While we are still fighting wars in the Middle East for somewhat nebulous reasons and no clear idea of our goals, the nation on our own southern border, Mexico, is in the midst of what might as well be called a civil war, with 7,000 deaths in the last 16 months, including high officials in its federal government, as well as town mayors and police chiefs, some of whom have sought political asylum in the U.S.
The Obama administration has announced a kind of token response on the border, but as I understand it, they are pulling immigration personnel from out of our interior to do so, conveniently letting the enforcement of the hiring of illegals slide as a sop to those who for some strange reason support the underground economy of illegal aliens, many of whom come from Spanish speaking nations to the south, most notably Mexico.
While some of the illegal migrants have gone back south because of the higher unemployment numbers in the USA, they face a problem in their homeland because their government is still corrupt after all these years, but it is trying to fight off drug lords, some of whom employ paramilitary against the Mexican soldiers and police.
Meanwhile, the violence is spilling across the border and is reaching into our northern cities, such as Chicago. Much of it involves illegals fighting over drug disputes, but sometimes hapless illegals, maybe not involved in the drug trade, get caught in the crossfire or become victims of kidnapings and ransom schemes, another popular line of work for criminals south of the border.
Mixed in with all this somehow is an ongoing dispute between Mexico and the United States over a North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) program to allow a limited number of Mexican trucks to be able to cross the border and have a run of our country. Congress cancelled funding for the program recently, but the Obama administration has indicated it might resume the program in the future.
In retaliation, Mexico, one of our top trading partners, has applied tariffs on 90 U.S. products. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is in Mexico to smooth things over in the dispute and to promise the President Felipe Calderon administration there that the U.S. will help it in its fight against the drug cartels. And amidst all this, a Mexican defense official has warned the U.S. against any military incursions into his country (ala the Mexican-American War of the 1840s and the chase after Pancho Villa in the 1920s, I would suppose).
The truck program was cancelled in part supposedly over safety concerns, but probably also because the Teamster’s Union, a supporter of Democrats, was worried about the loss of American jobs.
Now before you go thinking I think this was a bad thing, think again. I was a trucker and as things stand I don’t think Mexican trucks should be allowed past our border. And I know something – not everything – about this subject, because as I said I was a trucker (and never a Teamster member) and furthermore I dealt with the border trucking scenario and know the landscape (my experience was at Nogales, Az. and Otay Mesa, Ca., and San Diego, Ca.).
Now first you need to know that our northern neighbor Canada runs its trucks throughout the U.S.
But the Canada/U.S. situation is nothing like what we face with Mexico.
A U.S. trucker can cross the border into Canada and go just about anywhere.
On the other hand, American trucks do not cross into Mexico and who would want to?
Canada is a civilized nation with the rule of law (probably more so than the USA, in some respects).
Mexico is highly corrupt (despite the efforts to clean things up by Calderon) with the bribes and intimidation as a standard operating procedure in business and law enforcement and everyday life there.
I once talked to a Mexican trucker and he told me that when he drove in his country there were no truck scales. But a policeman might stop a truck out on a lonely stretch of highway and decide supposedly by eyeballing a truck that it was overloaded and assess the fine and pocket it on the spot.
Who in their right mind would take their truck south of the border?
And working down on the border where my loads were transloaded into Mexican rigs, I got to see some of the wrecks they run up and down the highway. While not all USA trucks are up to par, many of the trucks the Mexicans use would not pass the same inspections USA trucks are given.
While they were running the pilot program allowing Mexican trucks in, I believe I saw some pretty questionable rigs running up and down our highways. I do not believe that these trucks were subjected to the same standards as USA trucks, probably due to political considerations.
Another problem is that while Canadian truckers speak English (and yes I know some of them speak French too), many of the Mexican truckers do not (they can’t even read our road signs).
(In the interests of fair play and full disclosure, I should note that some USA-licensed drivers, some of them from Eastern Europe, do not speak English. I actually watched one of these guys at a warehouse once and the freight receivers could not communicate with him. They had to make hand signals and lead him around and show him what to do with his paper work.)
And you have to understand that once you let an over-the-road truck over the border, it goes all over. It may deliver its original load into the country from Mexico at one place, but then haul other loads within the country between cities and only return to Mexico after hauling several loads.
If Mexico had actual law and order and was not corrupt, and if their truck safety standards and practices were better, it might well have a valid argument that its trucks should be allowed into our country and in turn we could also operate in Mexico.
It is unfortunate to have a dispute with Mexico because it is one of our top trading partners, but realities have to be accepted.
And back to the turmoil in Mexico. I don’t know why it has been downplayed. It threatens Mexico and it also threatens our own security.
Part of the problem is that the U.S. offers such a good market for the south-of-the-border drug cartels. Personal guns are illegal in Mexico, so guns from the U.S., to include high powered assault rifles and other powerful weapons, are basically traded from the north for the drugs from the south.
Combating the drug trade is a tough problem that we have not ever solved in the USA. I find calls to simply “legalize” illicit drugs to be dubious at best (and that was not some kind of marijuana pun – doobie is it?).
But meanwhile I don’t think we should tolerate cross border incursions, be they illegal aliens looking for work or engaged in the drug trade.
We need a military show of force at the border, as well as a strong commitment of the various appropriate law enforcement agencies where needed to fight the drug cartels. And we should not let up on our enforcement of immigration laws at the workplace in the process.
We may well find that the biggest threat to our security is not in the rugged terrain of Afghanistan or the deserts and urban areas of Iraq but instead at our own southern doorstep.
In the long run we need to work hand in hand with the Calderon administration in Mexico, which from all reports is doing its best to fight both the drug cartels and to turn the tide on corruption that has existed so long in Mexico.