That said, recent news has been filled with reports of drug violence in the north and in Acapulco, events which have Governor Perry and others talking about "spillover." But that's a misnomer, one which Jerry Brewer at Mexidata.info corrects:
The simple fact is that DTOs [Drug Trafficking Organizations] have been on U.S. soil for quite some time. They have established highly sophisticated smuggling infrastructures within the country. And for distribution they utilize, among others, U.S. street gangs, prison gangs, and outlaw motorcycle gangs. Much of this assimilation by Latin American gangs has been from within U.S. prison walls.Bingo. People don't get it. The Mexican Ambassador was dead right when he told the Houston Chronicle that Texas officials' statements about spillover are “disingenuous or naive.”
This idea that the border is some defensible wall, or ever could be, is a farcical myth. That's never been true and in the era of globalism, cannot be. There's too much cross-border trade and traffic, too many entangling business and family relationships. When DTO fighting begins to "spillover" into the United States, it probably won't be along the border but in Houston, Dallas, New Orleans, Phoenix, Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles - all the big-city transportation hubs where these organizations have deep, longstanding networks. And once they're underway, those wars will largely be fought by proxy; their local face will largely be that of homegrown gangs and crooks, not necessarily Spanish speaking Mexican capos. We will have finally met the enemy and it will be us.
“The term ‘spillover' would, at least in my eyes, seem to be a bit of a false dilemma,” [Ambassador Arturo] Sarukhan responded. “You speak of ‘spillover' as if you had the pristine waters of Alaska contaminated by the spill of the Exxon Valdez. That is, there was nothing there before the Exxon Valdez created the accident.
“To assume that in Texas there are no distribution networks, drug traffickers don't have safe houses, they don't have banks, they don't launder money, is disingenuous or naive at the least,” he told reporters and editors from the Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News. “So ‘spillover'? They're already there.”
With that in mind, any possible solution must recognize and embrace that interconnectedness instead of pretending we could ever become "Fortress America" and simply wall the border off. Anyone who has spent much time in border towns (before the last few years, anyway) knows that day-to-day life there is more tightly bound with folks across the river than outsiders know. Post-NAFTA, the rise of the maquiladora industry added a layer of daily business interconnectedness that includes many of America's largest companies.
The Fortress America crowd would demand that border communities sacrifice those relationships in the name of security, but the better approach is to leverage them. We've only seen hints of that possibility along the Texas border, where instead our leaders' focus has been on pork barrel politics and installing web cams so citizen volunteers could monitor stretches of wilderness for immigrants in their spare time. However, Andrew Selee, director of the Mexico Institute at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C., told the Dallas News' Alfredo Corchado that there may be another model to consider out of California in San Diego/Tijuana, where he said:
It was startling to see some of the cross-border cooperation going in between agencies in Tijuana and San Diego. Not just federal government agencies, but also city and county police departments, nongovernmental organizations, and business networks. It gave us hope. In Tijuana, they seem to have limited the role of the military to pursuing high-value targets and worked on strengthening courts and police to make it harder for criminal organizations to operate. I'm not sure that's the magic bullet, but it seemed like there were lessons there that might work well elsewhere along the border, especially in Juárez and some of the other cities along the Texas border.There are challenges to doing that in Juarez, where, for example, there's a good chance relying on local police would mean handing enforcement over to the control of a DTO that for many years had thoroughly corrupted them. (Officials say they've fired the corrupt officers - which was a large proportion of the force, but quien sabe?) Of course, that's sometimes also been true on the US side. Still, perhaps border cities and state officials on both sides of the river should look to the San Diego-Tijuana example for a more integrated approach, one that builds up local institutions instead of supersedes them?