Feature:Opinion

The Department of Homeland Security and Climate Change?

Earlier this year, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano said, “It is inaccurate to state, as too many have, that the border is overrun with violence and out of control.” She continued, “This statement — often made only to score political points — is just plain wrong.” While I recognize and acknowledge that the secretary and I come from different political parties, I do have to wonder if we live on the same planet.

I recently returned from a trip to our southern border and witnessed firsthand the level of violence occurring there. Hours after I left Laredo, the police chief in Nuevo Laredo was murdered. He is just one of the over 30,000 people murdered in the Mexican drug wars since 2006. Murders escalated to their highest levels in 2010, jumping by almost 60 percent to 15,273 deaths, up from 9,616 the previous year. In the midst of this crisis, Secretary Napolitano created a “Climate Change and Adaptation Task Force” that is charged with “identifying and assessing the impact that climate change could have on the missions and operations of the Department of Homeland Security.”

Secretary Napolitano’s bizarre focus on climate change appears to have distorted her views on the border situation, so I would invite her come to Texas and visit the border. I would encourage her to talk to the sheriffs, federal agents, and judges who are experiencing this violence every day and not attempting to “score political points.” On my recent visit, they all stressed the need for more resources, better communication, and increased adjudication capacity.

I would also encourage the secretary to look at the bipartisan work my colleagues and I have done to implement and fund Operation Streamline. Under this strict enforcement policy, everyone caught crossing the border illegally is arrested, prosecuted, and jailed for up to six months. We have had great success in the Del Rio and Laredo sectors and are working to expand it from Brownsville to San Diego.

Border violence is out of control. This fact is undisputed by anyone who works or lives along the border. It’s not about politics, it’s about public safety. The federal government is directly responsible for enforcing existing laws to secure our borders and ensure the safe and legal movement of people, goods, and commerce across our borders. If the secretary does not even acknowledge or appreciate the danger posed along our southern border, how can we expect to fix the problem?

Rep. John Culberson represents Texas’s Seventh Congressional District.