Tucson CitizenTucson Citizen

Guns, money for Mexico get increased fed attention

Citizen Staff Writer
Our Opinion

It is “one of the most serious organized crime threats of the 21st century,” in the view of Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard.

It is not taking place in Iraq or Iran or Afghanistan or any other distant hotbed of violence. This takes place every day less than 100 miles from the front doors of Tucsonans.

The organized crime threat referred to by Goddard, by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and by numerous other law enforcement authorities is the burgeoning violence in northern Mexico – violence unrestrained by the international border.

But it appears the Obama administration, prodded by former Arizona Gov. Napolitano, is ready to crack down on American money and guns that drive violence in Mexico.

In interviews last week with USA TODAY and The Wall Street Journal, Napolitano said the United States soon will send a large contingent of federal agents to the border area.

These agents will not be looking for illegal immigrants entering the country – a job already assigned to thousands of Border Patrol agents.

These new agents will be stepping up searches of vehicles headed from the United States to Mexico, looking for the guns and money that arm and fuel drug and human smugglers.

The new deployments will be dangerous, requiring agents to be equipped with better body armor to face ruthless, well-armed criminals determined to get their cache back to Mexico.

But this is a war the United States must not shy from. Law enforcement authorities say dealers in Arizona and other southern border states provide three-quarters of the black market guns to Mexico – a nation that has strict controls on gun ownership.

Those guns led to the murders of more than 6,000 people in Mexico in drug violence last year – including the killing of 2,000 Mexican police officers.

Napolitano was not specific about how the southbound vehicles checks will work, which agencies will conduct them or when they will start. That will come when she appears before the Senate Homeland Security Committee next week.

Goddard testified before a Senate subcommittee Tuesday and detailed his office’s efforts to combat border crime by going after money wired from the United States to Mexico.

Although Goddard has seized more than $17 million in wire payments and arrested more than 100 smugglers, that represents only a dent in the illegal border business. The only way to have a real impact is to get the federal government involved – as Napolitano has promised.

“Every American has a stake in this,” Napolitano said last week. Indeed we do. Violence in Mexico seeps across border and into communities such as Tucson. A multiagency federal attack focused on illegal shipments headed both ways across the border is the only answer.

Instead of focusing only on illegal immigrants headed north, agents also will look for weapons, and cash headed south.

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