Nov 27, 2010

Rio Grande Guardian: Rep. Peña Advocates for DPS Southbound Border Inspection Stations

EDINBURG, Nov. 26 - The chairman of the Texas House Committee on Emergency Preparedness has filed legislation that would allow the Department of Public Safety to set up border inspections stations to check vehicles going south into Mexico.

“If the U.S. is serious about taking out the drug cartels that are causing so much violence and mayhem in Mexico, we can no longer focus solely on stopping illegal drugs coming north. We have to stop the weapons and drug money going south,” said state Rep. Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg.

Peña said House Bill 48 would allow DPS to set up southbound inspection stations with a certain parameter of the Texas-Mexico border in order to look for “illegal weapons and drug money.” The bill has been pre-filed in advance of the 82nd Legislature that starts in January.

Peña said he expects “some opposition” to his bill from those who support the Second Amendment but points out he backs the right to bear arms and has won an 'A-Plus,' the highest endorsement possible, from the National Rifle Association in each of the past three seesions. “The situation is so serious in Mexico that we have to do more. Americans are in danger,” he said.

Asked if he had contacted DPS about his legislation, Peña said: “I read a comment in the press the other day from DPS Director Steve McCraw that was favorable to my bill.” He said he would hope the House Committee on Appropriations would provide more funds to DPS for southbound inspection stations and that his measure would be part of the leadership’s next major border security bill.

Peña is one of a number of border leaders to have come out this year in favor of southbound inspection stations. The proposal is slated to be a key part of the Texas Border Coalition’s legislative agenda for border security. The TBC represents cities, counties and economic development corporations from El Paso to Brownsville.

Border leaders such as Peña, state Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, McAllen Mayor Richard Cortez, and Hidalgo Mayor John David Franz have publicly backed southbound inspections as part of an ongoing battle against the drug cartels. They point out that Mexico cannot be relied upon to catch illegal weapons and cash from entering their country because too many of their law enforcement officials have been corrupted by the drug cartels. And they are tired of federal and state leaders rehashing the same old mantra when it comes to border security, the need for more “boots on the ground.”

“Stopping the drugs coming north is only half the battle. The other half is stopping the weapons and cash going south,” Peña said. “It is estimated that 90 percent of the guns being used by the drug cartels are coming from the U.S. And, U.S. law enforcement officials estimate that $12 billion to $15 billion per year flows from the United States to the Mexican traffickers in cash alone. That does not include wire transfers.”

According to the General Accounting Office and the National Drug Intelligence Center, Mexico’s drug cartels collect more than $23 billion in illicit drug proceeds from the U.S.

Peña has become well known for his tweets about border security and drug-related violence in Mexico. He scours reliable news sites for the latest information and sends it out to his growing list of Twitter followers.

In a wide-ranging interview with the Guardian about border security, Peña made clear his growing frustration with the Obama Administration.

“When I go to Austin I realize that people are not thinking about this issue every day, like we who live on the border are. In Washington, they are not thinking about this,” Peña said.

“What is the federal government doing? They are not doing enough to help Mexico and they are not doing enough to help ourselves. This violence is going to kill our trade. Mexico is heading towards a failed state.”

Asked what the federal government can do to help, Peña said: “Put more money into the Mérida Project and reverse the decision to withdraw National Guard troops from the border region. We need them to augment the work of Border Patrol.”

Peña said he has it on “good authority” that the Obama Administration will announce the withdrawal of National Guard troops from the Texas-Mexico border in February. That would be a disaster, he warned.

“I am so angry at this Administration over how they are handling border security and their dealings with Mexico. It is an absolute failure. There are hundreds of people over there dying. The insecurity in Mexico is coming to our side because (President) Obama refuses to engage. I do not know what is going on in his head but I have been at boiling point,” Peña admitted.

“Helping prevent Mexico from becoming a failed state is going to require far more serious engagement by the federal government in Washington. We go half way across the world to fight a war in Afghanistan yet Americans are much more endangered by what is going on five miles from us.”

The aim of the Mérida Project is to combat the threats of drug trafficking, money laundering and transnational organized crime in Mexico and other Latin American countries. U.S. assistance includes training, equipment and intelligence.

It is not enough, Peña argues. “We have to have more engagement with Mexico. We have to get to the fundamental causes. Our federal government is just doing a bad job,” he said.

© Copyright of the Rio Grande Guardian, Publisher: Steve Taylor. All rights reserved.

