Shapleigh on the Border

El Paso senator lays down the law on what's really important on cross-border crime

Sen. Shapleigh:
Sen. Shapleigh: "Immigration is a federal issue."

As part of the traditional interim trip around the state, the Senate Committee on Transportation and Homeland Security was in El Paso this morning, talking about how "to stem the tide of illegal immigration, drug trafficking, and human smuggling, and to reduce the criminal activities within the Border region." Enter everybody's favorite Democratic straight shooter, Sen. Eliot Shapleigh, to tell the Republican-dominated committee exactly what they were doing wrong.

Shapleigh praised Gov. Rick Perry and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst for paying attention to cross-border security, but then said they were doing it all wrong. The man from the border noted that, while violence in Ciudad Juarez (when he refers to it as El Paso's "sister city", he really means "the other half") has skyrocketed, El Paso is the third safest city in nation. He put the disparity in part down to proper community policing. What was needed from Texas to help improve issues to the south was a determined effort to take out the drug cartel leadership, and not wasting time with unconstitutional local immigration laws.

Shapleigh talking about serious border policing has more credibility than some Republican state rep from North Texas. Add onto that the fact the the Cornyn-challenging Rep. Rick Noriega, D-Houston, (that's Lt. Col. Noriega to you) has not only served in Afghanistan but spent the summer of 2006 as Laredo Border Sector Commander for Operation Jump Start, and it seems like the Republicans might have some trouble claiming sole rights to the mantle of border security experts.

Here's the full text of Shapleigh's opening comments:

Good morning members, it is great to have you here in God's Country. Today, the committee will be taking testimony on illegal immigration, drug trafficking, and the surge in cartel related violence in El Paso's sister city, Ciudad Juarez.

As of today, more than 500 people have been murdered in Juarez this year. About 80 percent of the murders are related to the drug trade.

The violence has included kidnappings, car-to-car shootings on boulevards, and innocent bystanders being pelted by machine gun fire in broad daylight. The violence has even spread to the tourist zones.

The horrific and escalating violence in Juarez, Mexico, underscores the importance of having a well-funded, coordinated and competent Texas border security program.

One of the most important challenges facing this committee is coming up with an effective and proven approach to curtailing the violence and bloodshed that stems from the drug trade. Recently, the National Drug Intelligence Center released a "Situation Report" showing that Mexican drug trafficking organizations operate in 195 American cities. Our challenge is now the nation's challenge.

As a fifth generation El Pasoan, I support Rick Perry and David Dewhurst's efforts to provide safe streets and strong communities in every corner of Texas.

Border communities such as El Paso have the most to win or lose by the right or wrong approach to border security.

According to Mexico and anti-narcotics experts, the drug war, led by the Juarez Cartel, has three fronts: battling rival cartels to the East, fighting cartels to the West, and neutralizing the anti-narcotics forces within the Calderon administration.

The best model is a tried and proven model, such as the successful joint local, state, and federal efforts in New York and Sicily to disrupt international Mafia operations in the 1980s. To succeed, Texas law enforcement must have the will to fight, to identify who we can work with, and to stay the course.

What we need is an effective, targeted Department of Public Safety (DPS) team aimed at arresting key cartel operatives, forfeiting cartel assets, and disrupting corridor movement of cocaine, heroin, and marijuana, all in coordination with local and Federal law enforcement.

Our great state should move quickly and confidently to establish such DPS teams along every major north-south corridor.

One key to success is community-based policing: and community-based policing does not work with local immigration enforcement. To succeed in our Border communities and in major corridor initiatives, we must take great care to avoid the racial profiling violations of earlier border security initiatives in Texas, such as Operation Linebacker, that targeted innocent mothers dropping their children off at school.

As you will hear today, local law enforcement in El Paso believes that community-based policing can succeed only if the community trusts the police. Mixing local law enforcement with immigration enforcement creates a climate of distrust where the color of one's skin determines who will, and will not, be stopped. Today, El Paso is the nation's third safest city, so we believe that our community has much to share with others on the right strategies to keep the peace. Ultimately, immigration is a federal issue, and the expertise and costs should reside there, not in Border communities or state budgets.

With bold and courageous leaders we can accomplish both objectives, protecting our national security and the rights of our citizens. From Theodore Roosevelt to John F. Kennedy, our nation has demonstrated the capacity to maximize the security of Americans without sacrificing our basic freedoms; regardless of who you are, where you live, or what happens to be the color of your skin.

With that I close, and turn to our expert witnesses for their help in crafting the right approach to battling the drug trade, enforcing Border security, and maintaining safe streets in all of Texas.

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Legislature, Immigration, Crime, Sen. Eliot Shapleigh, Ciudad Juarez, El Paso, Senate Committee on Transportation and Homeland Security, Rep. Rick Noriega

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