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Public Statements

Southern Border Violence

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. McCAIN. Mr. President, I come to the floor today to talk about the violence that continues to plague our southern border region by Mexico's well-armed, well-financed, and very determined drug cartels.

Last weekend, I went to Yuma, AZ, and met with Border Patrol and Customs and other law enforcement agents who do such an outstanding job for our country.

By the way, the temperature was approximately 115 degrees, and our men and women, who are serving so well, were out there trying to secure our border and keep our country safe.

Despite the increased efforts of President Calderon to stamp out these bloodthirsty and vicious drug cartels, violence has increased dramatically, claiming over 6,000 lives in Mexico last year alone. The murderers carrying out these crimes are as violent and dangerous as any in the world. Many have extensive military training and carry out their illegal activities with sophisticated tactical weapons and no regard for human life.

Last week, the Washington Post reported that 12 Mexican Federal agents were murdered and left alongside a mountain road in retaliation for the arrest of the leader of the country's most violent drug cartel, La Familia. According to the article, this act represents ``the highest one-day death toll for Federal forces in the 3-year-old drug war.'' The article provides the deadly details of the violent attack, reporting:

The attacks began at dawn on Saturday ..... shortly after the arrest of the right-hand man of La Familia founder Nazario Moreno Gonzalez. After La Familia gunmen were repelled in their attempt to free (the leader), they went on what police described as a shooting rampage to ``avenge'' his capture. The attacks, in which convoys of gunmen mounted surprise assaults on government positions in eight cities, went on for 10 hours Saturday and continued sporadically Sunday.

The bodies of these brave law enforcement officers were accompanied by a note promising future violence from La Familia if the Federal Government continues its law enforcement efforts. I remind my colleagues that this is the same drug cartel that, according to the Washington Post, ``announced its presence 2 years ago by rolling five decapitated heads into a dance hall.''

Earlier this month, two American citizens with dual citizenship were dragged out of their homes and shot several times in the head in the Mexican state of Chihuahua. The reason was that the victims, according to the Associated Press:

helped lead the town's approximately 2,000 inhabitants in protest against a May 2 kidnapping. The residents refused to pay the $1 million ransom kidnappers requested and demonstrated in the Chihuahua state capital to demand justice. Even after (the kidnapped victim) was released unharmed a week later, the (town's) people continued to lead marches demanding more law enforcement in the rural, isolated corner of Chihuahua state. They also set up a committee to report any suspicious activities in town to police, quickly becoming an example for other Chihuahua communities.

Yesterday's Washington Post front-page story about these events states:

Chihuahua today is the emblem of a failed state, run by incompetent authorities who have little ability to protect the citizens.

The violence that has terrorized Mexican citizens continues to seep across the border, devastating families and crippling communities. In my hometown of Phoenix, there have been over 700 reported kidnappings in the past year. This has led to Phoenix being declared the ``kidnapping capital of the United States,'' second only to Mexico City in the world. In many cases, kidnap victims are intertwined with criminal elements of society, involved with illegal cross-border smuggling operations.

The police chief of Phoenix testified in April before the Senate's Homeland Security Committee that Phoenix is a transshipment point for illegal drugs and smuggled humans, both coming to Phoenix before being shipped to other points throughout the United States.

Immigrants illegally crossing the border with paid ``coyotes'' are treated like expendable cargo to be bought, sold, traded, or stolen. In many cases, the immigrants' families are ransomed for additional funds by bajadores, or takedown crews, to guarantee safe delivery of their loved ones.

As detailed in a Newsweek article from earlier this year:

Kidnap victims have been found bound and gagged, their fingers smashed and their foreheads spattered with blood from pistol whippings. When the bajadores abduct illegal immigrants--hoping to extort more money from relatives--they will sometimes kill someone off immediately to scare the others. There was a case last year where they duct-taped the mouth and nose of one individual and had the others watch while he asphyxiated and defecated on himself.

These are not pleasant things. They are not pleasant things to describe. But they are going on right now as we speak.

