Yesterday, the administration announced a new “border czar” and a raft of new and ongoing border security initiatives to battle the smuggling cartels.
It still not clear what the scope of the czar’s authority will be and how he will interface with all the folks working on the border. So, it is too soon to tell the impact the appointment will have. On the other hand, we can map out right now what the essential elements of good strategy for dealing with the cartels should look like. They would include the following.
The administration can’t fight cartels and ignore illegal immigration—people smuggling is part of the problem not a separate issue. The more people crossing unlawfully, the more border assets can’t focus on the transnational criminals. Homeland Security has to fight both.
Legalization will only make matters worse. Granting the people here illegally amnesty will only encourage more illegal border crossing. Likewise, failing to enforce workplace and immigration laws will only encourage more to ignore the law.
The fight has to go beyond the border. Just adding inspections on people heading south is not going to work. Homeland Security will inconvenience everyone but the smugglers who don’t care if some of their loads get caught and will seek alternative means to cross the border.
On the US side there has to be a robust integrated response of federal, state, and local law enforcement at the regional level (meshing with is going on in California, Arizona, Texas, and New Mexico) that targets the cartel and transnational gang networks. We don’t need to send the National Guard en masse to the border.
At the local level we need more community policing that targets criminal elements in the border communities. That means more support and assistance for border county sheriff departments; more programs like ICE ACESS; and more Homeland Security and Justice grants focused on border law enforcement.
To the extent that the “border czar” helps implement these tasks he will make a positive contribution. He might want start by reading a paper by my colleague Jena Baker McNeill on 15 Steps to Better Border Security.