UA history prof's concern: Border tragedy is being politicized - Tucson News Now

UA prof's concern: Border tragedy politicized

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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

Social media, including our Facebook site, are still buzzing with conversation about Tuesday's deadly border shooting.

While many people are offering sympathy for the fallen Border Patrol agent, the discussion also is turning political.

Whether you've been keeping an eye on the news or social media, you can see all sorts of comments on the situation on the U.S./Mexico border.

Some are thoughtful, based on facts.

Some are meant to push a certain political agenda in this presidential election year.

We asked a local historian about the border, and what really has changed there over the decades.

The answer is: Not much at all.

Dr. Oscar J. Martinez, UA Regents Professor of History: "The reality is that the border has been a very volatile place for generations," says University of Arizona Regents Professor History Dr. Oscar J. Martinez.

Martinez has written several books on the history of our border with Mexico.

The murder of Border Patrol Agent Nicholas Ivie has focused national attention back on the border.

"I think it's a great mistake to use incidents like this to push political agendas," Martinez says.

Of course, people do have impassioned reactions to the murder.

Some do politicize Tuesday's tragedy.

Check out Tucson News Now's Facebook page, for instance.

However, Martinez says whether it was gun running in the late 19th century, or alcohol smuggling during Prohibition, violence is always associated with it.

Nothing has changed.

"Liquor prohibition. When there were constant shootouts and deaths of U.S. Customs Service agents and U.S. Border Patrol people and immigration inspectors and law enforcement officials and Texas Rangers. The origin of that violence in the 1920's is very similar to the origin of the violence that we see today," says Martinez.

"You have illegal products coming across. In the case of drugs, they're very profitable."

Martinez argues for attacking the problem where it originates.

He says focus on, at the very least, significantly diminishing the demand for illegal drugs in this country.

"We do very little in that area and that is the root of the problem in the United States. We also don't do enough to stop the flow of guns into Mexico," Martinez says.

Martinez says those two things go hand in hand.

"Profitable drug sales, profitable gun sales that support all that criminal activity."

Martinez says Americans are involved in smuggling as well.

He says U.S. and Mexico drug policies have not changed the situation. 

Not everyone will agree on a solution.

However, take into account what causes violence on the border, and things can be changed.

It's economics: Demand for illegal drugs dries up, and there's no money in it any more.

As Martinez says, you take away the profitability.

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