EL PASO, Texas — Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said Monday that US communities on the border with Mexico are safer than most Americans believe, but also warned Mexican drug cartels they'll be "met by an overwhelming response" should they move north.
Napolitano told an audience at the University of Texas at El Paso — just across the Rio Grande from Ciudad Juarez and the unprecedented wave of drug-fueled violence engulfing it — that it's "inaccurate to state, as too many have, that the border is overrun with violence and out of control."
"This statement, often made only to score political points, is just plain wrong," said Napolitano, who was governor of Arizona before being confirmed as Homeland Security secretary in 2009.
Napolitano said violent crime has not spiked in US communities across the roughly 2,000-mile (3,220-kilometer) border with Mexico. But the secretary also recognized that guarding against spillover from Mexican drug violence is an ongoing concern.
"Today I say to the cartels: Don't even think about bringing your violence and tactics across this border. You will be met by an overwhelming response," she said. "And we're going to continue to work with our partners in Mexico to dismantle and defeat you."