Michael Swartz / October 18, 2022

A War at Our Border

Mexican drug cartels are heavily armed and operate drug-smuggling and human-trafficking enterprises with near impunity under Biden’s lax border policies.

Absent the Trump administration’s emphasis on border security, our problems with illegal immigration and drug interdiction have both moved to the top of the list of midterm campaign issues.

Yet while those on the Left retreat to their fainting couches when Florida Governor Ron DeSantis redirects a small band of illegal immigrants from Venezuela to the elite Democrat enclave of Martha’s Vineyard, and while the rest of us feel the outrage at finding candy-colored fentanyl pills on the streets of American cities, we may not be aware that both of these represent big business for Mexican drug cartels operating just on the other side of a long, porous national border.

But we can’t completely blame the current American administration. Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador was elected in 2018 on a platform of ending the drug war with “hugs, not bullets,” but subsequent events instead led López Obrador to place his National Guard under the command of the Mexican Army and authorize the military to ensure public safety until 2028, which will be just past the midpoint of his successor’s term, as Mexican presidents serve just one six-year term. “Although López Obrador has long criticized the perceived excesses of Mexico’s drug war, his policies have proved no more effective,” Bloomberg opines. “He has scaled back counter-narcotics cooperation with the U.S., in retaliation for Washington’s efforts to prosecute high-ranking Mexican officials suspected of colluding with the cartels. Among other things, the government has placed limits on the operations of U.S. drug-enforcement agents and disbanded an elite intelligence unit that worked closely with the U.S. to apprehend prominent kingpins.”

It’s worth pointing out that López Obrador was elected at about the same time as our 2018 midterm “blue wave,” so we suspect Mexicans may be weighing other options for their 2024 election.

Mexico has adopted a policy of blaming the gun, suing five Arizona gun dealers with the claim that the retailers were allowing straw purchasers to acquire weapons that found their way to Mexican cartels. It’s the second such lawsuit, although the earlier one was tossed out of a federal district court in Boston.

That brings to mind what the Obama administration did with Operation Fast and Furious — trafficking guns to Mexico so as to exacerbate the problem and then build support in the U.S. for banning more guns. It was a disgraceful and woefully under-covered scandal.

Back in the present, the idea of “hugs, not bullets” has allowed the Mexican narcotic cartels to operate with near impunity, and the lax border policies of the Biden administration have given them a new side hustle in human trafficking. National security expert Todd Bensman notes:

Immigrants have told me they’ve paid anywhere from a few hundred dollars just to swim the river to $12,000 per head to travel from Guatemala or Honduras. Cartels adapt prices and pricing strategy quickly to changes in American practice and policy.

Border Patrol agents tell me, for instance, that the Gulf Cartel came up with a pricing strategy to account for the pandemic-related rapid expulsion measure under Title 42. Illegal aliens returned multiple times could not be expected to pay $1,500-$2,500 each time. So the cartels offered Title 42 package deals, where a couple of thousand dollars buys a package of three guaranteed post-expulsion crossings.

In those areas, the migrants are all required to buy plastic bracelets proving payment, like at a water park. This innovation reflected a recognition that cartels can be overrun and that they simply created an inventory control system to capture the revenue.

Crafty entrepreneurs those cartels are.

Bensman points out that the proceeds from the drug and illegal immigrant trades go in large part to acquiring weapons, and the closer they become in strength to Mexico’s legitimate army, the more capable they become of disrupting other Mexican-based export businesses like the oil industry or auto parts trade. Or they could go for the biggest prize of all: the 1.6 million American expats who live in Mexico.

The cartels have so far kept their violence on the Mexican side of our border, but given the Biden administration’s policy of erasing our border and allowing the cartels to expand their business, it’s hard to tell how long their restraint will last. At this point, and under this administration, we can only hope that wholesale carnage isn’t the next major import we receive from Mexico.

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