Returning, Again, to Crime and the AZ Border

More decapitation talk.

Joan Neuhas Schann writes “About those decapitations in the Arizona desert,” specifically to take Dana Milbanks’s column (that I noted here over the weekend) to task.

She states:

With some concern and disbelief, I have been astounded at the lack of understanding of the severity of the situation in Mexico and the possibility that it has crossed the border.


I cannot comment on the veracity of specific reports of headless bodies in the Arizona desert, the occurrence of headless bodies in Mexico has been epidemic.  It is only a matter of time until the phenomenon is regularly encountered in the U.S.

The piece goes on to detail a number of decapitations in Mexico and elsewhere in the region.

First, I am sure that there are people in this debate who do not understand the severity of the situation in Mexico.  However, the problem with this column is that Milbank and others, myself included, are not talking about the violence in Mexico (of which, yes, I am quite aware).  We are talking about specific claims made by Governor Brewer and others about events in the United States.

Second, while it is, in fact, possible that this violence could find its way into the US, it is also possible that it will not.  Regardless of that debate for the moment, the bottom line remains:  said violence hasn’t migrated north and it is irresponsible of Governor Brewer to speak as if it has.

Third, the author states that she “cannot comment on the veracity of specific reports of headless bodies in the Arizona desert.”  However, that’s the crux of the entire discussion.  I an unaware of anyone taking issue with the fact that there have been decapitations in Mexico.

Specifically Governor Brewer stated the following:

“Our law enforcement agencies have found bodies in the desert either buried or just lying out there that have been beheaded.

That is a very specific claim about multiple events within the United States.  Yet, as best as anyone can tell, it is untrue.

At its root this is really simple:  Governor Brewer claimed that there had been multiple decapitations in Arizona.  This is a matter of fact, not opinion and there appears to be no evidence to back up this claim.  She has also claimed that most illegal immigrants are carrying drugs, that illegal immigrants are responsible for most police killings, that Phoenix is the number two kidnapping city in the world, and so forth.

Let’s get down to the basics of the basics:

1.  None of these things are true.

2.  This should matter.

3.  The public should not want/allow/reward a politician for repeatedly making false statements.

4.  If one wants real solutions to the very real problems of the border, the issue needs to be discussed in the context of reality and facts.

Look, this is pretty basic:  claims are being made that are not only not backed up by evidence, the evidence we have directly contradicts the claims.

Stating such a fact does not mean that future threats will never materialize.  However, as I said at some point in this conversation:  you go to the argument with the reality you have, not the reality you want or might wish to have.

If Governor Brewer, Senator McCain and so forth wish to point out that there is a violent drug war going on in Mexico and that this needs to be of concern to the United State because, amongst other reasons, there are concerns that the violence could work its way across the border, those are legitimate statements.

What they cannot do, and yet continue to do, is to speak as if this has already happened.  Yes, there is crime in Arizona (as, sadly, is the case everywhere).  Yes, there were two high profile crimes linked to illegal border crossing (a rancher was killed in one event and deputy sheriff in another).  However, there is no evidence of spill-over violence to date (thankfully).  To speak as if there is for the purpose of pandering to/stoking the fears of Arizonans for electoral gain is simply irresponsible.

Facts should matter.

FILED UNDER: 2010 Election, Borders and Immigration, US Politics, , ,
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. Brummagem Joe says:

    Steven, first rule when you’re caught out. Try to change the terms of reference. It will be beheadings in Tibet next.

  2. LaurenceB says:

    Brummagem Joe,
    My bet is that they will sense that the beheadings scare tactic has now run its course, so they’ll just switch gears and come up with a new totally bogus scare tactic. Leprosy was a classic – maybe they’ll bring that one back.

  3. grampagravy says:

    Yesterday John McCain and Jon Kyl threw their support behind Brewer for the Republican nomination for Governor. Two of Brewer’s most serious challengers dropped out of the race immediately. I’m pretty sure that signing SB1070 (a law that Napolitano had previously vetoed) and all the BS about Mexican violence is the price that Brewer is paying for the above mentioned support. It works out perfect. A plausible scenario is:
    Let’s take this virtual unknown who stumbled into the Governor’s office by happenstance and offer our support in return for pursuing a politically dangerous, volatile agenda that might just fly if we can create enough fear. We ( the AZ Republican leadership) stay more or less out of the worst of the publicity, Brewer has a shot at going from nobody to somebody, and we’ve managed to throw a stink-bomb into national politics in the run up to November 2010.

