by Duane Campbell
U.S. immigration policy is a mess. It was made worse by the Trump administration, 2016-2020. And, it is unlikely to change in the current political era.
In his campaign this week Trump has promised the largest deportation in U.S. history.
For background, readers should look at Operation Wetback under President Dwight D. Eisenhower and the so-called Mexican Repatriation project of the 1930’s.
The implementation of Operation Wetback was a result of Attorney General Herbert Brownell's tour of Southern California in August 1953. It was there that he made note of the "shocking and unsettling" issue that was illegal immigration. The short-lived operation used military-style tactics to remove Mexican immigrants—some of them American citizens—from the United States. Though millions of Mexicans had legally entered the country through joint immigration programs in the first half of the 20th century and some were naturalized citizens who were once native, Operation Wetback was designed to send them to Mexico.
Operation Wetback was a follow-up to the prior Mexican Repatriation when as many as 2 million were deported, many of them children. Up to 40% of those deported were U.S. citizens of Mexican descent.
Currently there is a competition among Republicans to be the toughest on immigration policy by focusing on fentanyl, which commonly begins production in China.
The current Mexican government of Andrés Manuel López Obradorhas made major strides toward advancing democracy and the rule of law in Mexico since 2018. This effort is not at all complete. Illegal, well-armed, cartels control some areas of Mexico. There are at least four major cartels, and dozens of affiliated cartels. For example, the Sinaloa cartel is the largest. Based in Culiacán, the cartel also controls Juarez and much of the border area. Others cartels operate freely in other regions of the country.
This week Ron DeSantis, Nickie Haley, and Vivek Rasmaswamy each have proposed some version of sending in U.S. military or a few missiles to take out the cartels.
U.S. police intervention in Mexico was tried and advanced during prior Mexican governments. 1990-2018. It failed. Little progress was made, in significant part due to corruption of the government offices.
If the U.S. were now to act upon Republican statements and fire a couple of missiles into Mexico the result would be to advance the control of one of the cartels over a different cartel. We know this from prior efforts. For example, the joint Mexican/ US effort from 2006-2014, weakened some cartels, and strengthened the Sinaloa cartel. In reality, the U.S. intervention helped the Sinaloa cartel.
Suppose, as candidate Vivek proposed this week, we send in a few missiles to take out a cartel.
Well, first, that would strengthen other cartels who would be pleased to move into their territory. And then, suppose the Sinaloa cartel responded by sending a few missiles into Dallas or Ft. Worth? What would be our next steps?
What the Mexican government has been asking for as policy, particularly in the last 20 years, is that the U.S. should assist by controlling the shipment of guns and arms from the U.S. to the cartels. Mexico manufactures almost no weapons. It is illegal there. The guns, bombs, and other weapons are coming from the U.S. market. The Mexican Government is often out-gunned in efforts to oppose cartel violence. The cartels get their massive weapons from the U.S.
Why do you suppose the proposal to limit gun sales and transfers is not discussed in the U.S. in Republican circles?
And, why is it so little discussed in U.S. media ?
President Lopez-Obrador’s alternative proposals are to build a more democratic state. To create jobs for young people so they will have careers rather than join the cartels. And, he is working to rebuild a police force that is not corrupt. He urgently needs control of gun traffic from the U.S.
What could the U.S. do?
Well, first, we should get control of gun manufacturing, sales, and theft in the U.S. We are not doing this because the U.S. gun lobby controls one of the two political parties and half of the second party.
In place of building a wall that does not work and building massive new detention centers as proposed by candidate Trump, the U.S. could spend the money to provide adequate electronic searches of vehicles crossing the border. Most Fentanyl comes in in large trucks. Not in back packs. This has been a part of the Biden Administration’s proposal for immigration reform. The Republican Congress refuses to fund such a policy.
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