By Jordy Yager - 06/27/10 08:14 PM EDT
As the White House bolsters security along the U.S.-Mexico border while declaring that the region has never been safer, Democratic lawmakers are demanding further action, saying that they are feeling the heat from dissatisfied voters.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano this week laid
out several new initiatives aimed at strengthening the federal government’s
partnership with local law enforcement, and President Barack Obama requested
$600 million in emergency border funds from Congress.
But Arizona Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D) pointed to recent drug cartel threats against local law enforcement officials in her home state as evidence that the ongoing drug cartels are escalating the levels of violence along the border. If the U.S. fails to tighten border security, it could pay the price, said Kirkpatrick -- one of roughly a dozen lawmakers who, over the July Fourth recess, will likely face voters who are not satisfied with the status quo.
“With the drug war in Mexico burning hotter than ever and our citizens being targeted more and more, the risks to law enforcement and to our communities are unmistakably growing,” said Kirkpatrick.
“The cartels have shown an increasing level of violence and
brutality. We should act now, before that violence crosses our borders, instead
of waiting for it to come to us.”
Several other Democratic lawmakers representing districts along the U.S.-Mexico border have told The Hill that more violent episodes, such as the recent killing of a Mexican teenager by a U.S. Border Patrol officer, can be expected as the region’s law enforcement is heightened.
But Napolitano says that these are politically motivated claims and that as the November elections near, so too will the pleas for more border security, no matter what the White House does.
“Despite the unfortunate misperceptions that continue to make their way into the public debate, the reality is we've actually achieved significant progress securing the border,” said Napolitano in an editorial in the Arizona Republic earlier this month.
“You might not get this impression from those looking to score political points by saying the border is spinning out of control. But the numbers tell the accurate story – and they're going in the right direction."
Indeed, the FBI statistics on violent crime that were
released last month show that major border cities – Phoenix, San Diego and El
Paso, Texas – all have some of the lowest rates of violent crime compared to
other cities throughout the United States.
Meanwhile, Rep. Sue Myrick (R-N.C.) wrote a letter to Napolitano last week asking her to look into possible ties between Central and South American drug cartels – especially those along the U.S.-Mexico border – with the Iranian-backed Hezbollah, which is designated a foreign terrorist organization by the U.S.
Myrick said there is an increasing amount of evidence that supports the theory that Hezbollah may have a significant amount of influence along the border, which could result in Middle-East style car bombings.