    It’s important to remember that while Secretary of State is an elected position in AZ, it’s not one that most folks pay any attention to. In 2008 if one was to walk through AZ asking “who is the Secretary of State?” the reply would have been blank stares from 99% of those asked.
    It’s “do our dirty work and we’ll make you a star,” a la Sarah Palin without the looks or the talent.

  4. Herb says:

    “Facts should matter.”

    Yes, and I’m glad you have some pushback on this. We liberals have been joking for years that right-wing partisans live in a world of their own imaginative creation. From WMD in Iraq to brain activity in Terri Schiavo, from “Sarah Palin for VP” to “Where’s the birth certificate?”

    My theory….American right-wingers have been so reliably gullible over the last decade that unscrupulous political leaders know they can lie with impunity. Rather than being punished for their dishonesty, these people are actually rewarded. So they keep it up…and the gullible keep demanding more.

  5. Brett says:

    Second, while it is, in fact, possible that this violence could find its way into the US, it is also possible that it will not. Regardless of that debate for the moment, the bottom line remains: said violence hasn’t migrated north and it is irresponsible of Governor Brewer to speak as if it has.

    I thought it was obvious. Just look at El Paso, one of the safer big cities in America, which sits across the border from Ciudad Juarez, a major drug trafficking route and source of drug-related violence.

    Even when it does cross over, it has virtually always only involved people who were themselves heavily involved in the drug trade, not innocent bystanders.

  6. Even when it does cross over, it has virtually always only involved people who were themselves heavily involved in the drug trade, not innocent bystanders.

    This is an important observation. Brewer makes it sound like run-of-the-mill citizens are being terrorized and kidnapped. Again: this is simply not the case.

  7. tom p says:

    Steve L T. :

    thank you.

  8. Jay Dubbs says:

    But you are ignoring the terrorist groups that are about to overrun the US thru Mexico.

    (OK, maybe not)

  9. mannning says:

    Just tell us the facts, mam.

    From my limited contacts with border state citizens and the Border Patrol, I cannot develop any information that backs the Governor’s statements concerning actual violence in Arizona. Since I am a skeptic on the reporting by any government agency, however, my first thought was that such hairy details as headless bodies in our desert would have been suppressed by the powers that be. Why? Because it doesn’t fit their ideas of how to handle the border, and just might intensify the Close-the-Borders push, which they oppose. The only way to break through here is for the governor to order her minions to investigate and publish all that they know, and to embarass the patrol or the local police if they have squashed such gruesome incidents. Hopefully, the truth will out.

  10. r, my first thought was that such hairy details as headless bodies in our desert would have been suppressed by the powers that be.

    How do you suppose such information would be suppressed?

    More to the point of the actual story: having the governor of the state declare them to have existed is the exact opposite of suppression (with the niggling face of no evidence).

    Further, the motivation for suppression escapes me. What better way to prove your state needs help than to have such dire crimes as evidence of the situation?

  11. anjin-san says:


    I have it on good authority that Biden has personally beheaded some of those who are trying to get the truth out. Acorn truth suppression squads have fanned out across the border area to round up God fearing Americans who are trying to secure our border. Hezbollah provides them with logistical support.

    It’s later than you think…

  12. mannning says:

    You seem to utterly lack the imagination to figure out just how suppression of such an event could take place. Think a minute. Feds descend, claim jurisdiction, have a private court order, find and remove all evidence, and throw out gag orders and some really dire threats to Border Patrollers and local police if they open up. A cover story would be released as well.

    The event is then classified by the feds Secret or higher, with need to know. Without clearance and NTK no one can talk about the situation or they violate the secrecy laws. The hapless governor never knows about it for sure, has no evidential proof, and cannot obtain access even if she finds out enough to try. All she has then is rumor, or whispers in her ear from one or two people. That much is simple. All very legal, of course, and well within the capabilities of several federal agencies or hires with (deniable) WH support.

