Opinion Columns & Blogs

On Mexican border, more ‘guards’ increase danger

Illegal immigration is a growing problem in the Rio Grande Valley, Texas officials say, but there’s another growing problem: a confusing and potentially hazardous influx of multiple kinds of guards and agents and civilian militia members all charged up about protecting the border.

But the groups involved, from state troopers to National Guardsmen to those militia members, have difficulty communicating with one another because they use different radio equipment. And in gun-friendly Texas, militia members come to the task heavily armed. There was a recent incident of friendly fire involving one militia member.

That’s why the U.S. Border Patrol is suggesting that enforcing the law should be left to those officially charged with doing so. That would seem to be common sense.

Said Kevin Oaks, the Border Patrol chief in the valley: “There are cartel members that carry assault weapons and camouflage, and then there’s others that may be under the auspices of whatever group, may look very similar, and we have no idea who those people are. My fear is that these things clash and eventually there will be a very bad outcome.”

In addition, the presence of heavily armed guards from different agencies and militias has been intimidating law-abiding residents, some of whom are, yes, in the country illegally but have been living peacefully for many years.

A “police state”? Well, it seems to some in the valley that it’s almost a “police and others state.” Obviously, the Border Patrol should be in absolute charge of doing its duty, and civilian militias need to be curbed, period.

Gov. Rick Perry has sent in more guardsmen and state troopers, and he’s being praised by conservatives as a zealous guardian of the border. But too many arms in too many different hands, particularly when communications are scrambled, is an accident waiting to happen.

No one argues that guarding the border isn’t important, but the lack of federal action on immigration reform, which has long been avoided by Congress, makes situations like that in the Rio Grande Valley possible. And that situation appears to be close to being out of control.

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