Despite plenty of bumps and bruises along the way, the Department of Homeland Security says that it now has a viable, sustainable, affordable plan for using a mix of technology and border patrol agents to provide security along the southern and northern borders. Note that I didn’t say absolute security—DHS and Border Patrol officials will be the first to tell you that perfect security along the border is a chimera not worth chasing, even with the addition of National Guard troops along the southern border.
As a matter of fact, those 1,200 troops sent by president Obama last year are scheduled to leave in June of this year, to be replaced by 1,000 new Border Patrol agents. Speaking at a border security symposium Monday morning in Washington, David Aguilar, deputy commissioner of the Customs and Border Protection, called the National Guard deployment a “bridge” to growing the Border Patrol and getting new technologies in the field.
If the growth in the number of officers on the ground and the new commercial off the shelf technologies work the way the government envisions—leading to some high-traffic smuggling routes being choked off—Aguilar predicts that the problem will simply move rather than disappear, just as it did in the 80s and 90s from the Caribbean to Mexico as the point of transit north. Aguilar sees the next drug smuggling battleground being in the littoral waters along the Gulf Coast and along the Pacific coast. He said that the Department of Homeland Security is working through the Coast Guard to prepare for such a future.
But reducing drug smuggling, cross-border gun running, money laundering, and illegal immigration must come from some serious cross-border coordination said K. Jack Riley, director, RAND National Defense Research Institute. He said that Mexico’s “fractured law enforcement and security service” and “tremendous command and control problems” need to be addressed with more American help, but this assistance shouldn’t be relegated to technology transfers.
Over the last decade the U.S. has done a pretty good job of helping Mexico with technology such as helicopters and surveillance systems, but what we haven’t done enough of is to “engage with them in institution building and capacity” development, in an effort to assist with programs the Mexican government already has in place to clean up and reform an often corrupt and ineffective Mexican police force.
Mexican officials were in Washington on Monday to defend the conduct of its war on drug cartels before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, part of the Organization of American States. Mexico’s under-secretary for Juridical Affairs and Human Rights, Felipe de Jesus Zamora, squared off with representatives from 18 aid groups who criticized the conduct of Mexican security forces.
While Zamora claimed that his government is conducting the fight “with strict respect for human rights,” Carlos Karin Zazueta of Citizens in Support of Human Rights told the organization that the war on the cartels is failing, since “violence, the murder rate and citizen insecurity have skyrocketed.” Complaints about human rights abuses by Mexican security forces have been well documented, and are something that the United States can help with, if it decides to focus on training, and capacity building.
Pic: National Guard