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To Stop The Border Invasion, Get Tough On Mexico

riot overwhelms border patrol at the border with Mexico
Image CreditNew York Post/YouTube

Mexico isn’t a partner or a friend on our southern border. It’s an antagonist, and it’s time we treat it as such.


A group of several hundred illegal immigrants forcibly pushed past Texas National Guard troops on Thursday in El Paso, Texas, breaking through razor wire and assaulting guardsmen as they forcibly rushed a border gate.

Video of the clash, which was filmed by reporters from the New York Post, quickly went viral. It shows the crowd of migrants, all of them adult men, at first putting their hands up as they crowd around a small group of Texas guardsmen trying to block an opening in the fence the migrants had created. After what appears to be a brief physical altercation, the crowd rushes past the guardsmen. The Post reporter at the scene described it as a “riot.”

The video is shocking. It underscores not only how unstable the border has become but also what has been true for a while now: This is an invasion. What began as a crisis created by the Biden administration’s lax border policies is now an open conflict careening toward disaster.

What can be done to stop this? In the near term, mostly nothing. The riotous scenes at the border, the millions of illegal immigrants processed and released into the country by federal immigration authorities, the chaos of homeless illegal immigrants camped out on the streets of major American cities — all of these were totally predictable policy outcomes that the Biden administration knew would happen. They did it anyway, and they will probably not do anything to stop it.

But even if the Biden administration recognized that the border invasion might be a political liability going into the November presidential election, the steps required to bring the situation under control at this point are so drastic that there’s almost no chance the Biden White House would even consider them.

The key thing to understand about the crisis is that it’s being managed by Mexican cartels, along with their partners inside the Mexican government, as a for-profit enterprise. Under Biden, the cartels have turned illegal immigration into big business, a massive black market in which every illegal immigrant who crosses the border represents a source of income for the cartels. They are all being trafficked, in other words. It is not too much to say the cartels are running slave markets, as my friend Joshua Treviño did in these pages recently, “in which children are bought and sold to increase the chances that the norteamericanos will admit a supposed family unit, and also to provide supply to the vile and ravenous market in sex.”

The Mexican government is complicit in all this. President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, popularly known as AMLO, has not tried to hide his longstanding connections to the country’s most powerful cartel, Sinaloa, nor has he done anything to rein them in during his presidency, consistently pursuing the drug war policy he outlined when running for president in 2018: “hugs, not bullets.”

In recent years, he has become testy and aggressive on matters related to immigration and the border. AMLO is especially incensed at efforts by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott to crack down on illegal immigration. Asked about the new Texas law that would allow state law enforcement officers to arrest and deport illegal border-crossers, which a federal appeals court temporarily blocked this week, AMLO strongly implied the Mexican military would help illegals cross the border. His foreign secretary, Alicia Bárcena, said the government would put “increased vigilance and controls” at border crossings to prevent Texas from carrying out deportations if the law goes into effect. While AMLO would not say clearly what steps he would take, he did suggest some kind of retaliation: “We will not just sit around with our arms crossed.”

This is not how a friendly neighbor talks nor how a partner nation behaves. The truth is, Mexico is neither. One of the great fictions Washington policymakers have labored under for decades is the notion that our southern neighbor is anything but an antagonist on the border issue and that carrots, not sticks, are sufficient to secure its cooperation.

But the truth is just the opposite. Unless Mexico is credibly threatened with concrete measures that would harm its economy, AMLO will not act to alleviate the illegal immigration crisis. During Trump’s term in office, he was only able to get his Mexican counterpart to cooperate with his border agenda by threatening to slap tariffs on Mexican goods coming across the border. In many ways, Trump’s clear-eyed dealing with Mexico is what made policies like Remain in Mexico successful.

Something similar will be required in any future Republican administration. The only way to deal with the border crisis, at this point, is to carry out mass deportations. That will mean forcing Mexico to accept deportees and do more — far more — to control the flow of illegal immigrants north to the U.S. border. Absent the threat of crippling economic sanctions — or something worse — Mexico will not act to stem the tide of illegal immigration.

Until GOP leaders get that through their heads, they will be left in the ridiculous position of doing what House Speaker Mike Johnson did Thursday after the El Paso video went viral: pathetically tweeting about how it’s all Biden’s fault for “refusing to secure our border and protect America.” This, from one of the only Republicans in a position to actually do something about the border. Johnson could shut down the government over the Biden administration’s refusal to address the crisis, but he won’t.

It’s going to take stronger leadership than that to really deal with the invasion at the border, if and when a Republican takes back the White House. It will mean a total shift in conventional thinking about Mexico — and a willingness to treat our southern neighbor like the antagonist it has become.

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