Imagine you are a drug lord in Mexico, making unfathomable profits sending your illegal product to the United States. What is the headline you fear the most? “U.S. to build bigger fence”? “U.S. to send troops to the border”? “U.S. to deploy tanks in El Paso”? No. None of those would give you much pause. They would simply raise the level of difficulty and perhaps cause you to escalate the violence that already has turned the border region into a war zone. But would they stop you or ultimately hurt your bottom line? Probably not.Governor Rick Perry, of course, is one of those who has most vociferously misconstrued the border problem in the fashion Johnson critiques, conflating immigration issues and and drug violence in a sort of hazy, mostly fact-free fear mongering. Continued Johnson:
But what if that drug lord opened his newspaper and read this: “U.S. to legalize and regulate marijuana”? That would ruin his day, and ruin it in a way that could not be fixed with more and bigger guns, higher prices or more murder.
As a Republican presidential candidate, especially one who served as governor of a border state, I hear a lot from people - all across the country - about the crisis along our border with Mexico. People are often surprised when they hear me say that the “border problem” is generally misconstrued and widely blamed on the wrong things.
having lived most of my life in New Mexico, done business there for decades and served two terms as governor, I will say with great confidence that just about everything we are doing to deal with “border issues” is wrong.Perry and Johnson will clash directly over these topics when the GOP primary debates ramp up in earnest. It's incredibly rare these days that I could honestly say I'm "looking forward" to a presidential debate, but I must say I'll want to watch that. Relatedly, via Drug War Rant, check out this remarkable Gary Johnson campaign ad, which hews closely to a traditional conservative value set but reaches a rather astonishing polcy conclusion:
First, inflamed by politicians who have chosen to use illegal immigration as the ultimate wedge issue, far too many people see a connection between a lack of so-called border security and border violence. Let us be clear:
The border war is not an immigration problem - illegal or otherwise - and even if it were, fences and troops would not solve it. If anything, the crackdown measures of recent years, while doing little or nothing to address illegal immigration, have had the unintended consequence of upping the ante for the cartels trying to move drugs across that same border, resulting in greater crime and violence.
Immigration is a different issue - and one that must be addressed not with fences, but with a system for legal entry and temporary work visas that works. Real border security is knowing who is coming here and why.
Border violence, on the other hand, is a prohibition problem. Just as we did for Al Capone and his murderous colleagues 90 years ago, our drug laws have created the battlefield on which tens of thousands are dying. By doggedly hanging onto marijuana laws that make criminals out of our children while our leaders proudly consume wine at state dinners, we have created an illegal marketplace with such mind-boggling profits that no enforcement measures will ever overcome the motivation, resources and determination of the cartels.
RELATED: From the Texas Tribune, "Selling the high price of border security."