In a speech on the Senate floor last week, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., declared that the failure to secure that border between Arizona and Mexico “has led to violence – the worst I have ever seen.”
He reiterated that Saturday after speaking at the West Valley Military Family Day event in Glendale, saying the concern that drug violence could spill across the border remains intense because Mexico’s political situation is volatile.
“The violence is on the increase,” McCain told The Arizona Republic.
Except that it’s not.
Assistant Police Chief Roy Bermudez shakes his head and smiles when he hears politicians and pundits declaring that Mexican cartel violence is overrunning his Arizona border town.
“We have not, thank God, witnessed any spillover violence from Mexico,” Bermudez says emphatically. “You can look at the crime stats. I think Nogales, Arizona, is one of the safest places to live in all of America.”
FBI Uniform Crime Reports and statistics provided by police agencies, in fact, show that the crime rates in Nogales, Douglas, Yuma and other Arizona border towns have remained essentially flat for the past decade, even as drug-related violence has spiraled out of control on the other side of the international line. Statewide, rates of violent crime also are down.
Radley Balko has already noted that illegal immigration (while it may have other issues) does not automatically lead to crime, and the article points the numbers out on that as well.
While the nation’s illegal-immigrant population doubled from 1994 to 2004, according to federal records, the violent-crime rate declined 35 percent.
But how about the drug war? Why is there so much violence on the Mexican side and so little on the U.S. side?
It has to do with the nature of the business. It’s on the Mexican side of the border that the control of the business is established. Once drugs are smuggled across the border, there’s little interest in sticking around â€” they keep on going inland.
Bermudez said people unfamiliar with the border may be confused because Nogales, Sonora, has become notorious for kidnappings, shootouts and beheadings. With 500 Border Patrol agents and countless other law officers swarming the Arizona side, he said, smugglers pass through as quickly and furtively as possible. […]
“It almost seems like Yuma is more of an entryway” for smugglers rather than a combat zone, he said.
Note the rather casual admission that, even with all the border law enforcement, there really isn’t an expectation that smuggling will be stopped or significantly impeded.
Of course, all this doesn’t change the fact that the drug war is causing a lot of violence in Mexico, and that we could dramatically reduce a lot of collateral damage here in the United States as well with legalization and regulation, but this is an interesting side story in political over-reaction.