Rethinking the ‘Spillover’ Effect of Mexican Violence
U.S. border-state politicians have been saying for years that Mexico’s drug violence is on the verge of spreading like wildfire through the American southwest. Although the facts fail to match up with this rhetoric, some recent developments add weight to the “spillover” theory.
It was a story that swept the nation. On 30 September 2010, David Hartley was jet skiing with his wife on a lake in southern Texas when he was shot dead by Mexican drug traffickers, apparently for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. The seemingly arbitrary nature of Hartley’s death, combined with the fact that it occurred on U.S. soil, sparked a nationwide debate about the so-called “spillover” effect.
In the aftermath of the killing, Texas Governor Rick Perry criticized President Obama for not reacting strongly enough, urging him to send 1,000 extra National Guard troops to the border. In a letter sent to the president, the governor said that the federal government was ignoring a “dire threat amassing on our southern border.”
Such language stands in stark contrast to statements made by Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano. At a speaking panel in El Paso on April 1, Napolitano said claims about violence from Mexico spilling over into the U.S. are inaccurate, and dismissed them as cheap attempts to gain political points. In a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed, Napolitano urged borderland politicians to “call for an end to this type of misinformation.”
Although Napolitano may be correct in dismissing the apocalyptic tone of statements such as Perry’s, the security situation along the U.S. border is in fact heating up. As a recent analysis of official murder statistics by Excelsior shows, nearly one third of Mexico’s crime-related homicides last year occurred in just 37 municipalities along the country’s northern border.