Last week’s shooting in Southern Arizona, which left one Border Patrol agent dead and another injured has brought back attention to the U.S.-Mexico border. The border is not going away, and neither are the problems associated with those 2000 miles of desert that separate the two countries.
The U.S.–Mexico border is the busiest border in the world with over 350 million crossings a year. And with the implementation of the North American Free Trade Agreement, (NAFTA) in 1994, commercial border traffic has increased and become easier for some truckers. While we worry about drug smugglers sneaking drug shipments through the same isolated desert routes used by undocumented immigrants coming into the country, it seems ridiculous to think tons of cocaine and marijuana can be carried in backpacks, and not through the main ports of Tijuana, Ciudad Juarez, Nuevo Laredo and Matamoros, using commercial vehicles that have legal entry into the country.
Just as crazy is the idea that a wall will protect us from illegal immigration and drug smugglers. Necessity is the mother of invention. Drug traffickers and poor peasants seeking work in the U.S. will find their way into the U.S. as long as there is violence and poverty south of the border, and jobs and security north of the border.
President Obama, for all his liberal rhetoric, has helped militarize the border and deported more illegal immigrants than any other administration, and yet, he’s offered a limited amnesty to thousands of undocumented immigrants.
The problem with these policies is that they’re not going to make the problem go away. The U.S.-Mexico border is not going to just disappear. While immigrants and drugs move north, arms and laundered drug money move south. It’s economics. Both the U.S. and Mexico are gaining something from this arrangement.
U.S.-Mexico border means money
The U.S. farmers, construction and manufacturing companies who need cheap labor, U.S. banks and other businesses that launder money, and all the other small economies that branch out from there, like money wiring companies such as Western Union which collected $4.2 billion in transaction fees worldwide in 2011, stand to make profits from this convenient inconvenience. There are also small businesses like the motels that house farm workers and stores like Walmart where workers buy food and clothing, who also cash in on this invisible arrangement.
Mexico, on the other hand, gets remittances from the workers in the U.S.; the total in 2011 alone was $22.7 billion. Mexico also gets almost $500 million in military aid to help fight the so-called War on Drugs. Compare that to U.S. AID’s contribution to fight poverty in Mexico: 29 million.
What’s hidden under this scenario is that most of the military aid comes in the form of U.S. weaponry: surveillance planes, Black Hawk helicopters, maintenance contracts and other fine American military power. Do you see who the winner is in this game? Yes, it’s a win-win for U.S. businesses. There seems to be a good profit to be made by many, so long as the horrendous violence stays in Mexico, (approximately 60,000 Mexicans dead so far).
Both the U.S. and Mexican government care only about controlling the problem instead of solving it. There is too much money to be made. As long as there is economic inequality between the two countries, there will continue to be a problem. You can’t have one country’s daily salary be less than another countries hourly salary. And the laws of supply and demand will keep the drug traffickers finding ways to bring their shipments into the U.S.
Meanwhile, those who suffer the most live along both sides of the border. Even on the U.S. side people have to deal with a militarized environment, constant checkpoints, helicopters flying overhead, and fear and violence. The problem with the U.S.-Mexico border can only be solved if both countries work together to bring economic equality between them and reduce the demand for drugs in the U.S. Just look at the U.S.-Canadian border. In 2010 the U.S. Border Patrol made 7500 detentions along that 5500-mile border. Compare that to over half a million people detained along the U.S.-Mexico border.