Wednesday, September 29, 2010

At War In Texas

Boxes of seized marijuana in Hudspeth County Sheriff's Office.

(An excerpt from an investigative article that is the cover story of the Boston Review this month, at:
Heads bowed in prayer, we stand at a bucolic spot on the banks of the Rio Grande known by locals as Neely’s Crossing. Like most of West Texas, there is nothing here. On the other side, drug wars have turned Mexican border towns in the Valle de Ju├írez and elsewhere into killing grounds.
As Hudspeth County deputies armed with AR-15 semi-automatic weapons stand guard, we close in around Reverend Jim Garlow. “Lord, we thank you Lord for gathering us here,” he says. “We thank you for all you have given us and our great nation. We ask you Lord to protect American exceptionalism, to protect U.S. national sovereignty, and secure our border.” Garlow, a prominent evangelical minister, recently had been selected by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich to serve as chairman of Renewing American Leadership (ReAL), a new organization dedicated to promoting the “‘otherness’ of America’s exceptional culture and government [whose] manifest
success . . . . has made us a target.”
Garlow was speaking to the attendees at a two-day “Border School” sponsored by the Border Sheriff’s Posse, an evangelical group that teams up with the Texas Border Sheriff ’s Coalition (TBSC) and the Southwestern Border Sheriff ’s Coalition to educate Christians about threats some law-enforcement officials believe loom across the border.
Neely’s Crossing became famous for a January 23, 2006 incident that Hudspeth sheriff and TBSC chairman Arvin West contends was a “Mexican military incursion.” The day before we visited the site, we viewed blurry footage of heavily armed men scrambling across the river toward the Mexican side. Several loads of marijuana float downriver as the men try to regroup and get a military-like vehicle, a Hummer or possibly Humvee, back onto Mexican soil. The Mexican government vehemently denied Sheriff West’s accusation that a Mexican military unit had been escorting drug smugglers. The Border Patrol, which had officers at Neely’s Crossing that day, also declined to support West’s account.
Claiming that the federal government has abandoned its border-control responsibilities, West, who is a mainstay of the Border School, warns students and residents of U.S. border communities, “Arm yourselves. It’s better to be tried by twelve than carried by six.”
This secure-the-line-at-all-costs attitude doesn’t merely foster right-wing ranting. West and other border sheriffs tout border-security lore like the Neely’s Crossing incident in congressional testimony, and FOX News frequently reports their assertions. The complaints that Washington isn’t fulfilling its responsibilities echo across border communities, despite the unprecedented increase over the past five years in the number of Border Patrol agents, immigrant-detention beds, and border barriers. Each year, billions of dollars flow to the border from the Departments of Homeland Security (DHS) and Justice (DOJ).

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