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Unmarked Border – Dangerous Border?

In the context of border security and the continuing debate over the “wall” (physical or virtual), the following story raises an interesting contrast in the ways in which the U.S. and Mexico protect their national sovereignty. In fact, the dichotomy is striking.

Recently, a California based ecologist inadvertently crossed the boundary between Mexico and the U.S. near El Centro California. How did that happen? There is no fence, and only widely spaced cement markers delineating the unmarked border. While there is no question that the mistaken identity of the ecologist and a fugitive drug runner who had been crisscrossing the border to elude capture played a role in the incident, his first person account is nothing if its not frightening, and certainly shows how the Mexican government protects its borders from encroachment.

When he encountered a Mexican border officer, he faced a vehicle-mounted machine gun and then the officer with a sidearm. According to the ecologist, this is what ensued.

"Do not move," he barked and I knew he was serious, dead serious. In addition to the officer and gunner there were two more soldiers who now followed the officer out of the vehicle. It was these two that opened the door of my SUV and began rifling through my belongings. My knowledge of Spanish is not great but the officer was saying something about my bringing drugs across the border.

Lucky for the ecologist an agent of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency had been following him, interceded on his behalf and got him released before he was arrested. It seems that the crisscrossing drug runner and the ecologist had been driving similar looking Jeeps. The DEA agent then told the ecologist just how serious of a problem he had faced.

The DEA agent confirmed my worst fears: that I would have probably lost my vehicle and belongings and been out of contact with my wife and anyone else for an unpleasant amount of time.

The moral of this story is apparent, at least to me. Especially when it comes to drug runners, the Mexican government is very serious about their border (witness the Mexican enforcement of their southern border with Guatemala). There is some data suggesting that the hard enforcement of the Mexican-Guatemala border has actually stemmed the flow of non-Mexican illegal immigrants to the U.S. Additionally, whether physical or virtual, better delineation of our border with Mexico is clearly indicated. The question of American sovereignty and the implications of the continuing “unrest” on the other side of the border remains a serious one.


This brings to mind recent events on the Ceuta/Moroccan border, which is fenced to several meters, has sofisticated surveillance and only runs for a question of kilometers . Apart from some on the other side (who live in their hundreds camped out in atrocious conditions) becoming proficient at hurling goods over the fence to awaiting accomplices, desperation led to various mass chargings of the border with makeshift ladders. Whether it was the Moroccans or the Spanish who shot several of the inmigrants is beside the point, and the fact that several were also left tangled above ground in razor wire too. When people become so desperate that their lives can only continue 'on the otherside', there is only a limited amount you can do to humanely convince them otherwise, even recent improvements in radar surveillance across the straights of Gibraltar has only sent the boatloads of migrants further afield, often with dire consequences. Big problem, the best solution probably being resolving the difficulties in the home countries and having a well planned temporary/permanent migration policy that suits the needs nad the tastes of the host country. Maybe that would leave more resources free to tackle those that are really out to cause trouble, reduce the number of people ready to join their ranks for financial reasons, and help remove sympathy towards their causes and methods.

Yes, ideally, there should be no need to patrol a friendly border or to spend millions of tax dollars on physical or technology based barriers. But for this to work with our friends to the South, the Mexican government has to work to correct the vast social and economic divide that exists within its own country, and improve conditions for its people to an extent that encourages them to willingly stay in their country to live, work and thrive. Also, the Mexican government has to address the multi-national problem of the illegal drug trade that flourishes within its borders. Blaming the drug problem on the "demand" side of the equation that exists in the U.S. is not the sole answer. Recent studies have shown that overall use of illicit narcotics in the U.S. is down. Supply and transit through a country is the next logical step. However, the on-going drug wars between the cartels in Mexico make this problematic, at best, for now.

And of course, none of the above takes into account the large number of OTM's crossing the U.S. border illegally.

Here in Spain the use of illicit narcotics is up, especialy cocaine which has the highest user rate in Europe.That the trade creates its own demand is obvious, and the links that Spain holds with South America also, making it a clear European transit point. Most of the extreme violent crime in this country are at the hands of the related underworlds.It is obviously a little idealist to suggest that we can sort out all the problems of the world, included in other countries, but the sentiment and the effort of trying to can go a very long way,if only moraly. Here, other than neighbour citizens crossing in , does not hold the same meaning as in the US maybe, most nationalities are dealt with on a relatively even basis, and intelligence information is used to track down those seriously not wanted - we are not quite in the same melting pot situation as the US and local societies tend to be observant as to who is amongst them (though less applicable in the largest cities). It is maybe a question of the absorbtive capacity on various levels, as well as the general disposition of the various 'sides' which tends to define overall policy and attitude.

The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the - Web Reconnaissance for 04/29/2008 A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the day...so check back often.