Napolitano and Congress Spar Over Violence on the Border

February 23, 2011 06:31

Napolitano said it was “inaccurate to state, as too many have, that the border is overrun with violence and out of control.” She added that “This statement, often made only to score political points, is just plain wrong.”

The Americano

While Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said Monday said that U.S. communities on the border exaggerated about the danger they face from the violence in Mexico, a congressional committee is considering where U.S. agents operating in that country should be allowed to carry weapons.

On Monday the debate took place in two different parts of the country and were as contentious as Republicans and Democrats are on most issues these days.

Speaking at the University of Texas, El Paso, Napolitano said communities on the border were safer than most Americans believe. She, however, also admonished the drug cartels in Mexico, that they would be “met by an overwhelming response” should they move north.

For the House Homeland Security Committee, violence has already struck this country.

Their discussion on whether to allow American law enforcement personnel to carry weapons in Mexico came as a result of the brutal attack that saw at least 83 bullets fired at two Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents last week. One was killed, the other wounded in what many believe was a direct attack against American law enforcement officials.

According to The Hill, members of the committee want the Obama administration to push for the extradition to the United States of the attackers if they are captured alive.

For more than two decades the United States has tried unsuccessfully to convince Mexican authorities that the dozens of U.S. agents fighting illegal drug, gun, and human trafficking in Mexico should be allowed to arm themselves. U.S. authorities further sustain that if violence is committed against an American citizen in Mexico, the perpetrators should be extradited.

In its story, The Hill said Mexico has long refrained from extraditing suspected criminals to countries where the death penalty is a possible sentence.

Members of the house committee expressed the hope that after the brazen attack last week – the first American law enforcement officer to die in Mexican territory since a Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) was killed in 1985, Mexican officials will reconsider on their two requests.

Homeland Security Chairman Peter King (R-N.Y.) told The Hill that the U.S. needs to take every step possible to protect agents in Mexico.

“It is essential that the U.S. government conduct a comprehensive threat assessment to protect U.S. government personnel working in Mexico,” said King in a statement. “We must also talk to the Mexicans about their prohibition against U.S. personnel carrying weapons and determine the extent to which security details must be expanded.”

According to the Associated Press, Napolitano toed a careful line in her speech in El Paso, just across the border from Ciudad Juárez, where the violence from the drug cartels has killed thousands of people in the last four years.

Napolitano said it was “inaccurate to state, as too many have, that the border is overrun with violence and out of control.” She added that “This statement, often made only to score political points, is just plain wrong.”

At the same time, the head of DHS, who until 2009 had been governor of Arizona, warned the drug cartels not to bring their violence across the border.

“Today I say to the cartels: Don’t even think about bringing your violence and tactics across this border. You will be met by an overwhelming response,” she said. “And we’re going to continue to work with our partners in Mexico to dismantle and defeat you.”

Still, AP said that Napolitano insisted that violent crime has not spiked in U.S. communities across the roughly 2,000-mile border with Mexico.

But the secretary also recognized that guarding against spillover from Mexican drug violence is an ongoing concern.

The top administration official on immigration issues also said that the sluggish U.S. economy had lowered the number of immigrants sneaking into U.S. territory.

While Border Patrol apprehensions declined 36 percent in the past two years as a result of a weak economy, she added that U.S. authorities deported 779,000 illegal immigrants nationwide in fiscal years 2009 and 2010, more than ever before. Last year, about 195,000 deportees were convicted criminals, Napolitano said in her speech, according to AP.

The Americano/Agencies

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