Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu has staked his political career on winning the battle against illegal immigration. Unfortunately, he’s used fictional tales, exaggerations and inaccurate statistics to make his case. But this week the sheriff took a new approach in his dialogue on immigration and wrote about solutions beyond border enforcement.
The article the sheriff wrote was in response to a recent exposé by the Arizona Republic questioning many of the sheriff’s statements on trafficking and crime related statistics. The sheriff did a commendable job of spinning the article by focusing on a whole new set of statistics instead of addressing the inaccuracies found in the report.
But beyond the typical sound bites claiming we must choose between border enforcement and amnesty, the sheriff brought up a valid point in the debate on security — helping Mexico in its war against the drug cartels.
This is a topic with little traction but one that should be a major focus in immigration reform. As the sheriff pointed out, Mexico is not our enemy but rather our neighbor. We share not just a border but also a vested interest in eliminating the drug cartels and the violence that accompanies it.
So why are we doing so little to help Mexico in the fight against the drug cartels?
Part of the problem lies in our resistance to clamping down on illegal gun trafficking. Arizona, regrettably, does a great deal to contribute to this problem. With the loosest gun laws in the nation combined with our close proximity to Mexico, we are a haven for gunrunners.
If politicians such as Sheriff Babeu, Senator McCain and Governor Brewer are truly serious about taking on the drug cartels and securing Arizona’s borders, then they should be the first to deny the NRA from influencing policy meant to track gunrunners and expose businesses and individuals involved in illegal gun sales. They should be the first to demand additional resources to stop these practices and the first to work toward ending registry loopholes.
Another part of the problem lies in our resistance to getting involved in yet another country’s affairs. We are already involved in several wars, and Americans are tired of spending billions of dollars to police the world. But Mexico isn’t just another country half way around the world. It happens to be one of our top trading partners and our second largest export market. And the drug cartel isn’t just their problem. Many believe it is only a matter of time before the violence in Mexico spills over, and we are forced to take a more active role. If we wait much longer, we could be in for a very costly conflict.
Last month, U.S. Representative Michael McCaul of Texas introduced a bill to add six of Mexico’s drug cartels onto the State Department’s Foreign Terrorists Organizations list. One would hope this type of move would mean increased resources toward fighting the cartels as well as stricter penalties for those convicted of aiding them, namely those who traffic weapons and launder money.
No doubt those who have benefited from the drug trade, including special interest groups and American businesses, will resist any attempt to put restrictions on their livelihoods. Do doubt politicians will be fiercely lobbied to prevent any type of meaningful reform meant to track those who aid the cartels. It will be up to our current crop of politicians to resist the urge to cave to the interests and dollars attached to those groups. Let’s hope they have the will to do so.
When it comes to our southern border, the biggest threat to our country isn’t the flow of immigrants coming across it but rather the trafficking of humans and drugs. If we could make ending trafficking the focus of our efforts, we might actually find a way to come together on this debate and provide safety and humanity on both sides of the border.