    I thought it was clear that your hapless governor was totally bypassed and duped by the feds, but, having only rumor to deal with from her own state authorities, she couldn’t make any real waves, now could she? Many people would be eager to point that out for us! Like here.

    Why? The motive of the Obama Administration and open borders thinkers to succeed in keeping open or even further opening the borders to their probable new constituents—Hispanics. The ever-slimming margin of Obama supporters must be shored up for Him to win in 2012, and a cadre of many millions of new citizens, given amnesty under His watch, would be rather helpful, don’t you think? Some major part of 12 million illegals gaining citizenship would tip the balance, for sure, and, Obama would be their hero!

    A really bad rash of horrible crimes–in this case beheadings or some other depravities on our soil–if publicized around the nation, would create a heavy and untimely voter backlash against such plans as amnesty, open borders and His candidacy, and could cause disruption and blockage of illegals at the border, and a lot of unrest with His fellow travellers in Congress. (Those that haven’t quite lost their souls yet.)

    So the ultimate stake would be the Presidency for Obama in 2012, the further and perhaps permanent ascent of the Democratic party, and the extension of control of the nation He is promoting, and the money flows He can effect, all of which is strong stuff. Just keep things going right for Him.

    Sure, it is a Hollywood scenario, but is it all that farfetched? I think not. Rather similar sequences have actually happened before with persons and situations of interest, but good luck trying to prove something, or finding the bodies!

    Kudos for a rediculous parody by anjin san, but it is so unreal as to be laughable all by itself!

  13. grampagravy says:

    The cover-up was botched. Believe me, I’m down here in AZ (have been for a bunch of decades) and the “headless” abound. Many of said “headless” serve in the State Legislature and their fellow Republican sits in the Governor’s office.

    It always amazes me how the opposition is always a bunch of hapless bunglers until it comes to the devious, frightfully complicated, and totally successful conspiracy. If Obama and the current administration was slick enough to pull off your story, Ben, Mitch, and a whole bunch of others would already be place-holders in some building’s foundation.

  14. @Manning: I am going to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume that you are being facetious here.

  15. mannning says:

    Facitious? What a laugh! I’m going to assume that you do not have a grasp of the real possibilities on the border today. Just puffery.

    Tell the folks here just why is it that the border hasn’t been thoroughly closed by now. Why?

  16. grampagravy says:

    “Tell the folks here just why is it that the border hasn’t been thoroughly closed by now. Why?”

    Because it is a physical and logistical impossibility without dedicating ridiculous amounts of men, money, and equipment to the task. About 2200 miles of desert waste-land with miles more waste-land on either side for most of it.

  17. @Manning:

    Let me say two things about your scenario:

    1) You assume a remarkable , if not fantastical belief in the ability of the administration to control information. If it was that easy to keep bad news from the public, then a lot of bad news would never get out–and yet it does.

    You are assuming the ability of the president to control witnesses, law enforcement officials, bureaucrats and the like that simply does not exist.

    2) A really simple illustration: it was impossible for Bill Clinton to keep the Lewinsky scandal a secret, and at the root of the affair only the two them knew about it. That was a conspiracy of two. You are suggesting a far larger conspiracy that is impossible to control.

    In re: your question: basically what grampagravy said.

    You accuse me of not knowing what I am talking about, but your “argument” is that a vast conspiracy to hide beheadings from the public somehow explains why the border isn’t closed?

  18. mannning says:

    For heaven’s sake no! There is no such direct connection between any Hollywood scenario I invented regarding possible severed heads and the wilfull failure of three or four administrations to close the border adequately over perhaps the last 20 years.

    I fully expected the prosaic responses to my close the border question simply because it illustrates the total lack of willpower we have at many levels to do a good job of it. A major part of this drag comes from those who do not want the border closed at all, for a number of reasons, including the strong desire by way of amnesty to create a new army of Democratic voters.

    The first job of all, to do an adequate tradeoff study of the major costs to the nation of an eventual 12 million illegals over that past 20 years and then to project it over the following 20 years, where the numbers could rise much higher, versus the cost to build up, man up, instrument up and maintain the border sufficiently to cut the flow by, say 80-90%, or more if possible. Then provide for proper execution of the laws in the interior to identify, arrest and ship out illegals when found, rather than allowing the police to ignore the problem, the INS to fumble around, one suspects more or less deliberately, the HS to pursue only the criminal elements, and the administration to institute a “go-slow” on the whole thing.

