The Cartels of Mexico: Death, Drugs, and Depravity from America’s Porous Southern Border

May 18, 2022

By Alex Zemek

More than 2 million illegal immigrants breached the U.S. border in 2021. This record number of apprehensions and the additional hundreds of thousands of “gotaways” is alarming on many levels, as is the Biden-Harris Administration’s apparent indifference to the crisis. At times, the Biden-Harris Administration almost seems to be actively trying to make the situation worse. For example, they have spent over $2 billion of taxpayer money to break border construction contracts to prevent the border wall from being built. And earlier in April 2022, they announced, even in the face of objection by those on both sides of the aisle, that they planned to rescind the Title 42 policy, which has allowed Border Patrol to expel illegal border crossers due to the ongoing pandemic immediately. This move will likely bring an additional 90,000 illegals into the U.S. each month that are currently subject to removal.

When the administration does pay attention to the border, the focus is usually on the treatment of those breaking the law rather than on stopping the lawbreaking itself. Were they mistreated by U.S. Border Patrol on horseback? Were their living conditions at overcrowded detention facilities adequate? Were the Haitian illegal immigrants treated the same as those from Latin America? As a result, the broader and deeper critical human rights, public health, and national security issues have often been overlooked.

America First Policy Institutes Center for Homeland Security and Immigration recently released a white paper that explores these critical issues as well as delves deeper into the transnational organized crime networks based in Mexico, which profit from illegal human smuggling and movement across the porous border of illicit drugs and other contraband. These well-armed, wealthy cartels are destabilizing the Mexican government, contributing to the surge in drug overdoses in the United States, and represent a clear and present danger to law and order. The resulting chaos at the Southern border of the U.S. has enabled, for example, foreign nationals who are on the Terrorist Watchlist to enter the United States.

The AFPI paper addresses multiple aspects, including the following:

    • the cartels’ operations and networks, such as connections to Communist China, corrupt Mexican officials, and gangs in U.S. cities;
    • the chaotic, abusive, and deadly human toll of the cartels’ criminal enterprise, from murders of journalists to sex trafficking of minors; and
    • policy recommendations to aid in combating the threats and challenges posed by the transnational organized crime networks, illegal immigration, and the synthetic opioid drug crisis.

Critical to America addressing these threats begins with border integrity and reducing the demand by Americans for illicit drugs. Additionally, the U.S. should support efforts to thwart those materially supporting the cartels and explore how to sanction them by designating them as foreign terrorist organizations effectively. The U.S. should pressure China to disrupt the fentanyl supply chain and pressure Mexico to root out government corruption and pursue a harder stance toward the cartels and illegal immigration. Addressing the challenges posed by the nexus of organized crime networks, illicit narcotics, and illegal immigration is essential for the security of our Nation and the safety of Americans, and it will require focused leadership and a multi-faceted approach to this multidimensional transnational issue.

Alex Zemek serves as a Senior Fellow for the America First Policy Institute (AFPI).