Nov 24, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

Grupo Savant Report

In a recent report Grupo Savant analysts made note that the following events may take place, or scenarios may play out, on the border in the next 12 months:

• The Sinaloa Cartel will seize the opportunity to
recapture the northeastern Mexico territories lost to the
Gulf Cartel since the turn of the century.

• The Gulf Cartel may fold into the Sinaloa Cartel
in the interest of self-preservation.

• There will be continued reconfi guration of the
disparate cartel loyalties throughout Mexico; however,
the Sinaloa Cartel will reign supreme.

• The Cuidad Mier-Camargo Strip will see continued
battles until one cartel, or the other, dominates the area.

• Many Zetas and Gulf Cartel members will defect
their organizations and join forces with the Sinaloa
Cartel opposition.

• The battle for dominance of Monterrey will
continue. The city is currently carved out among the
various warring cartel factions but those micro-plazas
will eventually fade when one cartel, or the other,
dominates the area.

• Mexican evacuees-turned-refugees will ultimately
flee to the U.S. side of the border, whether they arrive as
illegal immigrants, asylum seekers or fl eeing wounded.

• There will be an increase in cartel employment
of car-bombs and Improvised Explosive Devices
(IED’s) specifically targeting Mexican federal police
and military forces in Monterrey, Nuevo León and
throughout the five border city plazas in northeastern

Nov 23, 2010

Denis Dutton: A Darwinian Theory of Beauty

Have you ever wondered if there are evolutionary reasons for our appreciation for beauty? Well, if your interested here is one of the most interesting discussion of the subject by Denis Dutton, author of The Art Instinct: Beauty, Pleasure, and Human Evolution.

I recommend it.

Nov 21, 2010

Texas Tribune: Border Troopers See More High-Speed Pursuits

Troopers on the Texas-Mexico border reported more high-speed chases than officers in any other region of the state. The Texas Tribune and the San Antonio Express-News analyzed data from nearly 5,000 DPS pursuit reports from January 2005 through July 2010. Of the 10 counties with the most chases, five were counties along the Texas-Mexico border. In this video, DPS Trooper Johnny Hernandez in Hidalgo County talks about why officers on the border see more pursuits than their colleagues across the state.

Nov 18, 2010

Our New Office At The Capitol - E1.304

News out of the Texas Capitol are the preparations that are being made for the upcoming 82nd Session. Newly elected members are getting ready for their move to Austin. Senior members are selecting office space and have begun pre-filing their legislation.

Today we selected our office for the 82nd Regular Session. The new office is at E1.304. My thanks to Mari de Leon, shown here for assisting me in the selection (Today, she turned 28 years old).

I would also like to give a special thank you to my friend and colleague, Bryan Hughes, for his kindness and courtesy. Rep. Hughes who has a seniority selection immediately before me, yielded his superior right to chose his office and thereby allow me to office next to members of my local delegation. Who says Republicans and Democrats can't still work together in Texas?

Next, I'm headed to Houston to finish off yet another public redistricting hearing. Houston is home to my old law school. I am hoping to stop by if time permits. Again, the public is welcome and encouraged to attend Saturday's hearing.

Nov 17, 2010

Fox News 7: Law Would Ban Road Block Device

State Rep Aaron Peña is proposing making caltrops illegal in the state of Texas. The devices are used by drug cartels to disable police vehicles during chases.

The simple weapon, which has been used for centuries, is made by welding nails together. They have four points so that when they are thrown on the ground the points are always facing upwards.

At The Redistricting Hearing

Nov 15, 2010

Legislators Move Into Offices

Austin's Martin Bartlett of KVUE covers legislators and their possible move into new offices in the coming weeks. In their report Mari de Leon of our office is featured along with our office's great "Spanish-American War Flag." Not sure if I'm going to move offices. I'll find out on Thursday.

As an aside, I couldn't help but notice in the photo shot the newly arrived 2011 Wall Calendars that we give out each year. Pull me aside and I'll get one to you.

Nov 13, 2010

Public Redistricting Hearing - Nov. 17 - Austin

I will once again travel out of town for what will probably two of the last hearings on the subject of redistricting prior to the release of the official census data.

On Wednesday, November 17, 2010 there will be a joint subcommittee hearing with the House Committee on Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence and the subcommittee of Austin Redistricting.

