Thursday, May 13, 2010

Failed war on drugs fuels immigration problems

Failed war on drugs fuels immigration problems

Some of the criticism I've heard concerning Arizona's new law confronting the state's illegal immigration crisis doesn't carry much weight with me.

For instance, it's said that being compelled to show papers to prove legal residency will make Hispanic life in Arizona something akin to life in a police state. But the truth is that Hispanics living in the southwestern United States have always been compelled to show their papers in order to prove that they are living in this country legally.

From my observations of the border region, from the mid 1980s until today, the U.S. Border Patrol has greatly improved its protection of the border. But considering the task they are faced with -- the border region being a vast, empty desert that is 1,700 miles long -- they still have a long way to go. That Arizona wants to ensure its citizens' safety in addition to protection provided by the overworked U. S. Border Patrol is, I think, quite reasonable.

The idea that racial profiling will now begin due to the new Arizona law is ridiculous.

The U. S. Border Patrol has, for many years now, been engaging in the commonsense practice of racial profiling in order to identify illegal aliens. For example, I realize that most Americans have not traveled through south Texas on a Greyhound bus, as I have. But I can assure you that the U.S. Border Patrol routinely stops such vehicles and asks Hispanic passengers for their papers, and that I, being white, have never been asked to show mine.

Likewise, whenever I've traveled on Interstate 10 through Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona, I, like everyone else, have had to stop at checkpoints where the U.S. Border Patrol asks Hispanics to show their papers. Again, I have never been asked to show mine.

The new Arizona law simply allows ordinary police officers in Arizona, and not just U. S. Border Patrol officers, to ask Hispanic people for their papers. Legal aliens have long had to carry these papers with them and the U.S. Border Patrol has long been asking to see them.

There are two, commonsense solutions to this border problem, but I doubt Washington would ever permit them to be implemented.

-- Grant refugee status to all illegal aliens from Mexico, due to the ongoing drug war that is occurring there.

-- Or, legalize marijuana, because cash flow from marijuana sales is what Mexican drug cartels use as venture capital to support much more risky, profitable, and dangerous narcotics trafficking.

The second option is the better of the two. Legalizing marijuana would devastate the cartels financially, effectively putting them out of business. The money they make from marijuana sales is what they use to fund their sales of narcotics. If a cartel loses a shipment of heroin -- which isn't hard to do, because the shipments are relatively small and very valuable, about a pick-up truck load -- that loss is then made up with the cash flow provided by marijuana sales.

Marijuana is not as easy to smuggle as heroin. On the level of cartel financing, it requires a large scale operation. Therefore the cartels require vast, regular, illegal inroads into the U. S. in order to keep this money flowing. Legalization of marijuana would shut down the cartel's illegal inroads, defund their narcotic trafficking, and put loads of tax money into U.S. coffers (about $70 billion a year.) That makes a lot of sense to me, and it would also bring an end of the Mexican government's war with the cartels.

According to Charles Bowden, in his excellent book "Down By The River," as things stand today both U. S. and Mexican authorities have been -- and will continue to be -- corrupted by the massive amounts of money that flow their way via the illegal drug trade.

That is the real problem, on both sides of the border. And until it is dealt with -- through the legalization of marijuana -- I don't see how any of these problems, including immigration, can ever be solved.

America's "War on Drugs" policy is a proven failure that has only led to corruption, violence, murder, and more people than ever fleeing Mexico for their lives. This horrible situation will continue until the real problems are addressed and I can assure you that the real problem is not Arizona's new law regarding illegal immigration; it's America's failed drug policy.


A. J. MacDonald, Jr. writes from Fayetteville

© 2010 A. J. MacDonald, Jr. - Edited and published by the Public Opinion Newspaper (MediaNews-Gannett) Chambersburg, Pennsylvania 5/4/2010

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