The killings last month in the Mexican border town of Ciudad Juarez of two U.S. citizens, including an employee at the city’s U.S. Consulate, along with the slaying of an Arizona rancher, have fueled concerns among U.S. officials that Americans are becoming fair game for Mexican drug gangs seeking control of smuggling routes into the United States.
For more than two years, U.S. intelligence and law enforcement officials have been warning that the dramatic rise in violence along the southwestern border could eventually target U.S. citizens and spread into this country. The violence posed what the officials called a “serious threat” to law enforcement officers, first responders and residents along the 1,951-mile border.
The numbers bear out those concerns, according to the State Department: 79 U.S. citizens were killed last year in Mexico, up from 35 in 2007. In Juarez, just across the Rio Grande from El Paso, Texas, 23 Americans were killed in 2009, compared with two in 2007.
In response, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer and Sen. John McCain, both Republicans, have called on the Department of Homeland Security to deploy the National Guard along the Arizona border. Mrs. Brewer said the rising violence showed the “abject failure of the U.S. Congress and President Obama to adequately provide public safety along our national border with Mexico.”
Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, Arizona Democrat, whose district includes the area where rancher Robert Krentz was killed, said if the slaying was connected to smugglers or drug cartels, the federal government should consider all options, including sending more Border Patrol agents to the area and deploying the National Guard.
Former Rep. Tom Tancredo, Colorado Republican, and former Rep. J.D. Hayworth, a Republican who is seeking Mr. McCain’s senatorial seat, joined in the call for National Guard troops to be stationed along the border.
Mr. Hayworth said the federal government should “act now and step up its efforts to secure our borders.”
Texas Gov. Rick Perry also has put into play a “spillover violence contingency plan” to address attacks on American citizens in Mexico. The plan increases border surveillance; intelligence sharing; and ground, air and maritime patrols.
A day before the March 13 Juarez killings, Mr. Perry unsuccessfully sought help from Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to use unmanned Predator drone aircraft and 1,000 additional soldiers for missions on the Mexican border. He said there was a disparity in the amount of federal resources allotted to Texas for border security.
The White House said Mr. Obama was “deeply saddened and outraged” by the killings and had pledged to “continue to work with Mexican President Felipe Calderon and his government to break the power of the drug-trafficking organizations that operate in Mexico and far too often target and kill the innocent.”