As the country prepares for another round of the endless cycle of the immigration debate, what is often forgotten about in the discussion is what measures America could take to ease negative pressure on individuals from Latin American countries who have decided to risk life and limb to make it into the United States Illegally.
Cartel Violence, and Narco Terrorism
While economic pressure is certainly a factor pushing tens of thousands of people to seek a new life with better opportunities in the United States, another more basic human instinct is also a major contributing factors. The instinct of survival.
The United States' neighbors to the south are chronically plagued by drug cartel violence and narco terrorism. Just last year, Mexico ranked second in the world for total number of civilian casualties, primarily because of drug violence. Mexico ranked just behind Syria, which is currently in the middle of a long and incredibly violent civil war.
Other countries such as Nicaragua, Honduras, and Columbia have also experienced long standing, and bloody campaigns by drug cartels vying for access to the North American market, and sometimes at the behest of America itself. These narco conflicts are largely fuelled by America's insatiable appetite for drugs — from marijuana, to cocaine and methamphetamines. It is that appetite for drugs, combined with the law of supply and demand, that makes the black market so lucrative and so violent.
While drug gangs battle for control of billion-dollar smuggling operations and trade routes to North America, the people of Central and South America suffer. Furthermore, individual businesses as well as commerce in general also suffer as violence, corruption, and instability undercut the foundation of economic growth. And the resulting lack of economic opportunities for individuals further fuels the desperation of those seeking to enter the United States.
Extreme violence, corruption, and injustice become the norms in many of these communities. And when people feel threatened, isolated, and hopeless, they are far more inclined to risk everything for a chance at a better life. Many of course, never survive that journey, and when they do, they find Americans blissfully unaware of how their own country's policies — such as the drug war — have all but compelled them to seek refugee in the United States.
Billions Spent, Billions Lost
The United States has spent billions of dollars in the past decades fighting the international drug war. The country has also given money, weapons, equipment, and even troops to help Central and South American Governments wage their drug wars, with similarly ineffective results as the domestic struggle against the illicit drug trade. And now, the United States could spend upwards of another $20 billion dollars to complete Mr. Trump’s promised border wall.
But pursuing the international drug war and building the border wall are solutions which will not solve the underlying problems that fuel drug consumption as well as illegal immigration. The international drug war has not stopped drug smuggling to the United States. However, as marijuana prohibition has been rolled back and legal growing and distribution models have taken hold in the United States, drug cartels have slowed, and in some cases stopped marijuana production. This is not surprising, as legal, safe, and regulated markets which can compete against black market prices are always and will always be preferred by the public.
The border wall will not stop Illegal immigration or drug smuggling for many reasons. After all, most illegal immigrants get to the United States by overstaying visas, and the primary points of entry for most illegal immigrants are US ports. Beyond that, the wall does not address the fundamental factors that drive people to illegally enter and remain in the United States.
A 20 billion-dollar wall will not stop people from fleeing the violence generated by the United States' appetite for drugs, and the billions more that we waste by perpetuating that violence in Central and South America will only exacerbate the ineffectiveness of the wall.
A Real Solution Is Needed
No one would argue against the idea that a county should have the ability to control who can and cannot cross its borders, but it's not unreasonable to demand that the country address the possibility that its policies are undermining the nation's ability to regulate immigration.
So long as the United States continues with its failed international policy of drug prohibition, and continues to further destabilize its neighbors, the strongest factors fuelling illegal immigration will remain unaddressed. So long as we continue to drive people away from their homelands by triggering their basic survival instincts, it will not matter how “uge” the wall is. It will be nothing more than a monument to failed policy.
Hunter J. White is the Communications Director of the national Republican political organization, Republicans Against Marijuana Prohibition, or RAMP, a Non-Profit 501-c3 organization dedicated to the complete repeal of marijuana prohibition in all its forms. In this series of articles, Hunter shares the challenges, experiences, and insights that he has gained from years of working to bring marijuana policy reform to the Republican Party.