Pity the Children: 'War on Drugs' Fuels Asylum Seekers

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in ,, at 8/10/2014 01:30:00 AM
This train of pain begins and ends in the United States.
I am not sure if there is a moral to recent events, but the number of children seeking asylum in the United States from gang warfare-torn countries El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras has dropped in the last month. What to do with these young people has given rise to a fierce debate Stateside on an issue Obama would likely prefer not to deal with domestically at this point in time: immigration reform. With an ever-growing Latino population, the stakes are high for center-left politicians like him. Even so, the Tea Party brigade is hung up on antiquated notions of perpetuating white majority rule despite demographic trends showing they will be less than half the population by mid-century.

In the meantime, however, stricter enforcement coupled with disabusing would-be migrants of the delusional idea that the US was granting asylum have played their part in staunching arrivals. From the Arizona Republic:
The number of children and families apprehended by the Border Patrol in July crossing the U.S.-Mexican border illegally fell by more than half from June, according to Customs and Border Protection. The significant drop reverses the recent surge in unaccompanied children and families fleeing north from Central America, and analysts cited a combination of reasons including tougher anti-smuggling measures.

The decline is much sharper than the fall in overall Border Patrol apprehensions from June to July. And it is steeper than in past years — suggesting that it's not just hotter weather that is drying up the flow of migrants coming primarily from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador. "I don't think this is a seasonal shift," said Doris Meissner, a senior fellow at the Migration Policy Institute, a nonpartisan Washington think tank that deals with migration and refugee policies.

"I think it's a combination of factors: stepped up anti-smuggling efforts, the fact that Mexico is returning substantially larger numbers of people crossing their territory ... and the fact that the countries themselves have been making a huge effort to tell people that what the smugglers are saying is not true and that the journey is really dangerous," added Meissner, who served as a commissioner in the former U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service.
Believe it or not, I do not enjoy bashing the United States for the heck of it. Given its far-reaching influence, however, it bears much culpability here. Why are there gang wars in these central American states that are driving young people to leave? Because the United States' admittedly failed "war on drugs" is causing violence to spread to its backyard. Why is demand so great for illegal drugs? Because United States residents (can't use "American" in this context) consume more of them than any other country on Earth:
The refugee crisis is now our problem, which is appropriate: The drug-linked violence that the children are fleeing is in large part our fault. Anti-drug policies in the U.S. and Europe have not succeeded in curbing drug use or in raising drug prices, but they have considerably increased crime and violence worldwide. It is time to shift the effort to focus on helping drug users at home rather than battling drugmakers and traffickers abroad...

Some in the U.S. may still consider the mission accomplished: at least we’ve sent the problem elsewhere. But if the point of banning domestic production was to reduce domestic consumption, the effort has been a miserable failure—with the side effect of 60,000 kids to care for. Because production can move to countries least able to control output and trade can flow through countries least able to control transport, even the most draconian attempts to reduce overseas supply to U.S. drug consumers have had a limited impact. The U.S.-backed Plan Colombia represented an immense effort to reduce cocaine production—the size of the country’s security forces expanded from 250,000 to 850,000 between 2003 and 2006. In response, farms became more productive, and production shifted to neighboring countries, more than offsetting the increase in drug seizures and coca plant destruction according to World Bank researchers. A U.S. inspector general report suggests attempts to wipe out poppy production in Afghanistan have been a similar failure.
The lure of the US market increases as even more regulations are put in place to combat drugs:
Efforts to control international trafficking–the transport of drugs from producers to drug sellers in the U.S.—have been a little more successful than efforts to control production. The spread between cocaine export prices in Colombia and import prices in Miami reflects a 2,100 percent markup (from about $1,000/kg to $23,000/kg). That associated potential profit margin is what helps fuel gang violence in Central America. But for all the violence of the drug wars in Mexico and Honduras, the big cost of drugs in the U.S. is still accounted for by domestic wholesale and retail distribution costs. The markup from wholesale to retail is about 700 percentnot too different from the markup for imported agricultural products in general. The drug war has considerably destabilized countries in Central and South America and cost tens of thousands of lives—and yet it hasn’t even worked to make drugs in the U.S. or Europe appreciably more difficult to obtain than legal imports.
Just as Prohibition-era gangsterism came to an end with legalizing alcohol, legalizing marijuana in the United States is long overdue to reduce incentives to smuggle drugs into the US for the chance at an exorbitant profit. In this case, the Yanks really should do so on behalf of the children who are victims of the trouble they inflict on neighboring countries.

Give them back the future your country took away, Barack.