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"Minus the landmines," a southern US border reminiscent of Iraq


That US Customs could be "stunned" to detect a 200 yard tunnel with a "cement floor and an intercom system [passing under] two streets and an apartment complex" from Mexicali to Calexico, CA, is curious as when I last wrote on this matter a year ago, the DEA had analyzed 21 complete and incomplete tunnel systems, some 1000 feet long with reinforced construction, cart and rail systems, lights and ventilation. 20 of 21 were near ports of entry in Arizona and California (as New Mexico has few border towns to act as a terminus and Texas has the Rio Grande River). (See While we're looking the other way -- tunnels?).

Proceeding similarly unabated is the brazen overland traffic in the no-mans land of Arizona's Naco strip is so severe that DHS has deployed unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for border surveillance. Compare this recent observation with earlier reports in Other than Mexican: from the Triborder area to the Naco strip:

it’s hard to communicate how totally out of control the situation has gotten. Think back to the LA riots. If you were out in the street when all hell was breaking loose — would you have felt safe? The border area is less dynamic, but still very dangerous. Automatic gunfire is a common sound. Seeing dope mules with Ak47’s work drug loads over the border is a common sight. [W]hile I realize that the idea of wearing a weapon just to walk around sounds kooky, and even dangerous, your readers have to understand how totally out of control this place is. I can honestly say – it is as dangerous as the Iraq/Iran border — minus the landmines.

US-Mexican relations bifurcated in a post 11 September world in which the US became fixated on border security as Mexico retained its focus on the free Northward flow of migrant workers that provided an essential social safety valve while remitting significant sums back to family members in Mexico. While some question improved US skills in monitoring and interdicting illegal entrants, Mexico is ramping up its efforts to keep its nationals flowing north.

As the southern border tightens and US attention to a guest-worker program fades, President Vicente Fox has described the US 'anti-immigrant' measures as "the work of "minority, xenophobic, discriminatory groups" who do not recognize the contributions of the three million Mexicans who work illegally in the United States."

The Mexican foreign ministry had published (and may still publish) upwards a million copies of a practical self-help Spanish language guide in illustrated comic book form for migrants planning a trip north - and still maintains the book on the Secretaria de Relaciones Exteriores' website. The booklet deals with the dangers of scouting and crossing the river, food and clothing for desert trekking, heat and sunstroke, concerns over smugglers called coyotes or polleros, impacts of using false documents or lying to authorities, passive escape attempts but if apprehended a thorough description of their rights under US law. There is also a radio station, La Poderosa XERF 1570 AM, for updates.

Mexico seems resistant to recognizing that its migrants are but one of four streams heading north, each with its own threats to the US, and that until the others are contained, its migrants will also be restrained: 

  • 'Conventional economic migrant worker flow
  • "Other Than Mexican" (OTM) illegal alien category, i.e., "other than Mexico or other central and South American countries" non-Latin categories as diverse as Asian and Middle Eastern
  • Drug shipments by any means
  • Terrorists from al Qaeda and its affiliates

The problems along the border are so severe along the Arizona border that an unarmed civilian patrol called the Minuteman Project has been formed to provide a visual alert that US federal assets cannot, a step which the NY Times describes as "alarming," an adjective I accept only in describing the nature of the uncontained threat but not the Minuteman concept itself. Notice that federal authorities are not complaining, nor are they contemplating the kind of legal challenges to the Minutemen that the Mexican government are raising.

One only has to follow the money from South America's Tri-Border area (TBA) northward to wonder 'when, how many, and how often' and not 'if.' I urge readers to the reference citations of the earlier note for substantive background - and the fact that while most US border patrol officers will only speak under anonymity, a local Border Patrol station stated for the record, "Our policy is to turn any OTM's over to the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security" -- some 5,510 from Oct 2003 to July 2004.

Southern migration has morphed from an economic to a security issue and it will only worsen in the near to medium term.

At Mexican Border, Tunnels, Vile River, Rusty Fence
New York Times
March 23, 2005

Secretaria de Relaciones Exteriores

Interview with John Smallberries, Minuteman Project Volunteer
LaShawn Barber
Mar 15, 2005

Mexican migrant activists brace for Arizona anti-migrant patrols as Mexican goverment plans legal action
March 1, 2005
Associated Press/North County Times

Gordon Housworth

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