A U.S. border-patrol agent on duty near Campo, 60 miles east of San Diego, Calif.David McNew / Getty Images
When U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton ruled on Wednesday that key provisions of Arizona's new anti-immigration law were unconstitutional, she could have also declared them unnecessary. That is, if the main impetus behind the controversial legislation was, as Arizona Governor Jan Brewer said when she signed it in April, "border-related violence and crime due to illegal immigration." The fact is, despite the murderous mayhem raging across the border in Mexico, the U.S. side, from San Diego to Brownsville, Texas, is one of the nation's safest corridors.
According to the FBI, the four large U.S. cities (with populations of at least 500,000) with the lowest violent crime rates — San Diego, Phoenix and the Texas cities of El Paso and Austin — are all in border states. "The border is safer now than it's ever been," U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesman Lloyd Easterling told the Associated Press last month. Even Larry Dever, the sheriff of Arizona's Cochise County, where the murder last March of a local rancher, believed to have been committed by an illegal immigrant, sparked calls for the law, conceded to the Arizona Republic recently that "we're not seeing the [violent crime] that's going on on the other side." (See photos of the Great Wall of America.)
Consider Arizona itself — whose illegal-immigrant population is believed to be second only to California's. The state's overall crime rate dropped 12% last year; between 2004 and 2008 it plunged 23%. In the metro area of its largest city, Phoenix, violent crime — encompassing murder, rape, assault and robbery — fell by a third during the past decade and by 17% last year. The border city of Nogales, an area rife with illegal immigration and drug trafficking, hasn't logged a single murder in the past two years. (See pictures of immigration detention in Arizona.)
It is true that Phoenix has in recent years seen a spate of kidnappings. But in almost every case they've involved drug traffickers targeting other narcos for payment shakedowns, and the 318 abductions reported last year were actually down 11% from 2008. Either way, the figure hardly makes Phoenix, as Arizona Senator John McCain claimed last month, "the No. 2 kidnapping capital of the world" behind Mexico City. A number of Latin American capitals can claim that dubious distinction.
An even more telling example is El Paso. Its cross-border Mexican sister city, Ciudad Juárez, suffered almost 2,700 murders last year, most of them drug-related, making it possibly the world's most violent town. But El Paso, a stone's throw across the Rio Grande, had just one murder. A big reason, say U.S. law-enforcement officials, is that the Mexican drug cartels' bloody turf wars generally end at the border and don't follow the drugs into the U.S. Another, says El Paso County Sheriff Richard Wiles, is that "the Mexican cartels know that if they try to commit that kind of violence here, they'll get shut down." (See photos of Mexico's drug wars.)
Which points to perhaps the most important factor: the U.S. has real cops — not criminals posing as cops, as is so often the case in Mexico — policing the border's cities and states. Americans and Mexicans may call their border region "seamless" when it comes to commerce and culture, but that brotherly ideal doesn't apply to law enforcement. That's especially true since state and local police are backed along the border by the thousands of federal agents deployed there. Thus the tough Arizona law — which seeks to allow local and state police to check a person's immigration status, a provision that Judge Bolton agreed opened the door to racial profiling by officers, and requires immigrants to carry their documents at all times — was sparked by largely unfounded fears.Read the rest at time.com