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EDITORIAL: Murder on the border

Americans are dying because of White House inaction

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Brian Terry died for President Obama's sins. Mr. Terry, a U.S. Border Patrol agent, was killed during operations against bandits near the southern Arizona town of Rio Rico, approximately 15 miles inside the U.S. border. Here and along other infiltration routes, gangsters prey on illegal aliens and drug smugglers or serve as private security forces for gangs engaged in illegal activities. Agent Terry was part of a four-man Border Patrol Tactical Unit sent to engage the bandits, and he was shot down in the resulting firefight.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano offered condolences to Mr. Terry's family but met a sharp rejoinder from his father, Kent, who said, "You gotta wake your man up in the White House." Ms. Napolitano countered that Mr. Obama has "done more in the last two years than any other president," and when pressed by reporters on the matter said she did not "think it appropriate for the media to try to pick this as a fight." The border-security issue, however, was not invented by the press, and government functionaries are poor judges of what kind of media coverage is appropriate, especially when it deals with their own questionable performance.

The Terry family called Ms. Napolitano's claim that Mr. Obama has done more than any other president to deal with border security "empty words," and the notion is easily proved false. Whatever accomplishments the Obama administration may claim, they pale against the aggressive and successful border-security policies President Eisenhower pursued in the 1950s. Woodrow Wilson's response to cross-border activity by Mexican gangs was to send 4,800 troops over the border. Mr. Obama's most notable actions have been to unleash the Justice Department on Arizona for taking small steps to try to deal with the problem of illegals and to push the Dream Act, a backdoor amnesty nightmare that thankfully ended when the Senate woke up and defeated it.

Worsening conditions in the United States reflect the situation in northern Mexico, which resembles a full-scale insurgency. There, the "war on drugs" is not just a slogan; it's a daily struggle fought with guns and machetes. More than 30,000 people have been killed in drug-related violence in Mexico since 2006. In 2010, narco killings were up 73 percent over 2009. Mexico tied this year with Pakistan for the greatest number of journalists killed during the year (14). The northern state of Sonora is under a literal state of siege as drug cartels struggle over access to the most lucrative smuggling routes into America. In Juarez, Mexico, across the Rio Grande from El Paso, Texas, almost nine people are killed on average per day, making it proportionately the most violent city in the world. Conditions there are so dangerous that college football players from Notre Dame and Miami in El Paso for the Sun Bowl have surrendered their passports to their coaches and been briefed by the FBI on the perils of crossing the border.

Northern Mexico is descending into drug-fueled chaos and soon will join the list of the world's ungovernable spaces. It's a growing threat that reaches across the U.S. border through smuggling, illegal immigration, secondary crime and potential terrorist infiltration. If Mr. Obama had done more than any other president to address the issue, it wouldn't be making more headlines. Ms. Napolitano says the press should not pick this issue as a fight, but we hope Mr. Obama will, when he gets back from his vacation.

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