As Donald Trump was running for office as President of the United States, he promised the construction of a border wall between the United States and Mexico. Throughout those discussions and bold pronouncements, Trump insisted that a border wall would help keep drug trafficking from Mexico out of the United States. But in reality, while we do need to find ways to reduce drug trafficking from Mexico, a border wall would not be all that efficient in that regard.
According to federal reports garnered from Border Patrol debriefs, most Mexican drug cartels bring their drugs in through ports of entry or official crossings, not simply over the border and out in the wilderness, as we are often led to believe. This is how the vast majority of drugs are brought over into the United States. They might be smuggled through in eighteen-wheelers, cars, boats, and even in peoples’ bodies. And furthermore, Border Patrol is notorious for accepting bribes to look the other way when a particularly obvious or noticeable shipment is coming through.
Since 2007, the number of immigrants who overstayed their visas after entering the United States legally has far outpaced the number of immigrants who entered the country illegally. A wall would not stop Mexican immigrants from entering the country legally on a visa, and it wouldn’t stop them from bringing drugs with them too if they chose to.
According to a 2017 report by the Drug Enforcement Agency’s annual National Threat Assessment, Mexican transnational criminal organizations are the “Greatest criminal threat to the country” at this time. The report goes on to indicate that:
Drug cartels in Mexico also send drugs over the border with drones, catapults, cannons, and through the mail. A wall won’t stop any of those methods either. Obviously, those who want to get drugs from Mexico to the U.S. have multiple methods and innovative processes at their disposal to accomplish just that, many methods of which would not be deterred by building a wall.
There is also bribery too, an increasingly concerning problem at the U.S.-Mexico border. The U.S. Border Patrol force has more than quadrupled in the last twenty-five years, and not every Border Patrol officer is entirely true to his or her job and integrity. While it is difficult to estimate, Border Patrol reports indicate an increasing number of border patrol agents taking bribes to allow illegals and drugs into the U.S.
Yet another problem here is the phenomena where drug cartels agree to help a migrant cross the border, but only if the migrant smuggles a backpack full of drugs with him or her. In this scenario, individuals who want to cross have the help and support of different drug cartels which control certain territories near the border, but the stakes are higher as the immigrants are now smuggling drugs over the border as well as themselves. They will get into far more trouble if they are caught.
Obviously, there are a lot of factors to consider here. In reality, the trafficking issue is a lot more extensive than we previously thought it was, and the ways and means by which trafficking occurs are a lot more diverse than we once imagined them to be. Apparently, the traditional thought process of trafficking or illegal immigration (i.e. Mexican drug smugglers racing through the open countryside trying to cross the border without getting caught) is not the only way by a long shot in which this is done.
Now let’s take a look at what does work and what is cost-effective in preventing drug trafficking. One expert who was an old trafficker-turned aide to the Border Patrol said that:
He was speaking in regards to the rapidly climbing cocaine use statistics in the United States, a trend that just began to climb last year for the first time in over ten years. Basically, as long as Americans want drugs, Mexican drug cartels will get them into the country.
So the first thing that we can do is reduce the demand for drugs in the United States. People need to know the risks at hand with taking drugs, and what is really on the line here, i.e. their lives.
Another approach would be to improve relations with Mexico and Central America. Ninety percent of the heroin in the U.S. comes from Mexico, whereas only twenty percent originated from there in 2005. Mexico doesn’t want heroin trafficking any less than we do, so working with them in reducing the shared problem would be ideal.
One expert admitted that building a wall might help somewhat, but not nearly in a way that is cost-effective:
Ultimately, we can’t forget that this is a multifaceted problem, a problem that is not going to go away by only building a very, very expensive wall.