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Mexican cartels exploit the US – Mexican immigration dilemma by forcing immigrants to smuggle drugs into the US as a way of payment for getting passage into the US. Multiple methods to stop the drug trade have been made, but no method has lasting effects. The Secretariado Ejecutivo del Sistema Nacional de Seguridad Publica (Executive Secretariat of the Nation System of Public Security) released the registered deaths for the country of Mexico relating to the drug wars the death count for 2016 was around 21,000 to 23,000 deaths. From 2007 to 2017 177,000 people were murdered. If the internal economics in Mexico are improved people would not need to migrate the US, a stable lifestyle would dissuade people from interacting with cartels and lesson the cartels hold on the border towns.
To start the essay, a brief background on how the drug cartel came to Mexico. Around the 1970s the Medellin drug cartel from Colombia came into power their main source of drugs was cocaine, Pablo Escobar was in charge of this organization. In 1993 Pablo Escobar was killed while fleeing from the police and the Cali cartel came into power. In the 1990s the Colombian drug cartels controlled more than 80% of drug sales into the U.S, but after the Cali cartel fell the Mexican cartels moved up the rank. The Sinaloa cartel led by “El Chapo” Joaquin Guzman was said to be the largest drug cartel in the world, it stayed in power till 2017 when El Chapo was imprisoned. The Gulf cartel didn’t gain control until the 1980s but they soon became the Sinaloa’s main rival. The Zetas are a splinter group from the Gulf cartel, they are known for their more ruthless tendencies. Mexico is a major producer of opium, the Congressional Research Service stated that Mexican poppy cultivation stood at 28,000 hectares in 2015 and 32,000 in 2016 and the production of methamphetamines continues to be high. Most of the drugs are smuggled through U.S. ports of entry via vehicles of any sort. Underground tunnels are also used in 2016 nine tunnels were discovered by the authorities, the DEA 2017 National drug threat assessment stated “October 2016 discovered a drug smuggling tunnel at an ice making business factory in the Tijuana airport, it connected to San Diego. Authorities seized 2,371 kilos of marijuana.” The use of drones has become an issue; the drones drop the drugs over the border for waiting hands. Drug trafficking via ocean is also common, the coast guard often seize drugs off the coast of Mexico.
The area of Mexico across the Rio Grande Valley is under the control of the Zetas. The Zetas have turned ‘what was once a relatively informal and somewhat familial underground operation coyotes into a highly sophisticated human trafficking network.” The Zetas are known as the most violent and take part in many other areas not just drug trade, they take part in kidnapping, murder, extortion, control of prisons, and human trafficking. There is no one specific drug that they smuggle it is a mix of cocaine, methamphetamines, marijuana, heroin, and oxycodone. Whatever drug is in demand they will supply. Immigrants attempting to cross the border must pay the coyote who is essentially the guide. Traditional coyotes would only take a small number of individuals, but drug cartels control the coyotes now and they have the means to transport larger capacities. Some coyotes offer a lower price to cross but they must take drugs others just demand they take the drugs or they will be killed. Rodolfo Luis an immigrant who attempted to cross the border said he was beaten and all his money was stolen that if he refused they would kill him.
The border patrol found him and he was eventually deported after all charges were dropped because he had shown the border patrol where he has placed the drops. The Zetas often times sacrifice groups of immigrants to border control as a charade to distract from the individuals who carry the drugs. Some immigrants who are caught do not want to be sent back home they believe the cartels will kill them. “Just kill me here so my family can claim my body because if you send me back, I know the narcos will kill me.” This reaction is common for the people caught because they know whatever the US authorities do, the cartels will be worse. The drug cartels are not just using these immigrants as drug mules but also in human trafficking and organ trade. Many immigrants from Central America travel through Mexico to get the U.S. and cartels take advantage to all these displaced people. Eric Olson the deputy director for Latin America at the Wilson Center said, that “human smugglers aiming for the U.S. frontier can charge as much as $10,000 per head. They take the migrants money then kidnap them, sell them into sexual bondage or demand a ransom for release.” They assume they will be getting legitimate work once in the U.S. but are forced into prostitution or labor camps where their livelihoods are controlled so there is no escape. Cartels extort local businesses with a tax typically saying it’s for protection. Organ sales on the black market have been one method for the cartels to make money they kidnap mainly immigrant children who are trying to cross the border by themselves and harvest their organs for black markets. Some children are recruited to join the cartels, they are offered protection.
