Q & A with Frontera List’s Molly Molloy

What are the current stats and how do they compare to previous years?

There are two main sources of official Mexican government statistics on homicides. INEGI, Mexico’s National Statistics Institute, tallies numbers of murder victims based on data from medical examiners in morgues across the country. A death is counted as a homicide when a legal medical specialist determines that homicide was the cause of death. These statistics are cumulated and generally reported in July or August for the previous year. The INEGI report for 2013 came out in late July and provided the figure of 22,732 intentional homicides—an average of 1,894 homicides each month. This figure is down from the figure of 25,967 in 2013 and from the highest number of 27,213 in 2012—an average of more than 2,200 murders per month.

The national murder rate in Mexico in 2013 was 19 per 100,000, down from the highest point of about 24 in 2012.  When evaluating murder rates, we also have to consider that many cities, states or regions in Mexico have much higher rates than the national average. The state of Guerrero has a murder rate of 63—the highest in the country—and the city of Acapulco is at the top of the list of violent cities. Chihuahua state had a murder rate in 2013 of 59, about the same as the murder rate in Ciudad Juarez. This is a dramatic decrease from the highest murder rate in the world in 2010 (approaching 300 per 100,000) but still the second highest state murder rate in the country.

The other major source of crime statistics is the Executive Secretariat of the National Public Security System (SESNSP), part of the Secretariat of Government (SEGOB). SESNSP provides data on homicides from crime scenes as reported on a monthly basis by the Fiscalias (the Attorneys General) in each state. These numbers are generally lower than the cumulative figures reported by INEGI and can probably be explained by the fact that those injured in violent crimes may die later and eventually be categorized as homicides. Also, SESNSP data reports a separate category of homicidios culposos (negligent or unintentional homicides) in an initial crime scene investigation, but some of these may also be determined to be intentional at a later stage of investigation.  A total of 9,303 homicidios dolosos (intentional homicides) are reported for January-July 2014, an average of about 1,300 homicides each month.  In comparison, there were a total of 18,388 intentional homicides in 2013—an average of about 1,500 per month—somewhat lower than the cumulative INEGI total. For more on the SESNSP data, see: http://www.secretariadoejecutivosnsp.gob.mx/es/SecretariadoEjecutivo/Incidencia_Delictiva_Nacional_fuero_comun

Adding the INEGI numbers for 2007-2013, and the SESNSP numbers for January-July 2014, there were a total of 153,648 murder victims in Mexico during the past 7.5 years. That averages to 1,688 homicides per month since the hyper-violence began in Mexico.

And, these numbers do not include the estimated 30,000 people who have been officially reported missing or disappeared.  Mexican government spokespeople have addressed the issue of the disappeared, most recently in a press conference yesterday resulting in a flurry of media coverage trying to explain the “disappearing disappeared.” See: http://www.jornada.unam.mx/2014/08/22/politica/005n1pol




The reality is that there are no accurate or reliable numbers on people who have disappeared. The government never says how many were found alive and how many are confirmed dead. And it is certain than many of the dead are never found. One recent report by Michelle Garcia and Ignacio Alvarado Alvarez for Al Jazeera America concludes:

“People began to disappear in Mexico in large numbers after President Felipe Calderón launched his war against drug traffickers in 2006. By 2013, the Mexican government, under a new administration, pegged the number of disappeared at 26,121, adding that not all were criminally related.

Experts and several human rights groups, however, estimate that reported cases represent roughly 10 percent of the total, as most people are reluctant to appeal to authorities who were either involved in or suspected of having ties to organized crime groups. Based on their calculations, the actual number could be closer to 200,000 people.”

What is the most informative literary work to come out in the last year regarding the violence in Mexico? Why?

 The Beast: Riding the Rails and Dodging Narcos on the Migrant Trail, by Salvadoran journalist Oscar Martinez.

