Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano on Friday criticized those who argue the nation's border with Mexico is being overrun with violence, saying some are trying to score "political points" but their rhetoric is damaging economic development in border towns.
Apparently frustrated over continued criticism of the Obama administration, Napolitano gave one of her most forceful defenses of federal efforts to beef up border security and help communities straddling Mexico during an event hosted by NDN, a Washington-based think tank. Indeed, she said, part of the purpose of the event was to encourage people to think anew about what's happening along the border.
"I think the amount of resources we've put at the border with Mexico shows how serious this administration is," Napolitano said. "So, given the deployment of resources, given the statistical framework, it is simply inaccurate to state -- as too many have -- that the border with Mexico is overrun or out of control. This statement, I think, sometimes it's made to score some political points, you know. But it's wrong. It's just plain wrong."
The secretary said such claims have negative consequences for economic efforts in border communities and are also disrespectful of law-enforcement officials' efforts.
Alan Krieger, the mayor of Yuma, Ariz., agreed.
"I'm not in denial, nor are any of the other border communities, about the challenges that we face with the drug cartels. It's real. It's dangerous," Krieger told a later panel.
"My message here, and the message of the border mayors, is to override that negative message that hits the national media that everything is in chaos on the border. That's not true," he asserted. "Our lives go on. Agriculture goes on. Every bit of lettuce that you folks are eating today comes from Yuma, Arizona, in the winter. And it's good lettuce, a good product."
Napolitano encouraged the public to listen to those who live in border towns.
"I think it's important that we constantly be taking the temperature within our border communities themselves, that we not just rely on somebody on TV or somebody on the floor of the Congress or in the heat of a political campaign," she said. "Not even just rely on what I would be saying … but constantly be taking the temperature of our border communities themselves."
However, the sheriff of Terrell County, Texas, challenged comments Napolitano recently made about border security in an editorial published by the Washington Post on Friday.
"In a visit to El Paso last week, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano claimed that there has been no 'spillover' violence from Mexico into the United States. Regardless of the veracity, her point is irrelevant," Sheriff Clint McDonald wrote. "It is not spillover violence but spillover effects of hostilities in Mexico that pose the real threat to the United States."
"In short, our nation is not developing the law enforcement teams capable of securing our borders," he said.