It was just one skirmish, but it plainly exposed Congress' and President Obama's dereliction of duty in failing to seal our southern border against a direct threat to the peace and security of our nation: drug smugglers.
Last Friday afternoon, Pinal County, Ariz., Deputy Sheriff Louie Puroll was patrolling a patch of desert when he picked up the trail of five smugglers bringing marijuana north from Mexico.
Pinal County Sheriff Paul Brabeu later explained what happened to Greta Van Susteren of Fox News.
"This is a known corridor for smuggling not only drugs but illegals," Brabeu said. "And so he radioed back to dispatch to call for support, and he continued to track the direction because he's highly skilled in this as a search-and-rescue deputy."
The smugglers figured out what Puroll was doing.
"And so they left a rear guard behind and took cover and concealment as our deputy approached," Brabeu told Van Susteren. "This last suspect, who was armed with an AK-47, popped up and started shooting at our deputy, who was in uniform. They clearly knew he was a law officer." The gun battle lasted 10 minutes.
Puroll emptied his pistol, then started shooting his rifle. He was hit, receiving a minor wound to his side. The sheriff's department dispatched a helicopter to the scene, and 200 law enforcement officers were eventually deployed to surround and search the area. Local authorities caught 17 illegal aliens in the vicinity, Brabeu said, and the Border Patrol caught another 100. So far, none has been charged with shooting Deputy Puroll.
You might suspect Pinal County is smack on the southern border. It is not. It is about 140 miles by interstate freeway north of Mexico. It is deep into the sovereign territory of the United States. Yet it is on the front lines of America's drug war, because it sits astride a wide-open corridor through which our derelict federal government allows smugglers to routinely bring massive amounts of illegal drugs into the interior of our country.
It is no exaggeration to call this war a war. It is a conflict in which many people have been killed or wounded -- even though our government is hardly fighting back.
Consider these facts from the recently released U.S. Justice Department National Drug Threat Assessment for 2010:
-- Almost one in five U.S. teenagers used illegal drugs in the past year.
-- Mexican drug trafficking organizations (DTOs) were the main wholesale suppliers. "Law enforcement reporting and case initiation data show that Mexican DTOs control most of the wholesale cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine distribution in the United States, as well as much of the marijuana distribution."
-- A massive network of street gangs distributed the drugs smuggled from Mexico in communities all across America. "In 2009, midlevel and retail drug distribution in the United States was dominated by more than 900,000 criminally active gang members representing approximately 20,000 street gangs in more than 2,500 cities."
-- Because our government did not secure our border, Mexican smugglers enjoyed a booming business last year. "Mexican DTOs increased the flow of several drugs (heroin, methamphetamine and marijuana) into the United States, primarily because they increased production of those drugs in Mexico."
-- Consumers of these smugglers' products clogged our health care system. "In 2007, there were approximately 1.8 million admissions to state-licensed treatment facilities for illicit drug dependence or abuse."
-- Emergency rooms were flooded with drug abusers. "In 2006, the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) reported that of 113 million hospital ED visits -- 1,743,887 (1.5 percent) -- were related to drug misuse or abuse."
Deputy Puroll was hardly the only U.S. law enforcement officer attacked by smugglers on U.S. territory. "Assaults against U.S. Border Patrol (USBP) agents increased 46 percent from 752 incidents in FY 2006 to 1,097 incidents in FY 2008," said the National Drug Threat Assessment. In other words, three Border Patrol agents were assaulted on the average day.
President Obama has largely left it to the Pinal County Sheriff's Department and other local law enforcement agencies in Arizona and other border states to do what little they can to protect the rest of America from the drugs and smugglers flowing in from Mexico.
It is no excuse for the administration's defenders to say President Bush did it, too. Of course he did. And it was a disgrace and dereliction for him, too.
Our Founding Fathers drafted the Constitution to create a federal government that would primarily carry out functions state governments could not. Paramount among them: 1) defending the country against foreign enemies, 2) regulating commerce with foreign nations, 3) regulating commerce among the states and 4) regulating immigration.
Today we have illegal immigrants hauling massive quantities of illegal drugs across our international border, engaging in firefights with U.S. law enforcement officers on our sovereign territory, and distributing their deadly contraband and destroying the lives of American teenagers in communities in every state of the union.
President Obama and Congress are failing in their most fundamental duties.