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Not another ‘war on drugs?’
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La Casa Blanca welcomed El Presidente and the First Lady of México to the United States with great pomp and circumstance. Presidente Felipe Calderón, was welcomed as an important friend and ally of our country. There were honor guards, special luncheons, and of course, the highlight, a state dinner hosted by President Barrack Obama and First Lady Michele in the East Room of the White House.


But beyond the all of the hype and ceremony, tough policy issues face both nations as we look to confront not only the immigration reform issues, but perhaps more importantly, the issue of drugs, trafficking, and weapons.


It is no secret that the drug cartels in México are at war not only between one another, but against the government in their attempts to meet the ever growing illicit drug demand in the United States. While most of the most violent and inhumane crimes against humanity have been committed in México, a growing trend of violent drug related crimes are spilling over the border into cities and towns along the border.


In addressing the drug problem, President Obama made it clear that his administration would work “to stem the southbound flow of American guns and money” and to once again work on “new approaches to reducing the demand for drugs in our country.”


In order to focus on the drug war going on in México, efforts to decrease the American demand for those drugs coming from México must be addressed. The “just say no” mentality of yesteryear isn’t working and demand for Mexican drugs on the street corners across América continues to grow.


There is no doubt, President Felipe Calderón listened with intense interest as President Obama spoke of making the Mexican drug war a priority for law enforcement on this side of the border.


President Obama, as he pledged he would increase pressure on criminal drug gangs that “traffic in drugs, guns, and people,” voiced American determination to stop the flow of drugs from Mexican drug cartels.


The violence in México which has caused thousands of innocent people to become victims can be traced to the American drug demand. This demand has created a culture of violence by drug cartels as they seek to distribute and sell their drugs in the USA.


This time we must not permit law enforcement in the USA to get involved in losing another “war on drugs.” Words alone will not stop the flow of “American guns and money” to México. This time, it is going to take more than slogans, cliché’s, and political rhetoric to fight this war on drugs.


While the debate on immigration reform has focused and often stalled on the one issue of “amnesty,” the drug violence caused by the Mexican drug cartels and American demand for drugs must also be addressed in any comprehensive immigration reform package.


When border issues are debated, it centers on the fact that “too many illegal immigrants are crossing the border undetected.” The reality is that too many shipments of illicit drugs are coming across the border undetected in huge amounts to meet the ever growing American demand for drugs.


In order to meet the pledge made by President Obama to join the war against criminal gangs with Presidente Calderón, it is going to take a major policy change for the Obama Administration. It is going to take a concerted by this President to put his words into action via a new policy for his border law enforcement agencies.


Right now, the Obama Administration has misplaced priorities when it comes to border security. The American Immigration Council believes policy makers must make a distinction in any comprehensive immigration reform package between undocumented immigrants crossing the border and the drug induced violence of the drug cartels. “But cracking down on unauthorized immigrants in the United States is not going to diminish violence in border communities because unauthorized immigrants aren't the perpetrators, criminal cartels are.”


The Chief Justice Earl Warren Institute on Race, Ethnicity and Diversity just completed a study, “Assembly Line Justice: A Review of Operation Streamline.” Operation Streamline is a Bush era policy still in effect that has in fact created a paradox for American policy makers responsible for securing the border.


“Operation Streamline requires the federal criminal prosecution and imprisonment of all unlawful border crossers. The program, which mainly targets migrant workers with no criminal history, has caused skyrocketing caseloads in many federal district courts along the border. This Warren Institute study demonstrates that Operation Streamline diverts crucial law enforcement resources away from fighting violent crime along the border, fails to effectively reduce undocumented immigration, and violates the U.S. Constitution.”


In other words, if President Obama is pledging to reprioritize American law enforcement efforts, Homeland Security and the Border Patrol will need to put their resources to work on curtailing human trafficking and putting a stop to the drug shipments slipping over the border undetected. This will be no easy task.


Right now, the federal government is creating federal criminals out of simple border crossers who have no criminal histories. As the Warren Institute study points out, “By focusing court and law enforcement resources on the prosecution of first-time entrants, Operation Streamline also diverts attention away from fighting drug smuggling, human trafficking, and other crimes that create border violence.”


It is time to reevaluate Operation Streamline and synchronize the policy with the Obama initiative to stem the flow of weapons and money to México. The Warren Institute Study calls for a complete change in policy by the Obama Administration.


“The program channels law enforcement funding and attention toward


the apprehension and prosecution of low-level offenders, rather than focusing on the crimes that create border violence, including human trafficking and drug smuggling. As petty immigration prosecutions have increased in the border district courts, drug prosecutions have declined.”


It is time to target the drug cartels and the violence caused by the illicit drug traffic demand. If law enforcement target drug cartels who have little or no regard for who gets hurt or killed, as drug related homicides in México have increased year after year, we truly can expect a war on drugs.


The Warren Institute study makes it clear the present policy must be changed. “Operation Streamline does not target drug traffickers and human smugglers but rather migrants who are coming to this country in search of employment or to reunite with family.”


It is time for President Obama to change our present enforcement policy on border security and go after the real criminals, the criminals with weapons, money, and determination to sell their drugs in our country.


Fidel “Butch” Montoya serves as Director of H.S. Power and Light Ministries.


© 2010 The Weekly Issue/El Semanario






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