Friday, April 17, 2009

The Southwest Border -- "The Way Ahead"?

In response to the alarm about spill-over violence from Mexico, the Department of Homeland Security recently announced an increased focus on border security. Released the day before President Obama’s Mexico trip, the new DHS initiative – labeled “The Way Ahead” – will bring more personnel to the Southwest border and place additional technology at strategic locations in order to crack down on the illegal activities that fuel the drug war in Mexico.” It’s another crackdown initiative from DHS, and it will mean more canine teams at borderland checkpoints, a stepped-up “criminal alien” dragnet, and expanded cooperation with local police. DHS assures that the new deployment will be the result of a “risk-based decisionmaking process.” “The Way Ahead” is a two-pronged strategy. DHS says that the new crackdown on the northern side of the border will complement “Mexico's crackdown campaign against drug cartels in Mexico.” With this new deployment of personnel and resources, the border will assuredly become more secure when measured by the usual metrics of success in the drug war and the immigrant crackdown. Soon, the Border Patrol will be erecting new billboards at checkpoints and entry stations that hail the new drug seizures. In forthcoming new releases, the public information office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) will boast of the number of criminal aliens arrested and deported. So, too, will there be a rash of pronouncements about the number of southbound arms seized at the border. Doomed Front in Drug War “The Way Ahead” initiative, despite the likely success indicators, is another front in the long-running war on drugs. Forty years ago, President Nixon, responding to the alarm about Mexico supplying drugs to America’s youth, launched Operation Intercept along the border to interdict marijuana shipments. That short-lived initiative, which was halted largely because of Mexican government complaints about long lines of traffic at the border, was the opening shot of the “war on drugs” of the new Republican administration. Started as a unilateral offensive, the “war of drug” has since gone global -- and bilateral, in the case of Mexico. The last four decades have seen a long string of tactical victories but year after year of strategic defeat despite increased international cooperation. The endless string of achievements – number of acres eradicated, bundles of drugs seized, traffickers arrested, etc. – underscores the continuing failure of the drug war. Rather than using the drug-related violence in Mexico as an opportunity to point to the failure of the crackdown approach to the drug problem, the Obama administration has reaffirmed U.S. support for the military –led drug crackdown in Mexico and authorized the redeployment of DHS resources and personnel along the border to fight the war and simultaneously contain its violence. Not only does the new DHS initiative constitute yet another front in the failed drug war, it also incorporates the systemic failures of the U.S. crackdown on immigrants and crime. By joining the various crackdowns – U.S. drug war crackdown in Mexico, immigrant crackdown, drug war at home, and “get-tough” law enforcement – the DHS is compounding the problems of all these mounting crackdowns. It’s a crackdown compounded, and follows old paths rather than pointing to a way ahead.

No comments: