While our attention was directed toward the north over the past few days, there was a serious breach of our southern border. It sounds like the kind of farcical stunt from a Pink Panther movie, but the incident on the Rio Grande seems to be dead serious. Last Friday, deputies from the Hudspeth County Sheriff's Department confronted a group of Mexicans whose dump truck had gotten stuck while trying to ford the river, and seized nearly a ton of marijuana. Before they could finish unloading the bales, however, the truck crew returned with a squad wearing uniforms of the Mexican Army. They forced the deputies to retreat and proceeded to retrieve the truck and the rest of its cargo. See El Paso Times, via freerepublic.com
Another incursion happened on Monday, and there is a photo of the bad guys unloading an SUV at washingtonpost.com. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff downplayed the reports, saying the incidents were just isolated mistakes. The Mexican government claimed that the intruders were drug smugglers, not real Army troops. Probably so, but I wish I were more confident. According to a report cited by Michelle Malkin, however, Mexican military patrols have been crossing the border hundreds of times years, escorting emigrants or drug shipments, but no one wants to raise a fuss over it. American border patrol officers say they are extremely reluctant to do anything that would create an international incident, hoping things will just die down on their own. The absence of reporting on these events by the mainstream media is disturbing, to say the least.
This is the sort of delicate situation that requires alert, effective response without panicking. Congressmen Jim Sensenbrenner and J. D. Hayworth will no doubt get a lot of political mileage from this latest example of failed immigration policy. Will they refrain from inciting xenophobia, or helping recruit for the "Minutemen"? The failure by the Bush administration to face up to the crumbling of our southern frontier risks widespread defections by conservative activists, and it may even provide an opening in national security policy for the Democrats to exploit. Wouldn't that be ironic? Perhaps all this should not be too surprising. As I learned from Abelardo Rodriguez at the 2005 APSA annual meeting (scroll to end) last September, there is a wall map in Mexico's Colegio Nacional de Defensa (like West Point) that shows the pre-1848 U.S.-Mexico border. Yikes. Can you say "irredentism"? Can you say it in Spanish??
In a case of very bad timing, the Mexican government announced on Tuesday that it will distribute maps to prospective illegal emigrants showing highways, rescue beacons and water tanks in Arizona. See CNN.com. From Mexico's perspective, this is a human rights issue, and nothing more. Protecting one's own sovereignty is a "one-way street," it would seem. I hope American diplomats are up to the task of making it clear that the attitude of impunity among many Mexicans cannot be tolerated any longer.