Posted by AzBlueMeanie:
I have previously reported crime statistics that entirely refute the myth that crime in Arizona is: (1) caused by illegal immigrants, and (2) is out of control. These fear mongering claims by demagogue politicians on the right are simply not supported by the evidence. These politicians have created an alternate reality that exists only in their minds — and in the conservative media that perpetuates these myths in support of these demagogue politicians.
The Arizona Daily Star today published an investigative report by Martha Mendoza of the Associated Press that examines the facts and finds the fear mongering rhetoric of demagogue politicians detached from reality. Border is relatively safe, gov't data show:
It's one of the safest parts of America, and it's getting safer.
It's the U.S.-Mexico border, and even as politicians say more federal troops are needed to fight rising violence, government data obtained by The Associated Press show it actually isn't so dangerous after all.
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The Customs and Border Protection study, obtained with a Freedom of Information Act request, shows 3 percent of Border Patrol agents and officers were assaulted last year, mostly when assailants threw rocks at them. That compares with 11 percent of police officers and sheriff's deputies assaulted during the same period, usually with guns or knives.
In addition, violent attacks against agents declined in 2009 along most of the border for the first time in seven years. So far this year assaults are slightly up, but figures are incomplete.
"The border is safer now than it's ever been," said U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesman Lloyd Easterling.
He said one factor is that with fewer jobs available amid the U.S. recession, illegal immigration has dropped. And responding to security concerns after 9/11, the Border Patrol has doubled the number of agents in the region since 2004.
Nonetheless, border lawmakers and governors say their region is under siege and needs more troops.
That would be the fear mongering demagogue politicians on the right, including our own Gov. Jan Brewer and Sen. John McCain:
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer said in a televised interview last weekend: "We are out here on the battlefield getting the impact of all this illegal immigration, and all the crime that comes with it."
In response to the concerns from the border states, Obama pledged to send 1,200 National Guard troops to help and spend an extra $500 million on border security.
His one-time rival for the presidency, Arizona Sen. John McCain, said he should send at least 6,000 troops, which are needed because he said Arizona leads the nation in marijuana seizures, suffered 368 kidnappings in 2008 and has the highest property-crime rates in the U.S.
But FBI crime reports for 2009 says violent crime in Arizona declined. And violent crimes in Southwest border counties are among the lowest in the nation per capita – they've dropped by more than 30 percent in the last two decades. Of America's 25 largest cities, San Diego – with one out of four residents an immigrant – has the lowest number of violent crimes per capita.
[The top four big cities in America with the lowest rates of violent crime are all in border states: San Diego, Phoenix, El Paso and Austin, according to a new FBI report.]
Opponents of increased border security are frustrated by descriptions of a wave of violence when the statistics show the region to be relatively safe.
"Politicians are hyping up this incredible fear across the country about the border, but these numbers show these are lies being perpetrated on the American public,"said immigrant advocate Isabel Garcia at Tucson-based Derechos Humanos. "The warnings about violence are just an excuse to crack down on migrants who want to work and be with their families."
Even residents of the border region who want more security are surprised by the talk of violence.
"I have to say, a lot of this is way overblown," said Gary Brasher of Tubac, who is president of the Coalition for a Safe and Secure Border.
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In fact, agents in the San Diego region are less likely to be attacked these days.
"Agent Rosas' death changed the way we do business. Agents are on high alert, we have to be ready. But if you just look at the numbers, assaults here are down 27 percent," said Border Patrol spokesman Jerry Conley, who worked with Rosas.
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But the bigger picture is one of increased safety.
In fiscal year 2009, there were 1,073 violent attacks – mostly thrown rocks, bottles and sticks but also 48 incidents in which a gun was fired – against the 20,119 Border Patrol agents, down from 1,097 violent incidents against 17,819 agents in 2008.
In addition to those agents, another 22,000 officers work at the nation's border crossings and airports, checking people as they enter and exit the country.
It's one of the safest jobs in law enforcement: Last year 17 of them were assaulted, a 74 percent decrease from 2008.
