Even Border Patrol Says: Talk of Border Violence Overblown

By Julianne Hing Jun 03, 2010

You wouldn’t know it from the way Republicans like Senator John McCain and Arizona Governor Jan Brewer talk about the U.S.-Mexico border, but the region is not the lawless, violence-ridden land it’s portrayed to be. At least not according to an investigation done by the Associated Press, published today. Their proof? According to a Customs and Border Protection report, Border Patrol agents face fewer risks than cops in the rest of the country. Three percent of Border Patrol agents were assaulted last year, "mostly when assailants threw rocks at them," versus the 11 percent of street cops who are attacked in the rest of the country, usually with knives and guns. Sure, migration into the country is also down because of the depressed economy, and that’s one reason things in general are quieter at the border. But the ever-popular tendency to blame immigrants for waves of violent crime is patently false:

And violent crimes in southwest border counties are among the lowest in the nation per capita – they’ve dropped by more than 30 percent in the last two decades. Of America’s 25 largest cities, San Diego – with one out of four residents an immigrant – has the lowest number of violent crimes per capita.

That hasn’t stopped immigration restrictionists from seizing on the high-profile cases of Arizona rancher Robert Krentz‘s killing in March as reason to further militarize the border, even though subsequent reports have said that Krentz may not have been killed by an immigrant after all. Customs and Border Protection spokesperson Lloyd Easterling defended his own department, telling the AP: "The border is safer now than it’s ever been." Of course, the border is rarely a safe place for the people who actually cross it. The construction of the 2,000 mile border fence has closed off traditional paths into the country and pushed people to have to make the trek through mountainous regions and in ever-harsher conditions. In 2009, 417 people died while trying to cross the treacherous deserts. Photo: Getty Images/Chip Somodevilla