Aside from the horrible toll these cartels extract from their victims and the victims' families, they also severely tax the resources of law enforcement agencies of border communities. The police chief of Phoenix also testified that the Phoenix police receive a kidnapping report almost every night, which can require the efforts of up to 60 officers to find, rescue, and protect kidnap victims.

Lest you believe these activities are limited to border communities, last year the bodies of five Mexican men were discovered bound, gagged, and electrocuted in Birmingham, AL, in an apparent hit by a Mexican cartel. In recent years, arrests of Mexican cartel members have occurred across the South, including Tennessee, North Carolina, and Georgia.

There is no sign that the number of these drug-related arrests will abate in the near future, which is why I support efforts to complete the proposed 700 miles of double-layer fence. But, as we have seen, fencing alone fails to take into account the realities of the southern border and should not be treated as a panacea. These criminal smuggling enterprises are very sophisticated and are not easily deterred, which is why we must work to truly secure our border, not merely fence it.

This past weekend, as I mentioned, I visited the border in Yuma, AZ, and witnessed the extraordinary lengths these cartels go to smuggle their goods across the border. One cartel spent upwards of $1 million using sophisticated GPS-directed drilling equipment to develop their tunnel far below the surface to move goods underneath fencing and out of sight of law enforcement agencies.

In Nogales, AZ, drug traffickers have used the city's sewer system to channel drugs across the border.

Every other month tunnels are discovered underneath the border. Since 1990, 110 cross-border tunnels have been discovered. Twenty-four tunnels were discovered in 2008 alone.

Not to be deterred, our outstanding law enforcement officials have developed investigative strategies and tunnel detection equipment to locate and identify subterranean cross-border tunnels.

The latest, by the way, on the part of the drug cartels, is the use of ultralights. Ultralights now are being flown at extremely low altitude, loaded with drugs, across the Mexico-Arizona border and all across the border.

We must also increase personnel on the border to put an end to illegal immigration and protect our citizens from the drug cartel violence occurring in Mexico. For this reason, I was disappointed that the administration rejected Arizona Governor Brewer's request--and the requests of the Governors of California, New Mexico, and Texas--who also requested National Guard troops to bolster the Joint Counter-Narcotics Terrorism Task Force. But, as we know, the coyotes are aggressive and creative despite our efforts to secure the border with more personnel, more fencing, and more surveillance technology.

The United States must keep its focus on securing our southern border and doing all it can to assist President Calderon in his efforts against these violent drug cartels. The prosperity and success of Mexico is essential to the prosperity and success of our own country. We share a border, our economies are intertwined, and we are major trading partners with each other. The United States must show its support for our neighbor to the south and support the Mexican people and the Calderon administration in this fundamental struggle against lawlessness and corruption.

We have a big problem. We have a big problem with these drug cartels. The Mexican Government now has a problem. They just lost an election because the people of Mexico, many of them, believe these drugs are just going through Mexico, intended for the United States of America.

Violence is at an incredibly high level not only on the border but throughout the country of Mexico and, tragically, corruption reaches to very high levels in the government. We have the Merida Initiative. We are working with the Mexican Government. But there is no time like the present, in my view, because we need to not only enforce and increase our efforts on our side of the border but also work as closely as possible with the Mexican Government and people.

It is horrific what is taking place: beheadings of people, bodies hung from overpasses. These are amongst the most cruel and terrible people who inhabit this Earth. It is a lot about drugs. It is a lot about a $16-billion-a-year business, of drugs coming into the United States of America. That is how they can afford to spend easily $1 million to build a tunnel underneath the border between Yuma, AZ, and Mexico.

I know we have a lot of issues that are affecting the future of our country, including two wars, including relations with countries, including the Iranian situation, but I hope we can focus a lot of our attention on the problems that are bred on our border by the drug cartels and the human smuggling and the terrible mistreatment of people on both sides of the border as a result of that.

Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent the articles in the Washington Post and Newsweek be printed in the Record, and I yield the floor.

There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the RECORD


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