Students and activists gather during a drug protest against Mexico’s drug violence in Mexico City on February 17. (Jorge Dan Lopez/Reuters)
Every day we hear, read, and watch that hundreds of people are dying in Mexico due to the war on drugs. We also hear of complaints regarding the current Mexican administration and its law enforcement. What we don’t hear about in the news is what is causing the chaos and madness that is going on in America’s backyard.
Mexico has been the target of negative publicity, which continues every day whether it is regarding the war on drugs or the United States complaining about the immigration problem. What many people do not understand is that there are two sides to every story.
Prior to 9/11 there were discussion of liberalizing the United States’ immigration policy under the Bush administration, but all discussions ended with 9/11. Once 9/11 happened, the focus of the war on terrorism was directed toward securing the borders, specifically the Mexican border. The focus was to keep terrorists from entering the United States through Canada and Mexico. Little effort has been devoted to the security of the Canadian border, however, despite the fact that just a few years ago at least one terrorist sought to enter the United States from the north.
One of the most disastrous projects was the border fence, which failed and has cost the taxpayers millions of dollars. During this time, all the energy and negative publicity was focused on the U.S./Mexico border. Stricter enforcement policies and a dramatic increase in deportations and immigration raids have occurred.
Increased border enforcement on the southern border with Mexico obviously has had, and will continue to have, a disproportionate impact on Mexican citizens. Among other effects, enhanced border enforcement tends to exacerbate the problem of human trafficking of migrants – an industry that has grown substantially over the last decade – from Mexico.
There are false contentions that undocumented immigrants are a burden on American society, but it is the American corporations who exploit undocumented workers and who hire them. Law review articles have discussed that the United States does benefit from undocumented immigrants. Undocumented immigrants purchase items, pay property taxes, have insurance, etc. Their contribution to our economy isn’t a large-scale number, but it is still in the millions.
We all agree that there needs to be some type of immigration reform, but not with the measures that Arizona has taken. Arizona’s stance with immigration is conflicted. The whole point of securing our borders was to prevent terrorists from coming in. As my Immigration Professor at Valparaiso said, Mexicans do not fall from the sky or appear mysteriously at the point of entry. When dealing with immigration it is important to note the intent and the history behind such measures. Arizona has failed to do this and our alienating our neighbors that we benefit from. The United States, specifically the border area, depends on the Mexican trade.
II. Mexico’s War on Drugs
In 2006, President Calderon declared a war on drugs. Since then there have been mass graves, dismembered corpses, and entire towns besieged. Rival gangs have escalated their turf battles over smuggling routes and thousands of lives have been lost. The drug criminals have expanded their shadow by intimidating police forces, using kidnapping and extortion, and trafficking migrants.
A Man digs the grave for a funeral of a Mexican policeman murdered in Juarez by members of a drug cartel (Nadav Neuhaus)
I read an article from the Huffington Post by former NLLSA Chair David Perez titled “Mexico’s Last Stand”, which talked about how Mexico’s time is running out because they are at the end of President Calderon’s term. What was interesting was that the article stated that Mexico cannot back out on the war on drugs. It is now or never. What the article failed to state was what the United States is doing to combat the demand of drugs and the supply of arms to Mexico.
People walk past symbolic chalk outlines during an April 6 march in Cuernavaca called out by poet Javier Sicillia after the death of his son, whose body was found along with six other dead inside a car a week ago in Cuernavaca. Nationwide protests against Mexican President Felipe Calderon’s war on drug cartels that has claimed more than 37,000 lives since late 2006 were planned all over Mexico and in cities as far as Bueno Aires, Paris, New York, and Barcelona. (Margarito Perez/Reuters)
What has been the cause of all this? Drugs. The United States demands them and Mexico supplies them. The same goes with weapons. Mexico receives its weapons from the United States. As long as the demand is there the supply will continue to meet this demand and lives will be lost. Back in March of 2010, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that Washington must do more to stop limit the movement of weapons into Mexico and to address the drug demand. Little has been done, however. Drugs continue to be smuggled in and the problem worsens.
Where is the United Nations and why aren’t they addressing the flagrant human rights violations due to the mass killings and political assassinations in Mexico? Where is the transitional justice? Countries with similar human rights violations such as South Africa, Mozambique, Rwanda, and Sierra Leone have received assistance from the United Nations. There are several different initiatives that countries have adopted as approaches to transitional justice: criminal prosecutions, truth commissions, amnesty, monetary compensation, symbolic compensation, and institutional reform. The mass murders and the political assassinations are violations of international law and the United Nations should have stepped in by now. On October 18, 2010, 20-year-old Marisol Valles Garcia became the police chief of Praxedis G. Guerrero, Mexico. She later fled to the United States to seek asylum because she feared for her life and the life of her child. Innocent people are dying in Mexico every day because of the war on drugs. The result: people are fleeing to the United States.
The United States government is ignoring what is going on in Mexico and should be focusing its efforts on the people who are demanding the drugs and supplying the weapons. Instead it is focusing on undocumented immigrants. As long as Mexico is continuing to destabilize, there will be more immigrants trying to enter the United States. The United States’ efforts should be toward helping Mexico combat the war on drugs and taking responsibility for the drug demand. “Ignoring the sending country as an explanatory variable yields a sad sort of policy solipsism.” Bernard Trujillo, Mexican Families & United States Immigration Reform, 38 Fordham Urb. L.J. 415 (2010).
Kevin R. Johnson and Bernard Trujillo, 9/11 Five Years On: A Look At the Global Response to Terrorism: Immigration Reform, National Security After September 11, and the Future of North American Integration, 91 Minn. L. Rev. 1369 (2007).
Bernard Trujillo, Mexican Families & United States Immigration Reform, 38 Fordham Urb. L.J. 415 (2010).
Priscilla Puente-Chacon is a second-year law student at Valparaiso University School of Law and serves as NLLSA’s Public Relations Director.