It is up to each individual to protect our sovereignty and make illegals too uncomfortable to stay. Now get out and do your part.”
See our last posts on the struggle for the border and the immigration crackdown.