Homeland Security Chief Michael Chertoff said Tuesday that a more muscular approach to border security will result in more violence. His statement came after a U.S. border patrol agent was murdered by suspected drug smugglers in California over the weekend.
On Saturday, U.S. Border Patrol Agent Luis Aguilar, 32, was killed in California's Imperial Sand Dunes recreation area, run over by suspected drug smugglers as he was laying down a spike strip to stop their fleeing Hummer.
Aguilar's death has drawn attention to escalating violence on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico divide, which Chertoff and other administration officials attributed partly to heightened border security measures.
The Department of Homeland Security will consider Aguilar's death a murder because one witness said that the Hummer not only swerved to avoid the spike strip but that the driver hit the border agent purposely.
While Aguilar's murder is the first of a border agent since 1998, the border has been far from bloodless, the paper reports.
Violence on the border increased 31% from 2006 to 2007, and attacks on agents jumped 44% over the same period.
Border officials say the burgeoning violence is rooted partly in criminal organizations' turf battles and lawlessness on Mexico's side.
Some 2,500 Mexicans died in drug-related violence in 2007, and the nation's president, Felipe Calderon, has made combating drug cartels his government's priority.
Chertoff said this spike in violence is a result of the U.S. Border Patrol's effectiveness.
"Experience shows that the more successful you are in putting pressure on criminal organizations, the more violent they will become in fighting back .... The sad, tragic fact is that the increase in violence is very consistent with other metrics we've had that show we're getting increased success with stopping the flow across the border."
The Times also reports that Chertoff says Aguilar's death proves the worth of increased border security initiatives, including the controversial border fence that has caused outrage among many property owners on the U.S.' southern border.
Many of these owners have resisted government attempts to allow government officials to assess their land for possible use in the border fence's construction. DHS says it will sue landowners for entry to their land and that the government will confiscate the land if necessary for the fence.