By Todd Staples, Texas Agriculture Commissioner
Despite empty assurances from Washington, communities along the Texas/Mexico border continue to face threats and violence from invading Mexican drug cartels. With the release of our commissioned report, “Texas Border Security: A Strategic Military Assessment,” the Texas Department of Agriculture offers a powerful perspective into this national security breach. If the President and his administration won’t hear the concerned voices of Texans, perhaps he will listen to high-ranking, retired military generals who know a thing or two about facing foreign enemies.
Retired General Barry R. McCaffrey, the former U.S. Drug Czar under President Clinton and SouthCom Commander of all U.S. troops in Latin America, and retired Major General Robert H. Scales, former Commandant of the United States Army War College, were commissioned by TDA and the Texas Department of Public Safety to utilize their vast military expertise to incorporate strategic, operational and tactical elements of securing borders and hostile territories and make recommendations to apply these elements along the Rio Grande River.
First and foremost, the generals argue Washington must shed the cloak of denial and admit there is a problem. Additionally, they say, there must be a highly organized, integrated, pro-active approach in which local, state and federal officials work together to create synergies to stop terrorists’ incursions. None of this is possible, they continue, without sufficient federal resources, support and additional boots on the ground.
The generals agree our farmers, ranchers and rural residents – along with our urban areas – are under attack by cartels that rely daily on tactics such as murder, kidnapping, human smuggling, transnational arms shipments and blackmail to carry out their illegal trade to distributor gangs in hundreds of American cities. Those same gangs help facilitate illegal commerce that pushes into America while sending illegal weapons and cash into Mexico. The report says between $19 billion and $39 billion in illicit proceeds move through southwestern border “bulk smuggling” operations to Mexico each year.
The generals also conclude that Mexican cartels are seeking to create a “sanitary zone” – their own turf – inside the United States, specifically inside the southwest border, which they consider to be “vulnerable.” Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steven McCraw has testified that over a period of 18 months, six of seven cartels have established sophisticated command and control facilities in Texas cities. The report goes on to say at least 70 residential lots in Hidalgo County have been purchased with millions of dollars in drug proceeds.
This lack of security and disregard for Americans’ safety cannot be what our founding fathers had in mind when they penned the United States Constitution and specifically outlined the federal government’s responsibility to protect American soil and citizens from foreign invaders.
It’s important for the American people and the federal government to fully understand that besides being a gateway for criminal activity, the 1,200-mile Texas/Mexico border plays a critical role in the safe transportation of goods and services through our nation. Allowing this area to be under siege is not only inexcusable for the sake of our citizens’ safety, but also is detrimental to American trade, agriculture and our overall economy. The proof will be seen in your neighborhood grocery stores as food prices increase to compensate for added security. Keep in mind, Mexico is the No.1 trading partner for Texas and No.2 for U.S. exports. It is this legal trade we are trying to preserve.
As the generals’ report concludes, it is imperative the federal government admits to the problem of cartel violence along the Texas/Mexico border and fulfills its duty to defend and protect Americans. Denying the problem fails our founding fathers, our citizens and our nation. Are you listening, Washington? Texans want action!