On Tuesday, Rick Perry launched the "Texas Spillover Violence Contingency Plan.” From the press release issued from his Governor's office, titled, "Gov. Perry Orders Activation of First Phase Of Texas Spillover Violence Contingency Plan" we hear the following argument from Perry:
“With the growing threat of violence in Mexico spilling over the border, we have taken important measures to increase the law enforcement presence along the Texas border and have placed additional resources on standby to combat any potential situation,” Gov. Perry said. “It is imperative that the federal government immediately provide additional resources to prevent spillover violence, but with the safety of Texans on the line, we can’t afford to wait.”
Yet Perry's own spokesperson, just two days later, said spillover violence was not the reason for the plan being launched. From Friday's story in the McAllen Monitor, "What is 'spillover?' It depends on whom you ask.":
[Perry spokeswoman Katherine] Cessinger said the decision to activate the plan had nothing to do with recent events of spillover on Texas soil, although there have not recently been any in the state, she said.
Which is it, Governor Perry -- are you acting because of spillover violence, or aren't you?
Senator John Cornyn was caught grandstanding earlier this week as well. At first, Cornyn joined with Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison to ask President Obama to address the issue. It was even on the front of his Senate home page (view image here). From the opening words of his press release ("Texas Senators Hutchison, Cornyn Request Action From President Obama On Escalating Violence In Mexico"), Cornyn begins the conversation talking about spillover violence:
“The spillover violence in Texas is real and it is escalating. Our border patrol agents and local law enforcement are more regularly engaged with gunmen associated with drug cartels, but our resources and personnel are limited…
A story from the McAllen Monitor earlier this week, titled, ""Senators call for openness in contingency plans for violence along U.S.-Mexico border" showed Cornyn caught committing the same political grandstanding as Perry:
[Cornyn] contradicted himself, however, in a conference call with reporters later in the day in which he said, “As far as the Texas border is concerned, we have not had spillover violence, per se.”
Defining Spillover Violence
How do we define spillover violence? Friday's story in the McAllen Monitor asked "What is 'spillover?' It depends on whom you ask." From their story:
Federal authorities define spillover violence as “deliberate, planned attacks by the cartels on U.S. assets, including civilian, military or law enforcement officials, innocent U.S. citizens or physical institutions, such as government buildings, consulates or businesses. This definition does not include trafficker on trafficker violence, whether perpetuated in Mexico or the U.S.”
That definition was recommended by the Southwest Border Task Force and adopted by the Department of Homeland Security last year.
That would rule out most instances of violence seen in South Texas, since the assailants and victims are usually involved in drugs or human smuggling, said Hidalgo County Sheriff Lupe Treviño, who also serves as vice chair of the Southwest Border Task Force.
Most drug-related crime in South Texas would be classified as “border violence,” defined by the task force as any act of violence motivated by drugs, human smuggling or money that takes place within 25 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border — and can be linked to crime across the border.
On Tuesday -- the same day Perry unveiled his "Texas Spillover Violence Contingency Plan" -- federal officials stated that while the current crimes on both sides of the border are serious and deserve their utmost attention, they would not classify any of the violence as "spillover." From the March 16, 2010 McAllen Monitor story, "After McAllen kidnapping, authorities question spillover threat":
Law enforcement officials said the cartel-related incident does not demonstrate an example of “spillover” violence — often described by the national media as cartel-related violence on U.S. soil, but described by local authorities as an active incident of violence literally spilling north of the Rio Grande from Mexico.
Rather, it appears the kidnapping-turned-shooting was another in a long line of violent incidents involving victims and criminals with ties to drug trafficking — not the general public, authorities said.
Both federal and local law enforcement officials refuse to describe the current violence along the border as "spillover violence." The term can be harmful to local regions, because it creates an overly exaggerated sense of panic for a region already plagued by rising crime rates -- something else Rick Perry has deliberately lied about in recent weeks, months, and years. (Read: "PolitiFact: Rick Perry's "Pants on Fire" Lie About Border Crime Rates").
John Johnson, who leads the FBI’s office in McAllen, stressed that regular citizens should not be afraid:
“Those are the exceptions,” Johnson said. “If you’re a law-abiding citizen in McAllen, Texas, I think that the probability that you’re going to be picked up by the cartel in a kidnapping situation are very, very low.”
El Paso Mayor John Cook echoed Johnson's sentiment about citizen safety in the El Paso Times piece, "Gov. Rick Perry sends helicopters to border in slap at US":
Cook would not comment on whether he believed that Perry's plan would be effective, saying he did not want to get involved in politics or give additional information to cartels. But, he said, the average El Paso resident is not in any danger of spillover violence.
Hidalgo County Sheriff Lupe Treviño, who is the vice chair of the Southwest Border Task Force, believes Perry's actions are politically motivated. From the same excellent Monitor piece, "What is 'spillover?' It depends on whom you ask":
Treviño has said he believes the spillover plan may be politically motivated, given Perry’s run for re-election in November — a notion the governor’s office denies.“I am trying to diffuse, I am trying to mitigate, the fear of crime that the governor has created,” the sheriff said. “Give us all the security we can get. But don’t tell (the public) about something that is not happening. Don’t instill the fear of crime into them.”
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