House panel to hear firsthand accounts of crime along Mexican border

Skewed reporting on crime along the U.S.-Mexico border will be the focus of a House Homeland Security Committee oversight hearing on Wednesday, according to the presiding lawmaker.

The hearing, entitled “On the Border and In the Line of Fire: U.S. Law Enforcement, Homeland Security and Cartel Violence,” is the second in a series of hearings initiated by Oversight subcommittee chairman Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas.)

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McCaul wants to hear from high-level federal, state and local law enforcement officials entrenched in dealing with the ongoing violence along the U.S. southern border, caused by the powerful Mexican drug cartels.

An aide on the committee told The Hill that Wednesday’s hearing will discuss the discrepancies in official data on the actual rate of violence on the border. Kidnappings and other offenses do not factor into the equation that results in the figures seen by lawmakers.

“This administration is not giving the American people a complete picture of security on our border with Mexico. It is not 'better now than it has ever been' and the data on spillover crimes and violence is deceiving and underreported. Our state and local law enforcement on the front lines need help. Their firsthand accounts will tell the real story of how we are outmanned, overpowered and in danger of losing control of our own communities to narco-terrorists,” McCaul said.

The concern is that more individuals are being kidnapped in the U.S. and then murdered in Mexico; which means that such crimes are not included in the statistics of murder on the U.S. side of the border.

According to the FBI, crime along the southwest border has declined by about 14 percent over the last three years. 

“These numbers show a clear distinction between political rhetoric and proven facts,” Rep. Bernie Thompson (D-Miss.), ranking member of the House Homeland Security Committee, said at the first hearing in March.

On Wednesday, the panel will have the opportunity to talk with the Texas Department of Public Safety Director, Col. Steven McCraw, Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne and other key local and federal officials on the border violence, which McCaul considers grave enough to have introduced a bill to designate the six drug cartels as Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTO.)

The bill would add the Arellano Feliz and Beltran Leyva organizations, Los Zetas and Sinaloa cartels, La Familia Michoacana and Gulf Cartel/New Federation to the U.S. FTO list; in effect limiting the cartels’ financial, property and travel interests, and to impose harsher punishment on anyone who provides material support to cartels.

McCaul is certain to reiterate his request that the White House extend National Guard troop duty along the southern border, beyond the June 30 drawdown scheduled by the Obama administration.

McCaul and a handful of other top-ranking GOP lawmakers sent a letter to the White House on April 1 requesting that the National Guard remain in place but have not heard back from the White House formally, an aide told The Hill.