In El Porvenir, Mexico across from Fort Hancock, Texas, drug cartel battles for control of the long-established smuggling route have triggered multiple killings on the Mexican side, most recently the murder of two brothers.
The violence rarely spills across the border, but the psychological impact does.
Two men, Jorge and Enrique Molina, shot dead, their bodies left by the river, a footnote to a well of misery in Mexico. No media reports on either side of the Rio Grande, here where Fort Hancock, Texas and El Porvenir, Chihuahua hug the river about an hour southeast of El Paso.
A huge stretch of the rusty brown metal wall that separates the two countries goes right through here before giving way to emptiness just west of town. Border security is not an academic discussion here.
“He worked for me for five years. He was a very nice, honest person,” said cotton farmer Craige Miller of Jorge Molina. Molina, a legal United States resident from El Porvenir, had worked at other farms on the Texas side. Now Miller says people are speculating about why Molina was murdered.
“Word on the street is that his brothers were involved in it, but that he was clean,” Miller said. “But nearly anyone who has been associated with drugs in this area is dead.”
When you’re cut down in Mexico, it’s said you die twice. First you’re physically killed. Then your character is assassinated. Both Miller, and a woman who asked that her name not be revealed, say that’s just wrong — but inevitable when you live beside a long-established smuggling corridor, or plaza.
The woman says something drew Jorge Molina to El Porvenir that day. She says she heard he crossed over to settle something, on behalf of either his parents or brother, with people who may have been trying to kidnap all three.
“When he got over there he saw that they were taking the parents and the brother. And he decided, ‘No take me instead of my parents.’ So they let the parents go and they took him and the brother that they already had,” the woman said.
Elizabeth Rogers is the chief Federal Public Defender of the Western Division of Texas. Her brother also employed Molina.
“My brother called me and told me his worker had been gunned down,” Rogers said. “He’d gone to the funeral with his brother-in-law Craige Miller. And he said it was one of the saddest days because it turned out it was not a funeral for one. It was two brothers, both gunned down in front of their mother’s house.”
Gene Henderson is a former U.S. Border Patrol tracker.
“That’s just the way it is over there right now,” Henderson said.
The murders have amped up the discussion of what constitutes a safe border against the backdrop of a Mexico where a new federal government’s pledge to substantially cut crime hasn’t yet been realized.
In a tone strikingly similar to others you hear in borderland Texas, people are conflicted about immigration and the metal wall that runs through their yards. They say the wall does slow floods to a trickle. But that trickle never stops. And they say a wall wouldn’t be needed were Mexico not swaddled in corruption.
“All those politicians over there, they’re all on the take. And the cartels and those little sicarios, the little killers, sicarios, that’s who is doing the killing,” said Jim Ed Miller, the county commissioner here.
He said, sadly, the killing of the Molina brothers doesn’t jolt anyone, “It’s not the first time this has happened. But it always happens in Mexico, not here.”
Craige Miller, who employed Jorge Molina, said, “The violence quit for a while until Jorge’s murder. And I wasn’t that concerned about it. But we are still armed.”
What might sound strident to some, ”we are still armed,” resonates with people living beside a gap in the border wall. A place where undocumented crossings into the U.S. are a part of the landscape. Where violence in Mexico, and not for the first time in this part of Texas, has destroyed a family living legally in the U.S.
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