The hearing will be held at the Texas State Capitol, Underground Extension, Hearing Room E1.030, in Austin. The joint subcommittee hearing will begin at 10:00 a.m. to receive public testimony.

A few days thereafter, on Saturday November 20, 2010, our committees will travel to Houston for a hearing to be held at the University of Houston, Athletic/Alumni Center, O'Quinn Great Hall, 3100 Cullen Boulevard, Houston, Texas.

The public is invited.

Nov 12, 2010

Ciudad Mier - Our Ancestral Homeland Decends Into Chaos

My grandfather's and my family's ancestral home is in the border community of Ciudad Mier. Sadly it has in recent times descended into a war zone.

The city is best known by historians for the location of the failed Mier Exposition and the "Black Bean Episode." By most Hispanic Texans it is one of the founding cities of the region where most can trace their family linage.

The Zetas who are fighting for control of the area in and around the city of Mier warned citizens of a full on attack of their community. The death of rival Gulf Cartel leader Tony Tormenta in Matamoros last week by Mexican Federal Forces was the impetus for the clash in Mier. Many believe that the death of Tormenta have emboldened the Zetas to take the fight to the Gulf Cartel.

Hundreds of residents fled upon recieving warnings of the impending violence. Many are being sheltered in the Lion's Club of a nearby city. The Houston Chronicle story has more on the story.

Jose Guerra, a member of the family, stands in front of his ancestor's home in Ciudad Mier.

Nov 11, 2010

A Big Thank You To Our Veterans

Honor a veteran today. Our thanks to all the men and women for their service to this great country. Best Wishes on this Veterans Day.

Nov 8, 2010

Caltrops, Southbound Checkpoints Bills Filed Today

Austin – State Rep. Aaron Peña has filed legislation today that will outlaw the use, possession and manufacture of caltrops, more commonly known as road spikes. Other border security legislation filed by Rep. Peña includes the creation of southbound checkpoints along the border to stop the flow of illegal cash and weapons into Mexico.

As Chair of the House Committee on Emergency Preparedness, Rep. Peña has been holding hearings across the state of Texas assessing natural and criminal threats to public safety. At the hearings and in subsequent meetings with border law enforcement the committee heard of drug runners increasing their use of road spikes against law enforcement. Typically these devices are crude and homemade but very effective. They pose a serious threat to the lives of law enforcement and innocent bystanders caught in the vicinity of a pursuit.

“DPS, Texas Rangers, the Border Patrol and our County Sheriff have all asked the legislature to respond and outlaw the manufacture and possession of these devices,” said Peña. “Today we have filed House Bill (HB) 47 that will help take these weapons away from drug dealers.”

Caltrops are usually made of nails welded together in a tetrahedron form. When deployed a nail will always point upward and expand the damage to the tire. Caltrops have been used for over 2300 years in various forms. They were known as the first landmines.

Another important border security issue that was brought to the attention of the committee was the flow of illegal cash and weapons into Mexico. The money and weapons are being used by the cartels to wage war on each other and the people of Mexico. The committee heard from law enforcement, business groups and local elected officials on the benefits of establishing southbound checkpoints on the U.S. side of the border. HB 48 will authorize the Department of Public Safety to join the Federal Government in the operation of a checkpoint within 250 yards of an international border crossing. The checkpoint will only stop and inspect vehicles intending to enter Mexico.

Today, November 8, 2010, is the first day that lawmakers are able to file legislation for the upcoming 82nd Legislature which convenes on January 11, 2011.

We Filed These Bills This Morning

HB 47 relating to the creation of the offense of possession, manufacture, transportation, repair, or sale of a tire deflation device; providing criminal penalties.

HB 48
relating to authorizing the Department of Public Safety of the State of Texas to investigate the feasibility of and cooperate in the establishment of southbound checkpoints along the international border of this state.

HB 49 relating to the addition of certain synthetic derivatives of marijuana to Penalty Group 2 of the Texas Controlled Substances Act. This is the K-2 bill.

HJR 20 proposing a constitutional amendment to limit the time in which the legislature may enact or modify districts for the Texas Legislature of the United States House of Representatives.

Nov 6, 2010

Joining The Veterans Parade in Edinburg

The veterans of our community are having a parade this morning in Edinburg at 10:00 a.m. My office donated all the smaller American flags so that the community can join in the good will towards those that serve or served our community. Our hats are off to our veterans today, thank you for your service to country.