Amnesty International estimates that as many as 70,000 Central American migrants have disappeared in Mexico in the past 10 years. Published in Spanish as Los migrantes que no importan…The Migrants who Don’t Matter, The Beast is by far the best account I have read of how criminal/government networks actually work and how and why the massive death toll in Mexico and in Central America keeps rising. The book not only helps us to understand Mexico, but it also is the skeleton key to understanding the recent crisis in child migration from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala. At least 60,000 unaccompanied minors have made it to the United States border in the past year and we do not begin to know how many have been lost on the journey—not to mention the numbers of adult men and women who die in the migration. Here is one paragraph from Oscar Martinez’ interview below with the Texas Observer:

 “TO: What do you hope Americans will learn from your book?

OM: I believe the worst tragedies along the path—the rapes, the mass kidnappings, the torturing done by Los Zetas, the fee to cross the border—are things that the migrants who have suffered them, in my experience, dont even tell their own families. Im convinced that its something they dont tell their employers or their friends if they have any friends in the United States. I think people in the U.S. know that migrants have a long and hard journey. But Im convinced that the country in which they work—where they cut tomatoes and clean houses—has no idea at all that what the migrants are going through is actually a humanitarian crisis. In other words, its a humanitarian crisis where organized crime takes care of extracting the very last drop it can from people who are already leaving their country with practically nothing.”

What has been one of the most surprising news story you’ve read this year? why?

The rise of ISIS, or the Islamic State terrorist military force and its lightning take-over of much of Iraq and Syria. I know, it has nothing to do with Latin America. Or does it?  I think of the several trillion dollars and thousands of U.S. lives and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives lost since our invasion of that country in 2003 and even more deaths caused by massive destabilization in the region, in part sparked by our interventions. And for what? The result seems to be the creation of one of the most violent and dangerous threats the U.S. has faced, ever.

Then I look at the media storm in response to the massive numbers of children fleeing from intolerable violence in the small Central American countries. And I think about the illegal U.S. proxy wars against “the Communist threat” in those countries resulting in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Central Americans in the 1970s and 1980s. Our policies and actions 30+ years ago sowed the seeds for the destruction of these societies and now we are reaping the crops.

What do you see happening with immigration in the U.S. and how will it affect Latin America?

I am appalled by the inhumane reaction of our government to the recent Central American migration. Instead of seeing the migration as a human rights crisis, our government is determined to detain and deport people as quickly as possible with not even lip-service to human rights, international law, or due process in our own courts.



The American immigration gulag is expanding and becoming more repressive at every turn. And the loudest protests call for more repression, not less.

While the administration and activists continue to talk about the president bypassing the stonewalled Congress to mandate immigration reform through executive action, I fear such action will result in more draconian border security measures and provide little if any benefit to the immigrants most in need of relief.

I hope my sad predictions are all wrong.

Immigrant Surge Sheds Light on Dangers of Broken Policy

Sylvia Longmire is a former Air Force officer and Special Agent with the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, where she specialized in counterintelligence, counterespionage, and force protection analysis. After being medically retired in 2005,  Longmire worked for four years as a Senior Intelligence Analyst for the California State Threat Assessment Center, providing daily situational awareness to senior state government officials on southwest border violence and Mexico’s drug war. She received her Master’s degree from the University of South Florida in Latin American and Caribbean Studies, and she is an award-winning columnist for Homeland Security Today magazine and contributing editor for Breitbart Texas.  Longmire was a guest expert on The History Channel’s “Brad Meltzer’s Decoded,” and has consulted for the producers of National Geographic Channel’s Border Wars and Drugs, Inc. series.  Her first book, Cartel: The Coming Invasion of Mexico’s Drug Wars, was nominated for a Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and she has written for numerous peer-reviewed journals and online publications. Her newest book, Border Insecurity: Why Big Money, Fences, and Drones Aren’t Making Us Safer was published in April 2014. For more, check out her website.


On the morning of June 18, 2014, roughly two dozen reporters gathered outside a Nogales warehouse and waited to be escorted inside by Border Patrol agents. Many were anxious; it was the first time members of the media would be allowed to witness firsthand the hundreds of unaccompanied alien children (UACs) being detained by the agency after being apprehended in south Texas.

