Prisons are surrounded by multiple high barbed-wire walls, a no-man's land between walls, turrets with armed guards, stadium-size lighting, ground sensors for would-be tunnel diggers and 24/7 armed guards. Visitors are searched and pass through metal-detection equipment. In high security prisons, visitors are kept away from inmates talking only by a hand-held phone with glass window in between.
With all the walls and security, drugs are readily available in prisons.
So maybe Congressmen Brian Bilbray and Duncan D. Hunter can explain if drugs can't be kept out of walled and fully secured prisons, how will a 2,000-mile wall and several divisions of military personnel keep drugs out of the country? In part, they say, the problem is Mexican corruption, and of course there is much truth to that. But we must then address that drug smuggling into prisons can only be accomplished through corruption, and once drugs cross into the United States en route to destinations, there must also be corruption at some levels within the United States. Why do they not address these issues?
Will demand for illicit drugs vanish by keeping them from coming through the U.S.-Mexico border? Can we then declare victory over the drug war?
Before Mexico's drug war escalated to the point it has, Bilbray and former Congressman Duncan L. Hunter, whose son, Duncan D. Hunter, inherited his seat on retirement, insisted the wall was needed to stop illegal immigrants, suggesting that would solve the illegal immigration problem, which of course it hasn't. Then after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, it was to keep both illegal immigrants and terrorists out. Now it has changed to stopping drugs and the spillover of Mexico's bloody war on drugs.
Both cheap labor and illicit drugs coming from Mexico are based on demand – so that if demand is not stopped, how then is the supply to be stopped? Surely then, they must believe that a border wall and military deployment will stop the demand. If they don't believe this, why then are they asking taxpayers to throw away several billion dollars on such an ill-advised project?
True nonpartisan, nonpolitical experts on immigration issues have concluded that to stop the torrent of illegal border crossers, the demand for their services must be stopped. And these same experts advise that the nation needs immigration reform, not fences and border military personnel.
And the experts conclude that stopping demand and providing drug treatment to addicts and education to our young are what will stop smuggling and local production of serious quantities of illicit drugs.
But there are those who suggest that drug usage is a given that cannot be stopped. If this is the case, then it must also be a given that drug smuggling and local production cannot be stopped.
Without addressing usage, attempts at stopping drug smuggling and domestic production and drug dealing are doomed to failure regardless of how much money and human resources are dedicated to the task.
Until recently and only after President Felipe Calderón of Mexico voiced his displeasure at the United States not doing enough to stop gun smuggling into Mexico and drug usage in the United States, did Washington take notice as did U.S. media.
U.S. media have dedicated reporting almost exclusively to the bloody battles fought in Mexico between drug gangs seeking smuggling corridor monopolies into the United States and to the Mexican military's and law enforcement's gun battles and casualties, and of course the ever present reporting on Mexican corruption.
Recently, the secondary reporting has been on the potential spillover of violence into the United States. But little attention or just in passing is it mentioned that the war was fueled by U.S. drug usage due to the billions of dollars our market represents.
Has such reporting stopped usage or spared one life in Mexico? Have drug cartels taken notice and scaled down their viciousness and atrocities? Have gun-selling profiteers stopped selling? There is no indication that it has.
The one thing that such reporting has done, however, is that it has devastated the economy of all Mexican border cities and regions largely dependent on U.S. tourism, creating massive unemployment and economic chaos as is readily visible in Tijuana, Rosarito Beach and Ensenada.
All members of San Diego's congressional delegation should stress to their district's citizens the necessity of stamping out illicit drug usage, not once, not twice, but as many times as it takes to get the attention of all San Diegans as to the real danger our entire region faces. And it would certainly be a good step forward for the region's media to follow suit.
Patrick Osio, Jr. is a Co-founder and Editor and Columnist for HispanicVista.com - an Internet public interest publication since 1997. Patrick since 1996, writes a monthly column, The Connection, for the San Diego Metropolitan Magazine (more...