    My guess is, and I assert that, if correctly done and considering all of the impacting costs of illegals to the nation, that the “open borders” costs would exceed the closed borders costs by a truly huge amount, which would save taxpayers materially over time. Thus, I believe we could afford to do quite a lot more down there than we have so far, even if it isn’t perfect.

    In the several hospitals my son-in-law practiced, fully half of his patients were illegal aliens that had no insurance, and no means to pay for the services of the doctors or the hospital, but were in dire need for emergency and long-term care. Big bills.

    This does not mean that migrant workers would be shut out, either. We should have a well-controlled and administered worker program, and employer surveillance and penalties adequate to stop abuses.

    Obviously, the closed border approach should not stop the normal flow of true legal immigrants to the nation that bring with them skills we need.

    So lets examine the 2,200 miles of border itself, at least in a gross manner. Complete the fencing we started, and perhaps augment it along key areas. Complete fully the surveillance capabilities we started and allowed to fail. Finally, put a lot more well-armed border patrol troops on the border and in the interior along known routes with a more deadly ROE.

    How many more? At least enough more to have three or four additional men per mile policing the border for 24/7 or three shifts, which might top out at about 25 to 30,000 men, plus interior teams at about 6,000 more. Is someone saying that we cannot put 36,000 more trained and armed men to the job at a cost of perhaps $7-8 billion/year? Why, eliminating earmarks alone would possibly cover this!

    Add to this the resources of the local police, state police, and National Guard units that could rotate in and out a significant number of troops to help. They also could be augmented substantially if the will was there. Currently, the police do not want to participate in what amounts to a catch-and-release program, so they turn their backs on the problem unless confronted with what they consider to be “real” crime. (As one illustration of this part of the problem, about 30-40% of the inmates in the California penal system are illegal immigrants.)

    That this hasn’t been done much earlier gives me the clue that our government does not really want to tackle the problem head on, but, in fact, wants the amnesty approach that a majority of citizens reject.


    The Lord knows that Clinton was not a perfect man, and it was not surprising that he and his young and especially foolish girlfriend could not keep such a secret in the White House! Not a very convincing illustration of how professionals would handle a situation, was it?

    I do know from personal experience that the government, or some key parts of it, anyway, CAN keep secrets, and CAN cover up quite thoroughly indeed some incidents for a long, long time, if they have the will and direction to do so. Why, they can even send their devoted minnion into the National Archives to remove and destroy damaging classified information if needed, and get a small slap on the wrist for doing it! Citing one or two rather sloppy incidents that were found out and publicized has very little bearing on the day-in and day-out “covert” operations of some key government agencies.

    But, then, there are those of great faith in the system and in the integrity of the politicians that run it.

  19. grampagravy says:

    Or, we could just put a big dome over the whole country.

  20. mannning says:

    What fool doesn’t know about the inside and outside of a dome? I think I just read of one! Even an igloo has an entrance and exit, and a need to mind the opening.

  21. grampagravy says:

    See Manning, I give you the perfect solution and you want to put a darn door in it!
    FYI, so far this year over 1700 men, women, and children have died trying to cross the border between Mexico and the U.S. That’s how desperate these people are. They’d storm your igloo door, they will certainly defeat a border fence, and significant numbers will get past any number of guns you put on the line. The solution must be smarter and has to address the incentives for coming here and the reasons for leaving there.
    Or we could all just vote Republican and soon enough the differences between here and there will shrink sufficiently to remove all the incentives to make the long, hot walk.

  22. mannning says:

    You do seem to favor perfect solutions, gramp, which, if I recall correctly, are the enemy of the practical, good and true. I simply wanted the access and clean air that a door gives.

    Of course, you didn’t pick up on several aspects of the directions I offered, including a robust migrant worker program that makes sense, and an immigration program that benefits both the immigrant and the US citizenry. But, that is understandable when you are trying to make your humanitarian points in the face of a brutish problem that for the most part <requires a brutish solution–a nice tall fence with trimmings, so to speak, even if it is somewhat leaky.