Since October 2013, Border Patrol agents have apprehended more than 47,000 unaccompanied minors, ranging in age from infant to 17 years old, in the Rio Grande Valley of south Texas. The vast majority of these children are from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, and they are all anxious to be reunited with family members in the United States. For some of them, the journey has been incredibly difficult—paying coyotes thousands of dollars in smuggling fees, eating and sleeping little, and navigating the gang- and cartel-infested territories in eastern Mexico. For some, the goal is to cross the border undetected and reach various destinations across the country.

But others are traveling right to the border and turning themselves in to agents under the impression—fueled by rumors at home—that they will soon be released. In many cases, they’re right.

Undocumented immigrants from Central America get treated differently by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) because it’s logistically more difficult to repatriate them. Also, UACs from Central America get treated differently than adults. By law, they have to be processed and handed over to the Department of Health and Human Service’s Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), which will try to reunite them with a family member or legal in the US as quickly as possible. Generally, the legal status of the person a UAC is released to does not impact the transfer of the child. UACs without a family member in the US get placed into the ORR’s network of shelters and group homes—essentially foster care—while they go through removal proceedings.

The reporters went into that Nogales warehouse hoping to get some answers about what President Obama and others have termed a “humanitarian crisis” on the border. For two weeks, they have been seeing photos—many of them leaked by Border Patrol agents—of the crowded conditions inside, and the experience was jarring for many. Several reporters expressed their thoughts on their Twitter feeds, describing the minors’ moods as ranging from bored to sad to outright distraught. UACs are only supposed to be detained for a maximum of 72 hours before being transferred to ORR custody, but the huge influx of minors in such a short period of time have made it logistically impossible for that to happen.

Given that this is a crisis that will not be ending or get resolved soon, two questions persist: What caused this huge influx, and how can it be controlled? Both questions are naturally fraught with political complications. Many on the right point the finger at lax enforcement of immigration policies by the Obama administration and a failure to secure the border. Many on the left fully blame the deteriorating security and economic conditions in Central America, which have led to the rise in control of many parts of those countries by gangs and drug cartels.

The truth is not always that simple, and in this case, it’s a combination of both of those factors—a sort of push-pull effect. Violence and a lack of economic and educational opportunities drive young people out of Central America by the thousands. But word has gotten around the region—in some cases, through television announcements—that many UACs, and even adults, are being released after processing and just being told to show up for their immigration hearing. Most will not. In addition, those with family members already in the US will be provided with bus fare to be reunited with them anywhere in the country. To say that word of mouth about these actions don’t have a “pull” effect is naïve and ignorant of the power rumors can have in Central America.

As far as controlling the push and pull factors, the latter is much easier than the former. Even though the US government has been providing counterdrug and economic development assistance to Central America for some time, security has not improved and economic development can be difficult to measure. One also has to add in the fact that US drug demand, which fuels the activities of cartels and the gangs they employ, is not diminishing, and corruption within governments and police forces in these countries is rampant.

The only thing left is to find a way to manage the pull factor—the controversial issue known as comprehensive immigration reform. The increase in border enforcement measures that the US government can reasonably sustain will be insufficient to stop determined migrants fleeing violence and poverty, as difficult a pill that may be for some to swallow. Changing immigration laws in a way that doesn’t grant automatic amnesty, but preserves the integrity of our justice system, is entirely possible. However, US politicians lack the political will to reach some sort of compromise that allows non-criminal “economic migrants” to contribute to the US economy and travel freely—and safely—between their home country and the US.

There is no simple answer, but there is also not one single acceptable answer. There is a halfway point between granting full amnesty to all undocumented immigrants and walling off the border while deporting every single one. A meaningful change at the legislative level and a very visible change at the border enforcement level will help spread an accurate message to desperate Central Americans—and the smugglers who exploit them—that although the US border isn’t open for business, a new way of following practical and effective rules is the best way to reach the safety of the United States.