Another leading factor that makes it easier for cartels to operate is the level of corruption in the Mexican police force and government. Border patrol, police officers, government officials are bought off by the cartels to look the other way. “In August 2010 federal police dismissed 3,200 officers for corruption charges and another 140 federal police officers in April 2011.” It is easy to see where immigrants can fall through the cracks of the system if the officials that are supposed to protect its people are in line with the cartels that see immigrants as a way to make a profit. Criminological theories that could deter people from participating in the drug trade would be general deterrence theory which is the use of punishment to stop potential criminals from committing crimes. Cesare Beccaria, a criminologist, stated that people look at the risks and rewards before breaking the law. When the punishment for committing a crime is seen as inconsequential the criminal will commit the crime, but if the punishment is too high this will deter the criminal from taking action. Deterrence theory could be applied to those who take part in the drug trade; maybe if the penalty of the crime was increased it would deter others. Bounded rationality “bounded by the lack of time, information or ability to work out consequences, by the practical need for rules of thumb in decision-making. These limitations in rationality operate behind our backs and can inhibit accurate utility-calculation and choices of behavior to achieve this.”
Immigrants trying to get to the U.S. may not know of any other option to get into the U.S. and their rationale is skewed by this lack of knowledge, so education programs should be put into place for immigrants so they know their options. Situational crime prevention theory analyzes the problem to understand the all the factors that led to crime occurring. Solutions to the factors are put into place; this should reduce crime by not allowing an opportunity for it to arise. Situational crime prevention main focus is the cutting off opportunities to commit crimes rather than harsh punishment. Social bond theory was created by Travis Hirschi in 1960 it states that individuals personal relationships and experiences with the community has taught them the social norms of the community to keep them from acting in any way that would be seen as deviant or criminal. People may have a more difficult time taking part in any carte business or becoming a drug mule if the community were to condemn all involvement with the drug cartels, but since joining cartels or taking part in some degree is normal it is difficult to find other solutions.
The methods to best stop the exploitation of immigrants would be to improve the economics of Mexico so the cartels cannot gain any footing in the border towns. If locals can have a feasible way of sustaining life cartels will have less hold. Also if people have a stable income that they can live off of, less people will try to migrate to the U.S. meaning there will be less people for the cartels to exploit. Finding ways to freeze or seize cartels assets, cartels are businesses and they have a large amount of cash which gives them power; if this can be seized they will lose some of their control. Controlling U.S. drug use would also have an impact of the Mexican cartels, the U.S. is one of the largest buyers of drugs if this was addressed the cartels market would be smaller. The Merida Initiative was created 2007 when the Mexican president Calderon asked for U.S. assistance to combat drugs and violence, Mexico would cover crime and corruption and the U.S. would cover domestic drug use. Merida had four sections; disrupting organized crime groups, reform laws and protect human rights, create 21st century border, and building strong communities. While the Merida Initiative has had some success it still needs outside funding to be able to progress further. The United Nations has set up shelters along the route immigrants take to the U.S. they provide food, water, shelter, medical aid, they educate the immigrants on their rights, and how to seek asylum. They also alert authorities to unaccompanied children.
As you can see from the essay there is no one solution to the issue, but with the multiple programs put into place such as the United Nation shelters, Merida Initiative, and a focus on the internal issues maybe the cartels hold will be stemmed. If the Mexican government can improve daily life for its citizens the cartels won’t be able to exploit the people.
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