Our VoiceImmigrationNews & Politics

ICE and Border Drug Violence: Paving the Way with Deportees


Rev. David L. Ostendorf • Mar 25, 2009

In spite of yesterday’s White House response to mounting border security issues, one has to wonder if federal law enforcement agencies and officers really do communicate on the pressing issues of the day, like ICE’s deportation of alleged gang members and criminals back to the border cities of Mexico where they filter into the drug wars and deadly violence that now backflows into the U.S.

  • Victor Clark Alfaro, the courageous Director of Centro Binacional de Derechos Humanos in Tijuana recently reported that, of some seven hundred deportees dropped off buses daily by ICE in that city, a third were criminals—some two hundred people per day were “looking for work,” experienced with weapons, and readily available to join a growing conflict that continues to take thousands of lives.

To compound the problem, U.S. and Mexican law enforcement officials agree that most of the guns used in the violent drug wars are coming from the U.S., many through legal sales. So what does the U.S. do? Ramp up its failed enforcement strategies grounded in its failed “war on drugs.” Use stimulus funds to put more people on the ground to disrupt arms trafficking. Increase the number of canine units operating on the border. Increase “southbound rail examinations.” Never mind that drug prevention and treatment programs in the U.S. have been pared back. Never mind that many of those immigrants who turned to crime in the U.S. were NAFTA-bred. Never mind that gun violence in the U.S. has been out of control for years, and that most of those clamoring to stem the border violence helped foment it through spineless opposition to gun control laws.

The impression is growing that ICE is, to put it bluntly, an utterly dysfunctional agency. Its enforcement-mania has produced chaos in those communities where it has conducted its militaristic raids, most of which ensnare a relative handful of the thousands of undocumented workers who make even the current dismal economy work. Its deportation goals have produced big numbers of deportees to convince Congress of its budget needs, but those goals hide the larger costs of the vicious cycle it has created by fanning the flames of the drug wars with its errant bus passengers dropped off in the middle of those wars. While its border enforcement efforts have reportedly reduced the number of undocumented migrants coming into the U.S., the river of drugs coming across the border has not ebbed. And now that the violence has increased concern is growing by the day that U.S. cities may experience even more of the backlash.

The road ahead for immigration reform in the U.S. still seems to be uncharted by the Obama Administration. That the Administration passed over the highly-respected Thomas Saenz of MALDEF to head up the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division is not a heartening sign. That the Administration has not reined in ICE is yet another indication that it is exceedingly tepid in blunting the hard edge of Homeland Security’s immigrant enforcement responsibilities that have long been out of control. Now that the drug wars are spilling back over the border into the U.S. the question must again be raised: is any one really in charge of ICE? Is the Administration willing to step up and step into the immigration enforcement morass that Bush created and that it has taken over? Is anyone connecting the proverbial dots that lead from current ICE enforcement policies and deportation practices to the violence now headlining newspapers daily? Lives are at stake here, and in spite of claims that border protection is on a new track, no one in Washington seems to be looking beyond the Potomac.

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