Q & A with author Todd Miller

Todd Miller is  a Tucson-based freelance journalist who has covered the U.S.- Mexico border for the last 15 years for publications including The Nation, NACLA Report on the Americas, and Mother Jones. His first book, Border Patrol Nation: Dispatches from the Frontlines of Homeland Security explores border security post 9/11 and examines what he calls the “new world border.”  To learn more, visit his website.


You’ve been reporting about the border for several years now, what made you decide to focus on border patrol and what surprised you the most in your findings?

One of the first acts of journalism that I did was photograph a crew from the U.S. Army corps of engineers when they were building the wall between Douglas and Agua Prieta in the late 1990s. That was when Border Patrol was concentrating agents and technology, and building walls in the urban areas along the 2,000 mile U.S. Mexico border. Then in 2001 I was working for a binational organization in Tucson, Arizona and Nogales, Sonora when 9/11 hit. With this, I witnessed first hand the advent of the homeland security era of the Border Patrol. The results of this have been nothing less than startling.

For Border Patrol Nation, I interviewed public information officers in places like Puerto Rico, El Paso, Tucson, and Detroit. However, I also interviewed many individual agents who had a wide range of perspectives. I interviewed from the most gung-ho to those with serious critiques about the agency. I met their kids, and went to their homes. I found that most agents think that they are in an insular world, and nobody really understands what they do. Many feel they are criticized by all sides of the political spectrum. I felt like when I was able to humanize the agent, I was able to see that they were only a small part— though a powerful part—of a much bigger world. Border Patrolling has become an industry, a technological innovation, a problem to be “solved” by engineers. There are many, many people of all perspectives involved with this domestic national security monolith, of which Border Patrol by virtue of its uniformed presence is its most public face. That was one surprise. The other surprise was when this world revealed itself, I saw that it was much bigger, and had penetrated the country (and more and more the world) in more startling and powerful ways than I was even aware of. To find these angles became, in a sense, one of the prime missions of the book.

Could you explain what you mean by the “new world border”?

This term comes from a chapter where I spend quite a bit of time on the Dominican Haiti international boundary. There, before my eyes, was a rustic version of the U.S.-Mexico border. Along the Massacre River, which demarcates the divide between the two countries that share the same island, were protest barricades placed crookedly and serving as a rudimentary barricade. Behind the barricades the Dominican Border Patrol, known as CESFRONT, sat their Xs, watching their sections of border like agents in the United States. When I asked these Dominican agents if they had received training from the U.S. Border Patrol they said yes. Not only has there been training, but also the United States sent resources. In fact, the whole idea that the Dominican Republic needed its own border patrol came from a U.S. report issued in 2006. Turns out, the United States, and its Border Patrol, has done trainings across the globe in more than 100 different countries. And it further turns out that the global market for border security is in an “unprecedented growth period,” hundreds of billions of dollars potentially. From Asia to Africa, from the Middle East to southern Europe, from Brazil to Mexico’s southern border with Guatemala, hardened enforced boundaries are becoming the norm, particularly between the global south (and its different gradations—the Dominicans can police the Haitians, but the Dominicans need to be policed by the United States) with the global north. As former Customs and Border Protection chief David Aguilar said, Border Patrol’s work in the “hemisphere” is to protect “our way of life.”

You say that since 9/11,  Border Patrol has more than doubled its ranks, has roughly 21,000 agents nationwide and continues to expand. What do you see as the outcome of this growth and expansion?

At a recent community meeting on the Tohono O’odham Nation in southern Arizona the speaker—who was looking into Homeland Security abuse on the Nation–asked a group of approximately 100 O’odham seated there how many had been pulled over by the U.S. Border Patrol. For those that don’t know, the Tohono O’odham reservation shares a 70 mile border with Mexico, but their aboriginal land extend hundreds of miles into Mexico. When the borderline was drawn through its territory in 1853, the O’odham were not consulted. Yet, for years, and up until around 9/11 the O’odham simply ignored the boundary line, crossing back and forth to visit family, go to school, go to work, go to cultural and ceremonial sites. Up until the 1990s there was almost no Border Patrol presence (the agency began in 1924).

