Crime along the U.S.-Mexico border has been cited to justify everything
from Arizona’s new immigration law to Congress’ decision Tuesday to
spend another $600 million on border enforcement. Arizona Governor Jan
Brewer has referred to “mayhem” and “headless bodies” found along the
border, while Sen. John McCain said that the failure to secure the
border “has led to violence -- the worst I have ever seen.” And when
asked why they supported Arizona’s immigration law, SB 1070, many
Americans cited security reasons and an increase in violent crime along
the U.S. border.
But a new poll says that this is a myth. There
has been no increase in violent crime on the U.S. side of the border.
In fact, reports show that the U.S. border is getting safer.
poll, commissioned by the Border Network for Human Rights in El Paso,
Tex., and conducted by the independent polling firm The Reuel Group,
Inc., found that the vast majority (more than 87 percent) of people
living along the U.S. border feel safe. That's compared to 8 percent who
said they didn’t feel safe, and around 5 percent who were undecided.
poll surveyed 1,222 adults, primarily likely voters, in 10 communities
along the U.S. border: Douglas, Nogales and Yuma, Ariz., El Centro and
San Diego, Calif., Las Cruces, N.M. and Brownsville, El Paso, Laredo,
The results support the latest statistics that show
the U.S.-Mexico border is actually one of the safest regions in the
country. An FBI report obtained by the Associated Press found that the
four big U.S. cities with the lowest rates of violent crime are all
along the border: San Diego, Phoenix, El Paso and Austin. A U.S. Customs
and Border Protection report obtained by AP also found that being a
Border Patrol agent is much less dangerous than being a street cop in
"The border is safer now than it's ever been," U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesman Lloyd Easterling told the Associated Press.
politicians and media continue to describe the border as a zone of
“war, mayhem, chaos and fear,” according to Fernando García, executive
director of the Border Network for Human Rights. “This poll sets the
record straight,” he says, by “challenging the false assumption that it
is a violent border on the U.S. side.” García spoke on a teleconference
organized to discuss the findings of the poll.
Tuesday to send another $600 million to enhance enforcement along the
border, a move that García calls “a political decision” that is not in
the interest of the people who actually live there.
political leaders have touted the issue of security in order to push
through a number of anti-illegal immigration laws. The murder of an
Arizona rancher, for example, was largely credited with spurring support
for SB 1070, the law that made it a state crime to be undocumented.
week after signing SB 1070 into law in April, Gov. Brewer released a
statement responding to a shooting of a Pinal County Sheriff’s deputy:
“Arizona is now confronted by some of the most vicious and dangerous
narco-terror organizations the world has seen,” Brewer said. “Their
cause is not honest labor in desperate need of sustenance; it is murder,
terror and mayhem in furtherance of a multi-billion dollar criminal
Although a federal judge temporarily blocked key
provisions of SB 1070, the danger of border violence has been a
recurring theme in speeches by Brewer and McCain – both of whom are up
for election in November.
But Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., who
was born and raised in southern Arizona, notes that much of the fear of
border violence comes from people in the north.
“The fear that
folks have around border security largely rests in the interior, from
folks who live far away from the border,” says Sinema, adding that this
is because they get their information from politicians and the media.
who live along the border, Sinema says, know that “we have not seen an
increase in border-related violence in the last 18 years. If anything,
we’ve seen a decrease in the last 10 years.”
El Paso Sheriff
Richard Wiles adds that it’s actually in the interest of Mexican drug
cartels to keep U.S. border cities safe. “We know most of the drugs come
across our port of entry,” says Wiles. “After 9/11, the port was
closed, and it impacted their profits,” he says. “So it’s in their best
interest to keep the ports open.”