(CNSNews.com) – Nine sheriffs from around the country came to Washington D.C. Wednesday to send a message, they said, about the threat posed by Mexican drug cartels and some illegal aliens operating and committing crimes in communities throughout the United States.
Offenses range from driving drunk to murder and are not limited to states along the southwest border, they said.
“We suffer those same problems in Frederick County,” the Maryland county’s sheriff, Chuck Jenkins, said during a panel discussion in the House Rayburn Building. “This is about the rule of law.”
“This is about saving America,” Jenkins said. “This is about public safety and national security.”
“I don’t see the Mexican drug cartels as a gang,” said Sam Page, sheriff of Rockingham County, N.C. “I see them as a terrorist organization.”
The law enforcement officials were invited to Capitol Hill by the Center for Immigration Studies, a think tank that studies the impact of immigration on the U.S., focusing in particular on the economic and criminal impact.
A white paper released by the group, based on Census data, shows that the nation’s immigrant population has doubled since 1990, reaching 40 million in 2010. Of those, 10 to 12 million are thought to be illegal aliens.
The focus of Wednesday’s panel discussion was border security and the challenges faced by local law enforcement agencies combating criminal activities carried out by Mexican drug cartels and some illegal aliens. According to the Department of Justice National Drug Intelligence Center’s 2009 data, Mexican drug cartels are operating in some 200 U.S. cities.
The CIS paper shows that immigrants are no longer settling primarily in large urban areas but also in smaller cities and towns across the country. Over the last decade, Alabama led the nation in immigrant population growth (92 percent), followed by South Carolina (88 percent), Tennessee (82 percent), Arkansas (79 percent), Kentucky (75 percent) and North Carolina (67 percent).
“Folks, I’m here to ask for your help,” Terry Johnson, sheriff of Alamance County, N.C., told an audience of congressional staff, reporters and others.
“Our citizens are tired of being victimized,” he said. “I am tired as a law enforcement officer representing and protecting those citizens that are being victimized.”
Sheriff Tracy Carter of Lee County, N.C., said national security was undoubtedly at stake, given the Department of Homeland Security’s assessment that only one in three people who cross the border illegally are apprehended.
“What else is coming across our border?” Carter asked. “I think this is the greatest threat to our nation.”
Chief Deputy Steve Henry of the Pinal County sheriff’s office – in central Arizona, just 70 miles north of the U.S. border with Mexico – said the problem goes beyond just that state, which sees the highest number of illegal aliens crossing into the U.S. each year.
“When I speak about sovereignty and national security issues it for a reason, because under the Department of Defense definition of terrorism, the drug cartels are terrorists,” he said.
The DOD definition refers to “the unlawful use of violence or threat of violence to instill fear and coerce governments or societies. Terrorism is often motivated by religious, political, or other ideological beliefs and committed in the pursuit of goals that are usually political.”