Those who live along the U.S. – Mexico border understand that there are many challenges facing border communities. The 23rd District of Texas stretches along nearly 800 miles of U.S.–Mexico border, putting it on the front lines of spillover violence from Mexican drug cartels. Unfortunately, the violence is not only present near the border, but has moved inward to other cities within the district. For instance, the San Antonio Express News recently reported that three men believed to be members of the Zetas drug cartel, one of Mexico’s most violent and dangerous drug organizations, were arrested in a peaceful suburb of San Antonio after entering a home, assaulting the residents and taking them as hostages.
Regardless of whether these types of incidents occur on the border or farther inland, they are disturbing and deserve the attention of the federal government. The problem is that despite these repeated examples of communities witnessing cartel-initiated violence, the current administration and Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano continue to claim that the U.S. - Mexico border is completely ‘safe’ and ‘secure’, and have begun the process of removing vital security personnel from the border region, making the border less secure than it is already.
What’s even more troubling is the fact that the current administration and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) still lack a uniform definition of ‘spillover violence’ or ‘cross-border violence’, which makes it virtually impossible to track the violence, address it and monitor progress in confronting it. That's why I introduced H.R. 2124, the Southwest Cross-border Violence Recognition Act. H.R. 2124 would provide the federal government with a uniform definition of cross-border violence and require the DHS Secretary to report to Congress on the level of violence, based on the uniform definition, spilling into the U.S. from Mexico. This legislation will help us ensure that drug violence from Mexico does not threaten the safety and security of our border states, communities and residents.
While it may be easy to ignore spillover violence when you live 1,000 miles away from it, it is impossible to ignore when you face it daily. As the representative of Americans who routinely confront this type of violence, it is my duty to ensure that those sitting in Washington truly understand what is taking place on and around the U.S. - Mexico border in Texas, and are taking steps to confront the violence and secure our citizens. Let me assure you that I will continue fighting to secure our border; it is time we end the dangerous status quo when it comes to addressing the needs of our border communities.
This column was written by U.S. Rep. Francisco Canseco.