The United States and Mexico share almost 2,000 miles of border
and many of the same problems, including immigration challenges,
inadequate border security, and drug smuggling. The two nations do
not adequately collaborate to address these issues, despite common
goals: defeating the drug cartels, bringing economic development to
Mexico, and finding sensible and compassionate solutions to
America's immigration crisis and broken border. The U.S.
administration can help Mexico help us-and itself-by implementing a
complement of economic, security, and investments measures.
Separating Facts from Fiction
Contrary to the assumptions of some, Mexico supports American
efforts to secure the border and create sensible and legal avenues
for immigration. Better border security will help quell the plague
of lawlessness that threatens both countries. Illegal immigration
hurts Mexico by trapping many of their most productive citizens on
the U.S. side of the border-rather than returning to invest and
prosper in their own country. Legal, market-based avenues for
immigration would create disincentives for illegal immigrants. This
would be a vast improvement over the status quo-for both
Congress and the Administration must work together to accomplish
- Ensure the Department of Homeland Security
finishes the job of gaining operational control of the U.S.-Mexican
border sooner rather than later.
- Enforce current immigration laws.
- Establish realistic quotas and responsible
visa worker programs that address market needs, security
imperatives, and public health concerns. This can be accomplished
through reforming and expanding current visa programs, or by
creating new pilot programs.
- Encourage adequate, public-private investment
in border infrastructure. The United States has underinvested in
the most important components of the system, such as infrastructure
(e.g., adequate bridges and roads) at the points of entry. More
investment in road networks that connect to rail terminals,
seaports, and airports is essential to providing the capacity,
redundancy, and flexibility required for the free flow of trade and
travel. This is particularly vital at the small number of transit
nodes that handle most of the cross-border traffic.
- Work with federal and state law enforcement
agencies to coordinate efforts to stop the illicit sale and
shipments of weapons and bulk cash that fuel Mexico's cartel-driven
Time to Act
Mexico benefits when America acts. By securing the border, both
countries can focus on the serious problem of drug trafficking and
its deepening cycle of violence and criminality. Border agents
require infrastructure at the border to successfully carry out that
mission-and the less time they spend looking for illegal
immigrants, the more time they can fight violent crime.
What Mexico Can Do
Economic reform is key to resolving the immigration issue. By
creating new, private-sector jobs in Mexico, the "supply push" that
drives illegal immigration to the United States can be reduced.
Mexican President Felipe Calderon must make the Mexican economy
more competitive by challenging its private sector monopolies and
James Jay Carafano,
Ph.D., is Assistant Director of the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom
Davis Institute for International Studies and Senior Research
Fellow in the Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy
Studies, and Diem Nguyen is a Research Assistant in the Allison
Center, at The Heritage Foundation.