1.10.2006

Never Peaceful

Writing in Tucson Weekly, Tim Vanderpool has an excellent piece on the escalating violence on the line.
No one has ever mistaken the U.S.-Mexico border for a particularly peaceful place. From Indian wars and cutthroat bandits to 19th-century Americans lusting for fiefdoms in Sonora, this line has always perpetrated mischief. But the broad ferocity of today's borderline seems unique.

In part, it can be blamed on a shifting drug trade, increasingly ruthless coyotes and internecine battles for smuggling corridors among various criminal cartels.

But evolving U.S. security strategies, begun in the 1990s, also play a role. They bear brawny names, from El Paso's Operation Hold the Line and San Diego's Operation Gatekeeper to Arizona's Operation Safeguard. And these variously labeled Border Patrol operations share one key element: spinning a thick enforcement web around towns like Nogales and Douglas, thereby forcing crossers out into the desert, where they're more easily nabbed.

Not surprisingly, these tactics are also highly controversial for driving migration routes deep in the backcountry, where illegal aliens are more likely to die. In the last fiscal year alone, a record 279 known immigrants died along the Arizona-Mexico border.