They are emboldened and they operate with relative impunity. And their actions have to be horrifically straining U.S.-Mexican diplomatic relations.
Mexican hit squads have attacked U.S. diplomats in a border town.
Staff of the U.S. consulate in Ciudad Juarez have come under literal fire. A pregnant American employee of the consulate and her husband have been killed. So was the husband of a Mexican employee.
Of course, the United States wants to keep good relations with our "neighbor to the south." But the numbers of Americans who have been slaughtered south of the border is alarming. More than 200 Americans have been killed in Mexico since 2004.
Not to mention the Mexican drug gangs operating here on U.S. soil - killing American citizens here and making neighborhoods in the United States of America uninviting and dangerous.
The number of Border Patrol agents protecting the area north of the Rio Grande is woefully inadequate. They've been compensating for this by installing underground detectors that alert agents in remote and sparse outposts of foot traffic heading north. But while there have been successes in capturing illegals entering the United States - its really a frustrating and largely losing battle - sort of like trying to swim upstream.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says she offers her "deepest sympathies"
to the families and colleagues of the dead and, in a statement, assures us that "the safety and security of our personnel and their families in Mexico and at posts around the world is always our highest priority."
Clinton says the State Department is "working with the government of Mexico to do everything necessary to protect our people and to ensure that the perpetrators of these horrendous acts are brought to justice."
It's times like these when these diplomatic niceties need to be discarded.
The United States should demand, in the strongest terms, that those responsible be brought to justice. And that the corruption in Mexican law enforcement and military that allows these drug gangs free reign be rooted out. "Working with the government of Mexico" doesn't cut it anymore. This continuing drug-related violence - that's affecting not just Mexicans - but increasingly Americans - has to be curtailed.
In the meantime, travel by Americans to Mexico should be curtailed. I say this as a person who was a frequent visitor to Mexico. But no more. Not until this rampant violence is brought under control.