Now, at that community meeting, every single person raised their hand. Every single person had been pulled over, at least once, by Border Patrol. The degree of the shift of the Homeland Security presence on the Tohono O’odham Nation is a perfect reflection of Border Patrol growth. If you were to go to the O’odham reservation right now, you might see more green-striped Border Patrol vehicles, than normal ones. There are ATV and horse patrols. There are surveillance towers and surveillance drones overhead. There are Blackhawk helicopters and military style Forward Operating Bases.

People on the rez are complaining of tailgating, of Border Patrol spotlighting into their vehicles at night. People talk of interrogations, being pulled out of their cars, of being pepper sprayed. On all paved roads leading out of the reservation there are checkpoints: Heading west towards Phoenix in Gila Bend, Heading north to Casa Grand, Heading east to Tucson. If you speak the Tohono O’odham language to the agents, like Tohono O’odham member Ofelia Rivas, expect secondary and your car to be searched. You will be detained. This is one of the sharpest examples—but only one example of many– of the giant Homeland Security complex spreading across the country into many places—including places where it had very little presence before such as Rochester, New York or Erie, Pennsylvania. Since this type of expansion is basically unquestioned, unless more people step up and challenge it, we can only expect more of the same.

Could you talk more about the Border Patrol youth programs?

In every city and town on the southern U.S. border, and increasingly in the north are programs that the U.S. Border Patrol has with youth. One of these is called the Explorer program, which comes from the Boy Scouts of America. With the Border Patrol, teenagers learn handcuffing techniques and with “red guns” (fake guns) take down potential terrorists and other threats. They learn how to do interrogations (or “field interviews” as Border Patrol calls them) and to question people about their documents. When I met with the Explorer post in El Paso at dawn, they were doing uniform inspections, and then marched in lock step around the Border Patrol Training Center. The kids learn what it takes to become an agent. And, as many agents have pointed out, Border Patrol can identify possible recruits for an agency that is always expanding and always on the lookout for more agents.

But there is more to the creating of the fertile ground upon which the homeland security state can grow. As one of the agents working with the kids told me—it’s more than recruiting. He told me about the Thanksgiving parade in El Paso. He said that when the Border Patrol marched at that parade, they would get a mixed reaction at best. But, he said, a couple years ago the youth Explorer post began to march right along with them. The applause from the crowd was wild. The families, cousins, aunts, uncles, and friends of the kids were all in the audience. The kids, this agent told me, were “the key” to Border Patrol’s relationship with the community.

You write, “Predawn house raids have become a routine tactic for ICE, it’s a time when most people are at their most vulnerable: at home and unconscious.” Why do you think the Homeland Security agents have been using such tactics?

The predawn raid is a military tactic to get to somebody when they are at their most defenseless. The Cardozo Immigration Justice Clinic documents cases of ICE agents storming into people’s homes– in one occasion pulling the covers off of a sleeping woman, shining a bright flashlight into her face and her child’s face who began to wail in terror. In another incident, in Massachusetts, ICE agents kicked in the front door of a house, leaving splintered wooden fragments on the floor. Like in a war, they commanded every one to lie down and stay still. They shined bright lights directly into people’s faces. These tactics, and others– such as Border Patrol agents shooting into and killing people in Mexico—give credence to the idea that Homeland Security is acting in some sort of war posture, even in their domestic operations. The priority mission of Customs and Border Protection, for example, in the post 9/11 era is to stop “terrorists” and “weapons of mass destruction” from penetrating our borders. They are on the front lines, the rhetoric goes. They have lots of weaponry and high-powered and sophisticated surveillance equipment at their disposal. They have drones flying overhead, some with radar systems imported from U.S. war efforts in Afghanistan, such as the VADER system. They have high-tech war rooms with expensive video walls for “situational awareness.” The tactics of war are very much a part of today’s Homeland Security operations. Predawn raids are just one part of that.

What would you propose as a solution?

