David Borden, Executive Director
Whatever one thinks about immigration, or attempts to block it at the border, the reasoning has clear implications for the so-far ineffective attempts at drug interdiction. If it is either impossible or at least difficult to stop people at the border -- and since we haven't managed to do it so far, it must at least be difficult -- how difficult must it be to stop the flow of drugs? After all, people have a certain height and width and depth, and they need oxygen and occasionally food and water and space to move. Drugs can be packaged in any shape or size, they don't require maintenance over the period of time involved in trafficking them, and a fairly small volume of certain drugs can be worth a small mint. It's fairly safe to say that drugs are not going to be kept out of this country, no matter how hard we try. It is simply not going to happen.
The idea of going "under" a wall or border to get somewhere got press this week. In the Mexican state of Baja California, near the border across from the California town Calexico, Mexican police arrested eight men who were digging a sophisticated cross-border tunnel. According to the San Diego Union Tribune, the tunnel has "its own elevator, lighting and ventilation systems," and starts from an otherwise ordinary white house in an upper-middle class neighborhood near the border fence. Some reports say it has electric rail for container transport too.
While the technology and professionalism involved in the tunnel's design and construction may sound remarkable, the project was by no means unique. According to the US Immigration and Customs Bureau (ICE), at least 75 have been found since the 1990s. They're not limited to our southern border, either.
My two questions are: How many successful drug smuggling operations are needed in order to pay for constructing and maintaining such a tunnel -- might it only need to be used once? -- and how many more tunnels are there that have never been found? I have a feeling that there are many undiscovered smuggling tunnels, and that the cost of building one with air-conditioning and electric transportation is low compared with the likely rewards. The proof that the cost is low is simply the fact that they keep building them over and over. They wouldn't keep building the tunnels if it weren't a cost-effective strategy.
Don't expect the drug trade to slow anytime soon, at least not because of law enforcement. And don't let the pictures of the latest tunnel or drug seizure fool you into thinking it might.