BNHFH5 About 40 illegal immigrants move through the Sonoran Desert north of the Mexican border southeast of Sells, Arizona, USA. Image shot 2009. The exact date is unknown.
Guest post by Antonio Graceffo
The U.S. southern border is currently in chaos, with crisis-levels of illegal immigrants and asylum seekers crossing on a daily basis. Several Republican-led states have deployed their National Guard to secure the border, while Washington has sent federal officers to keep it open.
The Biden regime’s loose policies on immigration and asylum seekers encourage illegal immigration and human trafficking, as desperate people from Latin America, and as far away as the Middle East, China, and Africa see a path to residency or citizenship in the U.S. despite having entered illegally.
The open border is promoting human trafficking, a business now dominated by the same cartels flooding the U.S. with drugs.
The more business lines the cartels have, the more money they make; the more weapons they can buy, and the more political power they can exert. As the financial stakes increase, rival cartels also want to cash in, and turf wars erupt.
The resulting violence is destabilizing Latin America, preventing economic development, decreasing the standard of living, increasing insecurity, and encouraging illegal immigration to the U.S.
Liberals in the United States argue that legalizing drugs would decrease crime domestically and eliminate the influence of cartels, thereby contributing to stability in Latin America.
This viewpoint finds resonance among left-leaning leaders in the region, exemplified by Mexico’s President, Andrés Manuel López Obrador. He called for drug legalization in the U.S. rather than assuming responsibility for his own inability to bring cartels to heel.
An often-cited argument in favor of open borders, particularly concerning narcotrafficking, posits that U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) predominantly seizes drugs at legal ports of entry, often carried by U.S. citizens.
Consequently, proponents argue that non-citizens crossing illegally are not a significant part of the problem. However, this conclusion is deemed preposterous as the quantity of seized drugs provides no insight into the actual quantity that successfully enters the country.
Moreover, seizures are naturally more frequent at legal points of entry, where individuals tend to be citizens or legal residents. If anything, these statistics should underscore the importance of limiting entry into the U.S. to legal ports and individuals who are citizens or legal residents, facilitating more effective drug detection and the apprehension of smugglers.
Apart from open borders, liberals argue for legalization. The basic economic argument for legalization is that if drugs were legal, the price would come down. With a lower price, drug gangs and drug crime in the U.S. would decrease, while the cartels would be driven out of business, and Latin American governments would be able to regain control of their countries, promoting economic development.
This, in turn, would remove the impetus for illegal immigration to the United States. But this line of reasoning misses from crucial points.
From an economic standpoint, price is a function of supply and demand. The experience in countries such as Britain has been that legalization increased demand. In the U.S., states that have legalized or decriminalized marijuana have not only seen an increase in marijuana use disorder and cannabis production but also an increase in the use of hard drugs, as well as deaths from opioids and fentanyl. An increase in demand correlates with higher prices for drugs.
On the domestic front, it is true that there would be fewer incarcerations for drug offenses if drugs were legalized. This is also true for theft, murder, rape, or any other activity that is currently illegal.
Legalizing these actions would decrease the arrests and incarcerations. However, the decreased incarceration rate would not correspond to a reduction in incidence.
Cities like Philadelphia and Portland, which are notoriously lax on enforcement, have become unlivable, while the crime statistics remain stable. When enforcement is lacking or there is a decline in guilty verdicts, the official crime rate becomes disconnected from the actual incidence of crime.
This brings us back to the border and the cartels. Much of the distribution of drugs in the U.S., as well as a great deal of the drug-related crime and violence, is carried out by street gangs that have ties to the Mexican cartels.
Some of the illegal aliens and trafficked persons become street-level dealers and soldiers for these gangs. The economic argument for the legalization of drugs is that legalization would reduce crime because legal drugs would be cheaper than illegal drugs. The lower prices would then drive out the criminal elements and reduce gang-related violence.
An example of this is alcohol, which was sold illegally by criminal gangs during Prohibition. While there is some production of illegal alcohol, “moonshine,” today, it is much less common than it was during Prohibition.
With drugs, however, after legalization, the black market continues to thrive. With drugs, the price goes up with legalization. Legal drugs have to be tested and approved and are sold by licensed distributors. All of these steps add cost to legal drugs.
Apart from gang and cartel crime, crimes related to illegal drugs stem from the fact that addicts are unable to work, and drugs are expensive; thus, they commit crimes to support their habits. Neither of these factors would change if drugs were legalized.
If drugs were legal in the United States, cocaine and heroin would still have to come from outside of the US because they cannot be grown domestically. This task would naturally fall to the Latin American cartels and transnational narcotrafficking organizations that already control production.
The profit motive would still exist, which will continue to fuel cartel violence and turf wars. Ongoing cartel violence would continue to destabilize the governments of Latin America, fueling illegal immigration.
Maintaining the illegality of drugs would curb the potential surge in demand that legalization might trigger. Closing the border would pose obstacles for cartels attempting to export drugs to the United States.
Strengthening immigration and asylum regulations would remove incentives for illegal entry into the U.S., subsequently reducing the demand for human trafficking.
If liberals and figures like Mexican President Obrador contend that severing cartels’ revenues could empower Latin American governments to regain control, halting the influx of drugs into the United States—coupled with reducing demand through the prohibition of drugs—would prove beneficial for these nations, as well as the U.S.
Dr. Antonio Graceffo, PhD, China MBA, is an economist and national security analyst with a focus on China and Russia. He is a graduate of American Military University.
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