What I know, first and foremost, that a much more holistic dialogue is needed which includes a variety of voices such as those most impacted by the Border Patrol expansion like the Tohono O’odham people mentioned above. The notion, even the term “border security” I believe needs to be challenged. It implies that this expanding security monolith is indeed protecting “us” from some sort of ill-defined “them” who are out to get us. By far the brunt of Border Patrol arrests are of people who are coming north to find a job. People who probably didn’t want to leave their communities, their loved ones, the food that they eat, and the language that they speak, but felt their hand was forced by an untenable economic situation or a situation of spiraling violence and threat—or both—speaks to the need for a much more profound analysis around the immigration debate.

The fact that the immigration reform bill (passed in the Senate a year ago) is more than 1000 pages long– and with the Hoeven-Corker amendment includes a provision for $46 billion designated to “border security”–with no mention at all about, say, the impacts of the North American Free Trade Agreement in Mexico, seems like an omission of extraordinary proportions. If U.S. economic policy– or say a set of policies such as IMF structural adjustment (in effect in Mexico since 1982)–has anything at all to do with anyone losing their livelihood and having to move or migrate in order to find work, such policies need to be scrutinized. And this needs to be a part of any immigration reform debate. In the immigration debates, and thus the immigration reform bills, this part of it is so roundly ignored that to bring it up almost seems like you are coming from left field, and at times openly disdained.

However it was former INS chief Doris Meissner who argued to Congress in 1993—indeed she was arguing for the militarized border apparatus that we see now with Operations Hold-the-Line, Gatekeeper, and Safeguard—who said “Responding to the likely short- to medium-term impacts of NAFTA will require strengthening our enforcement efforts along the border.” Before it even happened, Meissner prophesied Mexico’s post-NAFTA exodus.

Right now economic systems in the world are structured in such a way that we are seeing unprecedented inequality, few extremely rich and many, many poor. The solution lies in a wider discussion that includes unprecedented world-wide inequality as an important reason why so many people are migrating and that treats cross-border immigration as an international issue.

With the constant talk of immigration reform, how do you hope your book will inform policy makers?

Border Patrol Nation offers a contribution to an ever-evolving landscape, and I hope it indeed will inform both our policy-makers and their constituents and at least contribute to a more robust debate. The idea that the debate around “border security” is one that occurs at the fringes has to stop. The idea that money is continually thrown to this border fortifying initiative without much debate at all needs to stop. If there’s one contribution that my book makes at this level, it is at the very least that this debate needs to happen. But I also hope the book drives home the point that this debate is also important to the very direction of our country and to what we are becoming.

If people were to take just one thing from this book, what do you think that should be?

Aren’t there much more important things—such as basic services like education, housing, or public transportation—where we can put the billions designated now to Homeland Security? If there is a security crisis in the United States it is that people are losing their homes, their jobs, their transportation. It is not from a non-existent terrorist lurking on the other side of an international boundary line.




Homeland Security Arrests Over 600 Gang Suspects…AP Report

Homeland Security arrests over 600 gang suspects

By ALICIA A. CALDWELL, Associated Press Updated: May 2, 2014 9:53am

WASHINGTON (AP) — More than 600 suspected gang members have been arrested in the Homeland Security Department’s largest crackdown on street gangs, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials said Thursday.

ICE agents, along with local authorities in 179 cities, arrested 638 suspected gang members over a monthlong period in March and April.

Click here to read the full article.

Former U.S. Border Patrol Agent Reported Overtime Pay Abuse 30 Years Ago, Concerns Continue Today…

Former U.S. Border Patrol Agent reported overtime pay abuse 30 years ago, concerns continue today: DHS overtime not properly documented, certified

Whistleblowers inside the Department of Homeland Security have come forward to describe chronic falsification of employee time cards within the federal agency.  One said his attempts to address the problem 30 years ago went unanswered.

“I turned myself in,” John Randolph, a former agent with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, said in an exclusive interview with The E.W. Scripps Company.  “It was a can of worms 30 years ago. You can imagine what it is now.”

Read the full story here.

The video story is on YouTube.