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Friday, March 27, 2009

Fighting the Drug War at Homeland Security

(Ninth in a 12-part BorderLines series "Aliens, Crime, and Drugs: Making the Connection.") The drug war, declared by President Richard Nixon in 1971, is a prohibition movement that began in the United States and has since spread around the globe, often with U.S. assistance and under U.S. direction. It started more as a backlash movement against the spread of recreational drugs by America’s youth in the 1960s, when the use of marijuana and hallucinogens became associated with the protest movement against the Vietnam War and against the dominant culture, hence the “counterculture” movement. At first, the drug war – likely derived from President Johnson’s “War on Poverty” -- was largely regarded as a war on the home front, although what may be regarded as one of the opening forays of the soon to-be-declared war was Operation Intercept, a short-lived initiative to search all northbound traffic from Mexico to intercept the inflow of marijuana. Over the past four decades the drug war has become a global war fought by the United States to eradicate drug production and to interdict narcotics shipments. The initial primary focus on treatment, especially for heroin addiction, quickly gave way to the prevailing focus on suppression and imprisonment. As the U.S.-supported drug war in Mexico rages, rising concern that the related violence may spill over the border has led to new calls to reinforce border security. Although expressing concerns about militarizing the border, the Obama administration is responding by beefing up the presence of ICE, CBP, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and other federal agents along the embattled southwestern border. At the same time, though, the Obama administration has restated its strong support for Mexican President Felipe Calderon’s decision to deploy the army to fight the drug war and for the Merida Initiative, which provides U.S. military support for that “war.” Along the border the drug war and the immigrant crackdown are already one and the same. When the CBP says it is protecting the homeland against “dangerous people and goods,” it in effect is talking about illegal immigrants and illegal drugs. The Border Patrol is as much a drug enforcement agency as an immigration control force. At the CBP ports of entry and at their proliferating highway checkpoints, drug-sniffing dogs, car searches, and billboards announcing the quantities of drugs seized at each location sends the clear message that illegal drugs are regarded as a serious threat to homeland security. Next: Marijuana Fuels the Drug War

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