As a candidate, Joe Biden promised amnesty for illegal immigrants already in the United States and expanded asylum for those on the way. Now that he’s become president, Biden formally lifted his predecessor’s pandemic-based prohibition on border crossings for minors from Northern Triangle countries, ostensibly turning away all other would-be immigrants.
In February, 59 percent of families encountered on the border nevertheless were granted entry into the United States. Yet the secretary of Homeland Security recently declared the border “closed.”
Biden promised a kinder, more humane immigration system. Two months in, thousands of children in border intake facilities are sleeping on floors and denied showers.
Then there was Biden’s recent delegation of the border “situation” to Vice President Kamala Harris, swiftly followed by her spokeswoman’s clarification that she “is not doing the border.” Instead, Harris is addressing the so-called “root causes” of migration from the Northern Triangle countries, distancing herself from the epicenter of the crisis.
An expansive effort to address the core, interrelated causes of mass migration from that region — government corruption, lack of security, and underdeveloped economies — is a worthwhile and necessary part of any long-term solution. But an approach prioritizing the socioeconomic plight of three countries more than 1,500 miles away, while minimizing the dangerous interplay of hostile foreign states and criminal organizations capitalizing on the current border chaos, comes at America’s peril.
The same Mexican transnational criminal organizations that control each land port between the United States and Mexico operate globally, coordinating with communist regimes and terrorist organizations throughout the world. They traffic everything from firearms and advanced weaponry to stolen petroleum and illegal migrants. They also traffic deadly opioids.
Before the Mexican criminal organizations trafficked opioids, they trafficked cocaine. Before they trafficked cocaine, they mastered the production and transportation of marijuana and opium into the United States.
Back in the 1980s, the first generation of South American cocaine producers found themselves with a distribution problem. The demand for their cocaine was skyrocketing throughout the United States. Unlike South American agricultural exports like coffee or chocolate, however, cocaine was illegal in the United States, and Drug Enforcement Administration counter-drug efforts disrupted Caribbean-based cocaine supply lines.
Enter Mexico. Colombian cocaine traffickers negotiated with Mexican marijuana and opium transporters for the use of their routes in moving cocaine to the United States. As such, Mexican drug traffickers soon realized that coordination among their geographically dispersed transportation organizations — the cartelization of drug trafficking — would shift market power from the Colombians to the Mexicans.
The Colombians controlled the production of the commodity, but the Mexicans controlled its distribution channels. Well before Jeff Bezos and Amazon, there was the first generation of Mexican drug lords. They transported anything and everything profitable, with illegal drugs long holding the largest profit margins.
The U.S. government took a while to catch on. Plan Colombia, an early 1990s U.S. initiative to combat cocaine cartels in that country, has largely been regarded as a success. Yet its Mexican counterpart, the Merida Initiative, was not conceived until 2008 and has been an unmitigated $3 billion failure. Unfortunately, the United States has consistently underestimated and under-addressed the threat posed by the transnational criminal organizations to its south.
The cartelized Mexican transportation organizations of the 1980s became known as the “Mexican trampoline,” bouncing the multi-billion-dollar cocaine industry from South America to the United States. With the waves of north-bound Central American migrants in recent years, the same organizations have become a part of the “Mexican bridge.”
As with cocaine, Mexico’s complex transnational criminal organizations are not involved in the “supply” of migrants headed north. Instead, smaller, less organized human trafficking and smuggling organizations and gangs like MS-13 and 18th Street are largely responsible for organizing caravans and motivating migration.
Now, the Mexican organizations controlling plazas along the trafficking routes have again asserted their control over distribution lines, while their product is tragically dehumanized and treated as chattel. Many of the women and girls coming from the Northern Triangle — escaping rampant crime and extreme poverty in the hope for a new life in America — are raped and abused along the way.
Years ago, the world’s second-largest economy took note of the world’s largest, most ruthless criminal organizations. China has long been the chief supplier of the primary ingredient in methamphetamine synthesis — pseudoephedrine — and methamphetamine production has been dominated by the Mexican criminal organizations for over a decade.
More recently, Mexican organizations have replaced opium, the primary ingredient in heroin, with the deadly and China-supplied opioid fentanyl. As a result, hundreds of thousands of Americans have since died of fentanyl-related overdoses.
The Chinese also readily provide Mexican criminal organizations with financial institutions and businesses to facilitate money laundering, a method of “moving” drug-related proceeds from the United States to Mexico that is extremely difficult for U.S. law enforcement to stop. Yet China should not be regarded as the only hostile nation at the southern border.
Leftist Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador declared in 2019 that Mexico would withdraw from the Merida Initiative and its focus on combating Mexican organized crime to seek an agreement addressing the root causes of migration from the Northern Triangle — a refrain strikingly similar to today’s Biden administration messaging. Under Obrador, Mexico has also repeatedly violated its extradition treaty with the United States and, most recently, has handcuffed Drug Enforcement Administration operations within Mexico.
Mexico has chosen a side in the effort to fight Mexican organized crime, and it’s not that of the United States. Obrador ignores that the same root causes of migration from the Northern Triangle — corruption, insecurity, and economic underdevelopment — are endemic to his country as well. Indeed, the Mexican political establishment, which has profited for decades from the cartelization of its drug trafficking organizations, is perfectly happy to see the Biden administration focused on the countries to its south.
As the Mexican criminal underworld grows stronger, the corrupt Mexican political establishment grows wealthier, and the United States plays along. The present border crisis is not only an immigration issue involving Central American migrants. It’s a national security issue involving enemy states immediately to our south.