The killing of a U.S. Border Patrol agent on October 2 in a notorious southern Arizona drug-smuggling corridor fueled speculation that Mexico's drug cartels were becoming bolder about operating on the U.S. side of the border. Agent Nicholas Ivie's death apparently was a tragic case of friendly fire. The immediate assumption that the cartels were responsible is an indicator of just how jittery Americans living along the border with Mexico have become.
People have ample reason to be jittery. Three BP agents have died in violent incidents involving the drug gangs over the past two years, including Brian Terry, a victim of Washington's botched Fast and Furious gun-running sting operation.
Major southwestern U.S. cities remain relatively peaceful, and that has caused some observers to argue that the concerns about spillover from Mexico's drug war into the United States are overblown. But while violent crime rates in such American cities as El Paso and Tucson remain low, the situation in rural areas is more worrisome. Residents along the border from California to Texas are experiencing a slow but steady rise in drug-related violence and intimidation