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Mexico, Mafias and Baggy Borders

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

Do you ever wonder how we can conquer the Middle East but can't close our own borders?

In the news just this past week was this small sampling of headlines: "Locals, Feds Prepare for Any Escalation of Mexican Border Violence"; "(New Mexico) delegation asks for border task force"; "Texas lawmakers angered by border security money being spent in other regions"; "U.S. Sues Railroad Over Smugglers"; "Border drain open for hours before 8 entered it."


More than 7,000 lives have been lost in Mexico's drug wars in just the past 14 months. Nine in 10 guns recovered from those crime scenes have come from the United States. Border towns are experiencing outrageous escalations in crime, including more than 300 drug-related kidnappings in Phoenix alone in 2008. (Most involved Mexican immigrants with ties to drug cartels.)

Isn't it time we finally built a wall that works? Isn't it time for us to quit restricting our border agents by granting illegals more rights than our citizens? Isn't it time we post military personnel at particularly hot illegal crossings?

Instead of shifting tens of millions of dollars from investigating employers guilty of hiring illegal immigrants to fighting Mexican drug cartels, the Obama administration should leave that money alone and hunt down the $100 million-plus that AIG executives robbed from taxpayers for their bonuses.

We don't need a government study on Mexican border safety conducted by newly installed Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. We need action now!

Congress authorized a border fence in 2005. That was four long years ago, for anyone bad at basic math. It approved $2.6 billion for border enhancement, but we still have illegals and contraband crossing our borders like gnats through a screen.


I opposed the amnesty bill introduced in the Senate in 2007. But I supported Congress' roughly $3 billion directed to building up border security -- money used to train and deploy 23,000 more agents, build 700 miles of fence and 300 miles of vehicle barriers, add four drone airplanes, and erect 105 radar and camera towers.

Homeland Security has made some headway in securing our borders. But our nation's boundaries, ports and airports remain largely open runways for illegal and terrorist transport. Sen. Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico reminded his constituents of that very fact when he described another type of illegal crossing: people going from the United States to Mexico. It appears drug cartels are again using revenue derived from their "free trade" to purchase weapons illegally in the United States and smuggle them back into Mexico. As a result, murder rates have shot up more than 100 percent in certain towns.

One of the aspects of illegal immigration often overlooked is the effect it has on the 30,000 street gangs, which have up to 1 million members, in the United States. The gang considered the most dangerous is the MS-13, which has ties to the Mexican Mafia. It is estimated at 10,000 members, many of whom are illegals. Seven hundred MS-13 members were arrested by law enforcement in 2005. According to The Washington Times, MS-13 is believed to have a major smuggling operation that transports drugs, firearms and people. What's even more alarming is that in 2005, the Honduran security minister and the president of El Salvador warned that MS-13 was in talks with al-Qaida to transport terrorists into our country! With MS-13 currently in 44 states, we must secure the borders now. (Seventy percent of the kids in our martial arts public school program, KICKSTART, are Latinos, and gangs constantly are trying to recruit them. But we will not allow anyone to participate in the program if he is a part of any gang. KICKSTART has provided young people with an alternative to and a safe haven from gangs, and that is one more reason I believe the KICKSTART program should be in every state across the nation.


Exacerbating the border crisis is the fact that there continues to be a shortage of Border Patrol agents and other government security officials. The Homeland Security Department still is trying to fill the 138 vacancies in high-level jobs it had in 2007 -- an employment crisis that it calls "a critical homeland security issue that demands immediate attention." And that crisis will continue until we increase the pay and benefits for border agents. I believe this so strongly that I have done public service announcements encouraging their enlisting.

I was reminded of their need for a salary increase when I was on the campaign trail with Mike Huckabee. We stopped in Laredo, Texas, and met with the Border Patrol. They gave us a tour of the area and explained to us what their operations were there. One of the Border Patrol agents and I struck up a conversation. As we were talking, I asked him whether his pay as a Border Patrol agent is adequate. He said that in certain states he gets by, but while stationed in California, he had to split rent with two other agents in order to afford the cost of living. I didn't ask how much his salary was, but I always have felt that law enforcement officials from every branch are underpaid for the responsibility they have in protecting us. If we expect to attract and maintain quality personnel, then state and federal governments need to work together to make being a border agent more financially appealing.


Now more than ever, we must protect our borders and sovereignty. So far, our government has failed to produce suitable solutions to securing our borders and stopping illegal immigration. Amnesty is not the answer. And immigration laws aren't effective if we continue to allow them to be dodged or ignored. Furthermore, globalization efforts have only confused security matters, further endangering our borders, as well as our national identity -- our sovereignty.

And the question that keeps coming back to my mind is this: How is it that we can militarily overthrow a tyrant, such as Saddam Hussein in Iraq, yet we can't keep illegals from crossing our borders? As Mike Huckabee says, "If the government can't track illegals, then let's outsource the job to UPS or FedEx." It's true. If they can track lost packages anywhere in the world within minutes, they certainly can track down and keep track of illegals.

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