Dressed in military green, Cooper furrowed his brow and squinted solemnly into the camera as the lights of the international border checkpoint glimmered behind him. Guest Fred Burton, identified as a terrorism and security expert with Stratfor Global Intelligence, was beamed in from a studio in Austin to paint a menacing picture of Mexican cartels invading U.S. city streets. “It’s just a matter of time before it really spills over into the United States unless we shore up the border as best we can,” Burton warned.
By God, they’re coming to your neighborhood! Looking at another live feed from El Paso, listening to the breathless reports of violence and “expert” analysis about “spillover,” viewers could only assume that the city in which Cooper stood was under imminent assault.
That’s the reality these days for El Pasoans. Or rather, it’s the twisted perception created by border-warrior politicians and national news media, and foisted on Juarez’s relatively peaceful sister city. For El Pasoans and residents of nearby border towns, it might all be a mere oddity—maybe even worth a chuckle—if it didn’t mean the construction of 18-foot border walls, blustery talk about National Guard troop surges, and new resources for the disastrous war on drugs. While “troop surge,” “border wall,” and “drug war” might sound irresistibly sexy to politicians and pundits, it’s border residents who have to live with the fences and tanks and consequences.
The truth differs wildly from the perception. Certainly, El Paso’s symbiotic relationship with Juarez has been disrupted by the explosion of drug violence south of the border, which began to tick up in January 2008. But it’s not the kind of disruption brought to you by CNN, Fox, and the rest of the media pack.