Trump’s Wall and a Plan to Stop Cartels at the Border

If you’ve been thinking Trump Derangement Syndrome couldn’t get any worse, consider the Democratic Party’s position on border security.

Sitting behind President Trump during his State of the Union speech on Tuesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) spent much of the evening making faces at the back of his head. And when he asked members of Congress to “reject the politics of revenge and resistance” and embrace “compromise and the common good,” she flashed a look that said: “Not while I’m in charge.”

Pelosi opposes a wall or anything else that discourages illegal aliens from getting into the country and staying here (preferably in red states, where they can do her party the most political good).

By itself this would be bad enough. But the same dangerously inadequate approach she and most Democrats favor for human traffic is also responsible for the record amount of illicit drugs pouring across the border, not to mention the epidemic of crime and drug-related deaths that comes with them.

Follow the well-traveled routes of illegal immigration from the southern border northward and invariably you come to cities and states with the worst drug problems.

If Pelosi has her way, that’s how things will stay for as long as Donald Trump is president. At the same time, though, Pelosi’s refusal to negotiate gives Trump the best political justification yet for declaring the situation at the border a national emergency.

The evidence overwhelmingly is on his side. Last week in Nogales, Arizona, U.S. customs agents seized 254 pounds of the deadly opioid fentanyl. That’s estimated to be enough to kill more than 100 million Americans, roughly one-third of the population. In 2017, drug overdoses in the United States accounted for more than 70,000 deaths. If that doesn’t constitute a national emergency, it’s hard to imagine what would.

Keep in mind in 2009, President Barack Obama, without a hint of opposition, declared an outbreak of swine flu to be a national emergency after it had killed 1,000 Americans and hospitalized 20,000 more.

Fifty Years of Failure
Securing the border has been a top priority for Trump since he launched his presidential campaign in 2015. But a job this big will involve much more than building a wall. It also means enhancing security at all U.S. ports of entry, including every international airport in the country. And that will require considerably more money than the $5.7 billion Pelosi refuses to spend.

The challenge is significant, particularly where drugs are concerned. The cross-border drug trade is “subterranean, conspiratorial, and silent,” said Philip Manuel, former chief investigator with the Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations and veteran authority on what it takes to stop drug traffickers.

“Trump is absolutely right to focus on the border,” Manuel told me. “It’s a principal place, along with ports of entry and the street, where narcotics are most vulnerable to law enforcement.”

He thinks a border wall is a good idea, too.

“It won’t just keep out drug smugglers. It will also help to fix the problem of illegal immigrants, who often cross into the United States with the aid of the same cartels involved in drug trafficking.”

A private security consultant whose investigative exploits read like an international whodunit, Manuel believes it’s important to see the illegal trade in drugs as a four-point operation:

  • Point A is the last location outside the country where the transport of drugs to the United States begins;
  • Point B is the U.S. border or port of entry where drugs in their purest form and largest quantity are smuggled into the country;
  • Point C is the first location inside the United States where smuggled drugs are distributed to sellers;
  • Point D is any place in the country where drugs in their lowest quantity and purity are sold to users.

In the early 1970s, as part of his war on drugs, President Richard Nixon established the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). The new organization was given sole authority to combat America’s drug menace at its origin outside the country (Point A) and at the distribution and sales level (Point C and Point D) inside the United States.

That left a greatly weakened customs force at the U.S. border (Point B) without the authority to collect intelligence at Point A or follow smuggled drugs and make arrests at Point C.

“Nearly 50 years later we’re seeing the results of that failed policy,” said Manuel. “The DEA has compiled impressive arrest and seizure statistics for distributors and sellers. Prisons are filled with low-level traffickers and users. Unfortunately, that’s not how you stop the flood of illegal drugs into the country. You do that at the border.”

Democrats, naturally, don’t see it that way. The federal agencies in charge of border security are Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Both have come under harsh criticism by Democrats in Congress, most recently by open-borders House freshmen—not for failing to enforce the law but for enforcing it. Several Democratic candidates for president in 2020 are already calling for the abolition of ICE.

Needless to say, Manuel disagrees. He thinks the two agencies should be given the authority assigned years ago to the DEA. That would allow them to gain intelligence outside the United States and be more effective in stopping drugs at the border and pursuing smugglers inside the country.

Are You Ready to Rumble?
Politicians from both parties have helped to create the border crisis, and now they’re making it worse by refusing to give the President Trump anything that looks like a victory. In his State of the Union speech when he talked about putting the drug cartels and human traffickers out of business, half his audience applauded and other half sat stone-faced.

With the February 15 deadline for a decision on funding for a wall fast approaching and Congress and the White House in a standoff, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said he plans to support the president if he declares a national emergency. To deny him that ability to act as commander-in-chief, Graham said, could start a “war” in the Republican Party.

If that’s the case, it’s a war Donald Trump appears determined to fight and to win.

Photo Credit: Julio Cesar Aguilar/AFP/Getty Images

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About Bill Thomas

Bill Thomas is the author of Club Fed: Power, Money Sex and Violence on Capitol Hill as well as other books, and the co-author of Red Tape: Adventure Capitalism in the New Russia. He is also a former editor and writer with The Economist Group.