    Such humanitarian feelings for Hispanics to let them in hasn’t seemed to translate into active solutions for the rest of the world’s destitute, by far not at the same level or intensity anyway. Why is this? What makes our border friends more acceptable to you than, say, truly great masses from Asia or Africa that would welcome the opportunity to immigrate here were we to send the ships and planes for them? Mere distance? Mere cost? The strangeness factor? Why do these illegal immigrants from Mexico receive most favored lawbreaker status in your lexicon? Why haven’t we heard of organizations to send the ships and planes to Asia and Africa? At what point does this bleeding heart approach to only one nation’s poor become grossly unfair to your other deprived constituents worldwide?

    You wish to let them all come in? Fine, then, I imagine there are somewhere around several billion people that would love to come, and share in our wealth– that would soon be our abject poverity. Seems to me that, long term, the focus is exactly on the wrong place. The problems of the poor around the world, and next door, need to be solved where they are, not by any super mass migration to the US that would end up impovrishing us too.

    If you have the urge to help these people personally, become a missionary in their midst, not a missionary for mass migration here.

  23. mannning says:


  24. grampagravy says:


    “You wish to let them all come in?”
    You degrade the discussion to the point of uselessness by superimposing your words over mine and then describing the hybrid result as my position.
    Push your glasses up to cover your eyes and you will be able to read what is written, not what you are thinking.

  25. I was going to let the thread die, but I will join in one more time and second grampagravy: who here said anything about totally open, totally uncontrolled borders?

    The post is about the factual question of whether beheadings took place on AZ soil and is part of the overall discussion of whether or not there is a violent crime wave associated with illegal immigration as described by Gov. Brewer and others. All I have noted is that facts matter. Your response was a rather bizarre (and, frankly, somewhat paranoid) scenario in which the beheadings could have taken place, but been covered up to forward some agenda about the border. You then launched forth with a diatribe about “bleeding hearts.”

    I would note that your assertions that the Obama administration is out to create open borders is empirically untrue. For example: deportations are up under the current administration.

    This is not an attempt to defend the administration on immigration, but rather to state a fact.

    All I have ever wanted in this conversation, and the point of all my posts on the subject has been a rational, fact-based conversation on the topic. Only then can we, as a country, have a reasonable dialog about policy solutions.

  26. mannning says:

    OK, but let us face squarely the whole border issue in all of its complexity. Violence seeping into the US from Mexico is one important aspect that must be controlled and prevented right now. Smuggling of people and dope into the US is a second issue. A third issue is the penetration of our nation by millions of illegal immigrants which impacts us in innumeral ways.

    Then comes the issues of how to proceed from here, such as closing the borders effectively, getting the illegals to return home, controlling the employers in the US that hire illegals, creating an effective guest worker program, handling the Anchor Baby problem and the bringing into the US of strings of relatives, the problems of assimilation and teaching culture, custom, language and the “rules of the road” here, and the idea of amnesty and citizenship for the illegal lot that has been most seriously considered by Congress in the past, and appears to be headed for another legislative run in the near future, and the rather ineffective attempts undeway to solve some of these issues of an open border policy that many in government have advocated.

    Pull on any one of these issue strings and you automatically pull out the rest of them with all of their messiness and political, social, and humanitarian conflicts. It is a very explosive set of concerns, not only for the border states but also the rest of the states that find themselves in opposition to the ideas of maintaining in effect an open border policy, mobs of illegal immigrants on the streets. and populating the jails in every state with Hispanic gangs, while the police merely stand by and watch these illegals run around.

    My particular thrust is and has been to find and support effective solutions to the full set, and to ward off the radical, humanitarian and progressive solution of total amnesty, and the most likely augmentation of the Democratic Party through amnesty using my tax dollars to pay for it.

    These things I consider of major importance to be discussed once the border problem is broached in one or more of its facets, including the very political aspects that frost my cake.
    Perhaps a new thread would be a blessing if the full set of issues is to be discussed in a more orderly fashion than this thread shows.

    Of course a Hollywood scenario is highly speculative: it was meant to be. As for the bleeding heart conjecture, let us see where the amnesty argument take us in the following months. The crucial defense of allowing amnesty centers on a humanitarian argument.

    Let this thread die now!