Friday, September 10, 2010

More Troops and Fences on the Border Won’t Fix Our Troubles

I get all kinds of obvious political “hit pieces” forwarded to me by lots of friends and neighbors. These deal with all kinds of things; one of the more frequent subjects is illegal immigration from Mexico. What follows is a typical forward of a video on YouTube that implies all our border violence and danger troubles are due to illegal immigration. The facts in the piece are true, it is what gets left out that is so very telling. I tried to debunk the “hit piece” by supplying as much of the whole truth as I understand, in my response.

From a friend in Austin, dated 9-1-10:
This is a crying shame! When is Washington going to get off its ass and do something? Making them all citizens is stupid! Are we not going to enforce the drug laws either? I heard the other day the they are complaining that Austin and Travis County is the biggest location for deporting "undocumented aliens" who haven't broken any laws in the country! Excuse me, isn't being an "illegal alien" a crime??

The link was to a video of a Texas Congressman blaming all the border violence on illegal immigrants and drug cartels from Mexico. He got it half right: the cartels are indeed causing a public danger to Americans. But not so much the immigrants. I do agree with his criticism of the federal government for shirking its duties in this area. I disagree that more guards and more fences would stop either the drug runners or the illegal immigrants.

This was my response to my friend, dated 9-2-10:

What you're talking about and what's on the video is all true, but not quite complete. The drug violence that is now spilling across the border is fueled primarily by demand for illegal substances here in the US. There is a drug "industry" in Mexico that thrives only because it can command high prices for its illegal product. Those prices are high precisely and only because those substances are illegal (we've seen that effect before, with alcohol during Prohibition). And that's their Achilles heel, too.

Another piece of that puzzle is that there have been drug cartels in Mexico plying this trade for many decades. There is a history of ever-more violent competition among those cartels all during those years. It has really extremized by the current time. Ever since about 1970, the cartels were better armed than the Mexican military. I'm talking armed jet aircraft, tanks, machine guns, and heavy weapons, all funded by drug revenues. Most of that is supplied by no-questions-asked arms dealers on the US side of the border. Our border guards never looked (and still do not look) for weapons being taken into Mexico. Stopping the arms supplied to the cartels is what Calderon wanted to talk about while he was up here a few months ago. It's still a wide open flow of heavy weaponry south, and they still outgun the Mexican military today, by a longer shot now than ever before. Until that flow of arms is stopped, the Mexicans cannot win their drug war, and the violence spilling across the border cannot be stopped, on either side.

Now, did you notice that absolutely none of my discussion has anything to do with immigration, legal or not? Any illegal immigrants who commit violent acts (and there are some) are very tiny small change compared to the drug war problem in Mexico. Stopping entirely the flow of illegal immigrants (or even all immigrants whatsoever) will not stop the violence spilling over, and has nothing to do with the cartels that are the real problem. There is no border fence that cannot be breached. Blaming all this violence on illegal immigration is a political campaign fiction, pure and simple. It has nothing whatsoever to do with the truth of the matter, or with any reasonable plans we might make in order to deal with it.

What needs to be done about the spillover drug violence is two-fold: (1) stop the southward flow of weaponry to the cartels (which is clearly a higher priority than stopping any northward flow of immigrants, legal or not), and (2) kill the revenue streams of the cartels by legalizing, regulating, and taxing the drugs they sell. Made legal, prices fall, quite dramatically. If the cartels can't make scads of money at it, then they get out of the business, and that problem goes away. It won't even take very long: the Mafia was out of bootleg booze within a year or so of Prohibition's end, and all the bootlegging violence died with that change.

The illegal immigrant problem is pretty much separate from, and insignificant compared to, the cartel drug violence problem. No amount of campaign sloganeering, posturing on the floor of Congress (the video you forwarded), or political party propaganda is going to change that simple truth. But facing and telling the truth does not win votes at this time in this country, scapegoating groups that cannot defend themselves does, just as it did in 1930's Nazi Germany! And that's exactly what the right-wing extremists in this country are doing, and for several years now.

I quite agree that illegal immigrants shouldn't be here. I quite agree that we need to get the illegals out of this country. I disagree with a lot of schemes to do that, but there is a workable and fair way, and it will be found. I disagree that illegal immigrants are the cause of "all our troubles" (really meaning border violence). I disagree that securing our borders against illegral immigration is a "top priority". Yes, it needs to be done, but the top priority is ending the drug cartel war in Mexico, and I already told you how to do that, and how it has almost nothing at all to do with illegal immigration.

It is seeing that scapegoating thing going on right now, in this country, that scares the bejeezus out of me. History is repeating itself, and that is one ugly history.


  1. "Most of that is supplied by no-questions-asked arms dealers on the US side of the border."

    That is an assertion frequently made by people in the US who wnat more gun control, and by people in Mexico who want to obfuscate the issue of their own incompetence. At most 4% of illegal small arms in Mexico come from US civilian sources.

    Many more do come from the US, but these are the result of burglaries from Mexican armories, and when shipments between Mexican armories "fall off of trucks".

    No tanks.

    No armed jet planes.

    The most common gun is an AK47, and not one of US origin.

  2. There are no AK-47's of US origin. Never were. These were made by the Russians, the Chinese, and some Eastern European countries.

    My assertions rely on the observations of a good friend working in Mexico for the CIA about 1970. His assignment was looking for this very stuff, and he saw it. Including unmarked F-86's at a time when Mexico was still flying cast-off USAF P-51's as its front line fighters. This was in the central mountain areas, where the drug kingpins had their strongholds.