Escalating violence in the Mexican border town of Ciudad Juarez has finally provided justification for something the United States should have been doing since the early 1990s—securing its southern border.
Over the past few months, Mexican president Felipe Calderon has been deploying troops throughout Mexico to counter gangs and drug cartels, especially those in Ciudad Juarez. His decision is justifiable; last year, over 2,000 people were murdered in the infamous city. The addition of more troops throughout the nation, however, has led to even more violence, resulting in over 6,000 total deaths. With the situation in Ciudad Juarez so volatile, America needs to look after its own citizens in the area. The Department of Homeland Security should deploy National Guard troops to the U.S.-Mexico border, where, while not engaging militarily in the conflict in Ciudad Juarez, they can protect Texas residents from violence.
So far, there is no evidence that violence has increased significantly in Texas in response to the Mexican conflicts. But the rate of violent crimes has already increased in major southern trafficking locations like Phoenix and Atlanta, and U.S. officials have warned that the likelihood of border violence eventually spilling onto Texas soil is high. In February, two city councilmen were killed in Ciudad Juarez, and the police chief was forced to resign in response to threats that a policeman would be killed every two days if he refused to do so. In addition, the city’s mayor currently resides in El Paso, Texas—troubling for Texans who fear that violence will trail him and other Mexican leaders if they seek refuge across the border. With such concerns in mind, Texas Homeland Security Director Steve McGraw has requested $135 million to help combat Mexican gangs, which he claimed are “the most significant threat Texas faces.” And, two months ago, Texas governor Rick Perry asked Washington for 1,000 guards to help secure the border.
Some object that Mexico will view a deployment of troops as another reflection of American unilateral decision-making without respect or regard for the interests of other nations. But, when it comes to protecting its citizens, America needs to make decisions that reflect its own interests, and such is the case with the Mexican violence. Collaboration with Mexico in making decisions and determining how to deploy troops is undoubtedly advantageous, but Mexican opposition to increased border control is no reason to sacrifice the immediate safety of the American populace. Americans need to support the Mexican government’s long-term efforts to limit violence without sacrificing their own interests and ideals in the process.
Others argue that the deployment of troops will only invite more violence by creating new targets and posing a threat to Mexican security. Yet this claim is a defensive one, suggesting that America should only respond once violence has actually spread and that we should avoid inciting or contributing to conflict in any way. Deploying the National Guard to the border, however, is a preventive measure aimed at limiting violence before it is able to extend to the border. Delaying action will leave Americans unprotected when conflict does inevitably spread, and the risk of providing more targets is outweighed by the prospect of endangering Texas civilians’ lives.
Of course, Americans must be careful not to overstep their jurisdiction. While protecting American citizens represents a valid national interest, engaging in the Mexican conflict or entering Mexican territory would involve endangering troops’ lives for the sake of a national battle that does not immediately threaten America’s safety. It is this type of action that would anger the Mexican populace and represent unnecessary involvement in an external conflict not concerned with American interests or ideals.
Retaining a mere border patrol, however, is simply not enough to protect American citizens anymore. With violence within Mexico increasing and the greatest crimes occurring just miles from the Texas border, the necessity of federal measures grows more urgent with each day. Government interference has been successful in the past—in an effort to crack down on drug trafficking, U.S. federal officials recently caught over 750 suspects involved in Mexican drug cartels that had spread to the United States. Here, too, the government should get involved. America needs to guarantee for its own citizens the kind of national safety Mexican refugees expect when they flee their homeland for our country, and for this nothing less than a deployment of the National Guard will do.
Peter M. Bozzo ’12, a Crimson editorial comper, lives in Greenough Hall.