Edward Alden, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, said it's time for lawmakers to reconsider what they'd like to see happening in the region.
"Border security has become the most overused, and least understood, concept in the struggle over what to do about our broken immigration system," he said. "While an election year may not be the best time, the United States finally needs an honest debate over what it means to secure the country's borders."
An honest debate from Arizona's fear mongering demagogue politicians? Are you kidding? Fear mongering and scapegoating minorities is the tried and true method these demagogue politicians have used for years to distract voters' attention away from their own record of incompetence and failure. It is the only way these demagogue politicians can survive politically. Unfortunately, it is all too often rewarded by voters susceptible to fear mongering and appeals to scapegoating minorities.
Former Arizona Governor and Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, reiterates the findings in the AP investigative report above in an op/ed piece today in the Arizona Republic. If you look at facts, border is more secure than ever:
[T]he notion that we have somehow ignored the border is simply false.
The people of Arizona need to know that our border – the U.S.-Mexican border – has been one of my key priorities as secretary.
Over the past year and a half, this administration has pursued a new border-security strategy with an unprecedented sense of urgency. And despite the unfortunate misperceptions that continue to make their way into the public debate, the reality is we've actually achieved significant progress securing the border.
You might not get this impression from those looking to score political points by saying the border is spinning out of control. But the numbers tell the accurate story – and they're going in the right direction.
Illegal crossings along the southwestern border last year were down 23 percent from the year before and are a fraction of their all-time high. Last year, seizures of contraband rose significantly across the board: Homeland Security seized 14 percent more illegal bulk cash, 29 percent more illegal weapons and 15 percent more illegal drugs than the year before. And, by all measurable standards, crime levels in U.S. border towns have actually remained flat or dropped for most of the past decade.
We're seeing these results because the U.S. government has devoted more resources – in terms of manpower, technology, infrastructure – to the southwestern border over the past 16 months than at any point in America's history.
The Border Patrol is better staffed today than ever before as we nearly doubled the number of agents from approximately 10,000 to more than 20,000 today. And we've deployed more U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) personnel to work strategically on investigations, intelligence and interagency task forces to combat smuggling and human trafficking.
We also have more scanning technology looking for smuggling shipments, and more airplanes, helicopters and unmanned aerial vehicles working the border than ever before.
In terms of infrastructure, the 652 miles of fencing that Congress asked Homeland Security to build is nearly complete, with the next 6 miles expected by the end of the year.
The federal government is also collaborating with state and local law enforcement along the border, conducting joint operations, sharing information and intelligence, and boosting the funds state and local law enforcement can use to combat border-related crime.
On top of all that, this administration has partnered with the government of Mexico in ways that are simply unprecedented, allowing us to put more pressure on the Mexican drug-trafficking organizations that run smuggling operations into the United States.
Could we still use more resources at the border? Absolutely. That's why President Barack Obama recently requested $500 million more to bolster law enforcement and security at the southwestern border and will deploy 1,200 National Guard troops to assist the ongoing efforts to secure the border and combat the cartels. These are common-sense measures to strengthen and expand efforts that have already proved successful.
Securing our border requires constant pressure. Yet, maximizing our efforts – especially against traffickers and criminals – will require more than resources. It will require Congress, working across party lines, to enact changes to our immigration laws so that we have a comprehensive set of reforms that meet the needs of our country.
There's no magic bullet here, but there is no doubt that this administration has made every conceivable effort to secure our border through unprecedented investments in personnel, technology and infrastructure.
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Too often, lately, political bumper-sticker slogans are being presented as real solutions.
They aren't. Arizonans know better and can be assured that this administration and the Department of Homeland Security will continue to take every action needed to secure our border and pursue real immigration reform.
It is the obligation of the responsible media, should any still exist, to hold these fear mongering demagogue politicians accountable to the public and to bring an end to their political careers. It is also the obligation of the responsible media to hold the irresponsible members of the media accountable, or at a minimum, not to parrot the nonsense and propaganda they spew every day in support of these fear mongering demagogue politicians.