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Ms. Napolitano, Show Us the Border

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

Out of sight is out of mind. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano can give the impression she’s doing her job and keeping Americans safe when Americans are unaware of the dangers lurking next door.

Napolitano can’t stop natural oppressors like tropical storms, hurricanes or earthquakes but she can impede the drug cartel violence on the U.S.-Mexico border. Nevertheless, Napolitano refuses to publicly acknowledge the extent of border violence from drug cartels. She also refrains from pressuring the media to cover the preventable destruction and bloodshed on the border as much as it covers natural disasters.

Between 35,000 and 40,000 people were killed in Mexico since President Felipe Calderón launched his war against drugs in 2006, reports the Associated Press.

I think Americans deserve to know about the drug cartel violence spilling onto our border. It should be printed on the front page of every major newspaper and discussed nightly on prime time television. We’re not talking about violence occurring across the ocean in Libya. We’re talking about brutal gangs operating out of our next-door neighbor, Mexico.

Let’s say you look outside and catch your next-door neighbor decapitating, scalping and removing the skin from the faces of a family that lives across town. Then, you watch him stuff the skin from the faces and scalps into a woman’s purse and showcase the purse as a bloody “trophy” (this happened last month outside a Sam’s Club store in Acapulco).

Assuming you can’t move, what would you do? Close your blinds, grab a beer and turn on the football game? Or, would you build a 21-foot-high wall around your house?

On March 24, Commissioner of the Texas Department of Agriculture Todd Staples wrote a letter to Napolitano asking her to “recognize the threat of Mexican drug cartels as being a clear and present danger to our citizens and to the safe production of the United States food supply.”

Staples asked Napolitano to visit the site where Texas farmers and ranchers explain how drug cartels drive them to “abandon their land, leaving it vulnerable to criminal occupation, while retreating from farming and ranching and jeopardizing the food supply upon which we’ve all come to rely.”

Perhaps Napolitano was too busy fine-tuning her “If You See Something, Say Something” Walmart infomercials to bother replying. She delegated the Assistant Secretary for the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, Betsy Markey, to respond to Staples on her behalf.

Markey wrote: “Unfortunately, there is a widespread misperception that the Southwest border is overrun by violence spilling from Mexico’s ongoing drug war. The reality is that some of America’s safest communities are in the Southwest border region…” Markey’s note reveals Napolitano’s brazen refusal to acknowledge the drug-induced violence on the border.

Napolitano’s “boss,” President Obama, seems more concerned with sweet-talking Hispanic voters than acknowledging cartel violence. He told the city of El Paso on May 10 that the 700-mile border fence was “basically complete” when it was really only five percent complete, five years after approval.

Napolitano’s “partner” in fighting the drug war, Attorney General Eric Holder, struggles to oversee the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). The ATF’s “Fast and Furious” program lost track of over 2,000 major weapons crossing the border. Drug cartels likely acquired hundreds of powerful firearms and a significant leg up thanks to Holder’s mismanagement.

This September, PBS launches a new series featuring Calderón. Time Magazine reports: "In an effort to boost Mexico's weakened tourism industry ... (Calderón) will bravely lead camera crews into caverns, up rivers and down sink-holes, often while wearing an Indiana Jones-style hat."

So Napolitano stands by as the American public subsidizes a PBS show enabling Calderón to lure wealthy American tourists into drug cartel country. Does Napolitano work for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security or Mexico’s Secretaría de Turismo?

Ms. Napolitano and her partners should acknowledge the brutality on the border instead of ignoring or underestimating it. They should show Americans the border by asking their pals in the mainstream media to cover drug cartel border violence 24/7/365 (just like a hurricane) until it ceases.

If Americans fully understood the drug cartels on the border, they would be more open to decriminalizing drugs. A strategic, states’ rights approach to decriminalization is worth trying, but Americans won’t approach the war on drugs differently if Napolitano keeps telling the public: “some of America’s safest communities are in the Southwest border region.”

A November 2010 UK medical study published by The Lancet shows that alcohol is more lethal than heroin and crack cocaine and drastically more harmful than marijuana, ecstasy and LSD. Meanwhile, Forbes reports that drug abuse dropped by 50 percent in Portugal just 10 years after decriminalizing all drugs.

Show us the border, Ms. Napolitano. Acknowledge the national security threat from drug cartels. Modify your approach and protect Americans.

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