Make no mistake: Mexico is in crisis

Published: Jun 21, 2015

Author: Jason Chaffetz

The most violent, brutal, and lawless place on the planet right now may not actually be half a world away in the Middle East, but right next door in Mexico.

Since Mexico’s drug war began to escalate in 2006, more than 100,000 Mexican residents have been murdered or gone missing according to the State Department’s Overseas Security Advisory Council. Kidnapping, human trafficking, and the brutal dismemberment and display of murder victims is far too commonplace. These incidents are taking place literally across the river from major American cities.

The administration and press have largely been able to ignore the plight of our friend, ally, and third largest trading partner while the savagery has been primarily limited to the people of Mexico. This should not be tolerated.

Writing to Secretary of State John Kerry earlier this month, my colleague and Texas Rep. Filemon Vela, D-Texas, and I asked pointed questions about the U.S. efforts to protect our personnel in Mexico, the decision to keep those consulates open and the administration’s consideration of a policy to remove the Danger Pay Allowance for diplomats serving in the region.

A stable and economically vibrant Mexico is in the United States’ best interest. We want our neighbors to be able to safely and securely raise and support their families in Mexico. We want our trading partner to be productive and prosperous. And we want to see the drug cartels that plague Mexico crippled.

This administration has done far too little to address a threat that is now spilling across our borders.

Unfortunately, they have been more interested in downplaying the threat while they sell Americans on amnesty than on cracking down on a clear and present threat to our national security. Without consequences to the violence, criminals have become even more brazen — creating exceptionally dangerous conditions for our personnel who live or work in the region.

Last weekend, a U.S. Customs & Border Patrol (CBP) helicopter took gunfire from the Mexico side of the border near Laredo, Texas. I visited the site and spoke with CPB personnel who courageously confront the mounting violence day in and day out. The facts are alarming.

In certain parts of Mexico, cartels routinely intimidate media, elected officials, and law enforcement as well as the witnesses to their heinous crimes. The State Department’s own travel advisories in the region are sobering — warning of kidnappings that increased by 20% in one year, carjackings, homicide, and gun battles. The State Department warns that no highway routes through the border state of Tamaulipas are considered safe. And right across the border from Laredo, the city of Nuevo Laredo no longer even has a police force since the police chief and his brothers were murdered in 2013.

So how did the Obama Administration respond to last weekend’s direct attack on our own law enforcement in this environment? They took it in stride. They threw no new resources into the area. It was as if they were more concerned about the policy optics than about national security.

What should they have done? They should have closed down that corridor after the attack and reassigned an additional 100 agents to stop incursions into that sector. They could do so, if they had the will. They could close consulates in Nuevo Laredo, Matamoros, and Guadalajara where our personnel cannot safely navigate outside a small radius. They didn’t do any of that.

When our people are fired upon, there HAVE to be consequences. When our allies are struggling to contain violence right on our border, we have an obligation to support that effort.

I’ve taken a very tough position rejecting amnesty. I want to lock down the border and remove the rewards and incentives that attract illegal immigration. But when it comes to fighting organized crime that is fueled by our own drug market, runs through our own cities, and threatens our own safety and security, we are obligated to act.

I call upon the Obama Administration to take this threat seriously. Tell the American people the truth. And let’s work together to help Mexico help itself.