Try to think of any other foreign entity – a country, terrorist group, or criminal group – that devastates our country as much as the Mexican cartels. They control our border – both sides of it – and have operatives in every state fueling the entire drug crisis, gangs, crime, and an endless flow of illegal immigrants who cause a massive fiscal drain and cultural transformation of our communities. Why have we gone to war with everyone but them? Will that change in light of the murder of Americans by the cartels?
It’s good that there is finally some media and policy focus on the Mexican cartels. Sadly, it came at the cost of an American family living in a Mormon community in Mexico. Three mothers of the LeBaron family were driving in three separate SUVs in two locations eight miles from each other in the Sonora province, just 50 miles from the international border with New Mexico, on Monday. Cartel gunmen opened fire on the three vehicles and then torched them, killing and burning the three mothers, as well as six children, including twin babies. Six other children were wounded, and there are reports some of them were initially kidnapped but managed to escape.
The president called for action against the cartels and implied he’d be willing to help Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) militarily against the cartels, a gesture that was rebuffed by the leftist president of Mexico. However, Trump can focus the fight on the cartels closer to home – at the border itself and in the interior of our country, where the cartels and their contractors are operating with impunity.
Here’s the reality of the cartels at the border that nobody realizes: They have created an entire business model on the premise that our government will not treat them as a hostile enemy. Were that to change, as powerful as the cartels seem today, they’d be crushed quite easily. Thus, Trump’s strategy should not hinge upon cooperation of AMLO and the Mexican military. We must seize control of our own destiny and at least protect our own country from the cartels.
To that end, here are five ideas the Trump administration should pursue:
1) Reorient the mission of Border Patrol and the military: The 9/11 commission staff reporton terrorism and travel warned that “no agency of the U.S. government thought of border security as a tool in the counterterrorism arsenal” and that even in 2004, it was “not considered a cornerstone of national security policy.” Sadly, that is still true today. Whether it’s the potential threat of Islamic terror, cartel terrorism that plagues our cities with drugs, gangs, and violence, or the espionage threat from the increasing presence of Chinese migrants, our State Department, Defense Department, and Department of Homeland Security still do not view our border as relative to our national security. That must change.
At present, CBP treats the border like a domestic law enforcement issue. This is why cartels can cross our border with impunity. As I’ve reported before, Border Patrol agents will not grab armed smugglers who have crossed our border and are an inch across the border in a belligerent posture as agents appear on the scene. They do not retaliate when shot at with automatic fire. The military is even worse. It is hamstrung from doing anything, and the cartels, knowing this fact, cross right in front of our troops.
The time has come for the military to be used at our border the way we use it to defend other borders. Our Founders envisioned a military for our own border, not for Afghanistan. Not enforcing immigration law or dealing with detainees, but holding the line right at the perimeter and striking hostile actions, whether through smuggling, drone espionage, or armed conflict. There is no reason the cartels should be operating scouts in Arizona’s mountains as deep as 70 miles into our territory. If we can’t secure our own soil, we are on our way to becoming like Mexico.
2) Shut off all immigration requests between ports of entry: We can’t have a global babysitting service operating in the middle of a war zone, especially when the cartels monetize that service for their operation. While the Trump administration is moving in this direction, there are still many people seeking status at the border. Trump must announce that until the cartels are neutralized, he is using his power under 212(f) of the INA to suspend all forms of immigration requests outside ports of entry. This will clear the field to fully counter the cartels, while also stripping them of their strategic distractions, source of revenue and drug smuggling, and ability to bring in a steady flow of contract gang members under the guise of “asylum” and “unaccompanied alien children” programs.
3) Designate the cartels as terrorists: The cartels need to be treated like al Qaeda with regard to apprehension within America, travel restrictions, prosecutions, and intelligence. Anything associated with them must be treated as an enemy. Part of why the war on drugs failed is because a war on an object doesn’t work. It’s not the drugs that are the problem, it’s the people. We need to stop this ambivalent treatment of the cartels. Trump can enact this tomorrow.
4) Declare war on sanctuary cities: It’s one thing to get drugs into the country one time; it’s quite another to operate a lucrative network in perpetuity without detection. Organized crime like drug trafficking and illegal immigration, which are interdependent, cannot succeed without political protection. There is clearly political protection at many levels, but one of the biggest is sanctuary cities. The Senate has not voted on a single sanctuary bill this year, and Democrats don’t feel the heat, even though 71 percent of liberal Tucson voters rejected sanctuary policies.
The real issue with the cartels is their ability to get their drugs and aliens reliably into the United States, then to market and realize a huge return in profit for their products. If they can’t get it to market, they can’t sell it, and they make no money. Sure, it is their reliable infrastructure that gets it across the border, which can be deterred by a military mindset at the border. But it is the people embedded inside the U.S. they trust to get it to market (and the money back), and it is shutting down that infrastructure that will stop this quicker and cleaner than anything else. Forget the war on the drugs, declare war on their infrastructure and keep the drugs from getting to market. There will always be drugs and addiction, but there is no reason they should be this ubiquitous and cheap if we actually enforced our laws.
5) Document cartel crimes and incidents: The FBI’s Uniform Crime Report is woefully outdated. It doesn’t capture the reality of 21st-century crimes, as cartel expert Jaeson Jones warned on my podcast last month. Jones helped command operations against the cartels as a captain in the Texas Department of Public Safety. He observed, “Our experience in Texas showed that you need data to drive the politicians to act. The outdated crime reporting needs to be updated to quantify cartel-related crimes. You’d be shocked at how many crimes that are reported as some domestic act are really external problems driven by the cartels.”
Indeed, El Mencho, the head of the Cartel Jalisco New Generacion (CJNG), is the most wanted man in the city of Chicago. According to the DEA’s 2018 threat assessment, the gangs contracting with Sinaloa and CJNG “are also responsible for a substantial portion of the city’s violent crime.” If our data actually quantified how much of the violence is driven by the cartels, it would dictate a change in policies.
The Trump administration can begin the fight against the cartels from our own turf. We have nobody to call on to bail out our own homeland. We are our only defenders.
Daniel Horowitz is a senior editor of Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @RMConservative.