The number of U.S. residents here illegally has declined, a rare occurrence that the Department of Homeland Security links to rising unemployment and more rigorous border enforcement.
But another factor that may be deterring immigration is the fact that border violence is up – way up – with drug cartels engaging in rapes, murders, kidnappings and gunbattles virtually in our backyard.
Indeed, Phoenix is now second only to Mexico City for kidnappings with ransom.
Last year, Phoenix reported 3,664 abductions, most linked with Mexican human smugglers and narcotics gangs, USA TODAY reports.
And Pima and Cochise counties have seen more and more “rape trees,” where women migrants are raped and their clothes hung on display.
State Sen. Jonathan Paton, R-Tucson, is proposing legislation to make harboring an illegal immigrant a felony and to prosecute those who help smugglers, among other changes.
The most effective response to these crimes, however, will hinge on the coordination of local, state and federal law enforcement, as encouraged by Attorney General Terry Goddard.
Better yet would be cooperation and coordination with officials in Sonora, Mexico, as well.
As Paton noted in a news release, “Hundreds of people are being kidnapped, raped and killed. Body parts are cut off if ransoms aren’t paid fast enough. Drug cartel members are being assassinated in our own state.”
In addition, the firepower employed by the drug cartels is horrifying.
Goddard showed a .50-caliber rifle to legislators this week, noting, “Those bullets pierce armor. They will go through armor, and they will go through tanks.”
As southern Arizona morphs into a battleground for dueling drug cartels, the Attorney General’s Office must do everything conceivable to coordinate law enforcement responses and keep our citizens safe.
Last year, the state’s Operation Tumbleweed led to 59 arrests and broke up a ring suspected of smuggling 400,000 pounds of marijuana a year, for several years, into the U.S.
We hope more such operations can be waged and completed to deter not only marijuana smugglers, but also those dealing in worse drugs and those who smuggle human beings.
We wish innocent illegal immigrants would refrain from crossing the border – especially while this violence is raging.
And we hope Arizonans and Sonorans alike can look forward to expanded binational law enforcement efforts to keep us all safe.
This escalating border violence must be quelled, the sooner the better.