Trump’s “Big, Beautiful” Wall Part One – Will It Stop The Drug Traffic Across The Border?

by Richard Cameron

There is a great deal of debate

regarding the border wall that Donald Trump made a signature theme in his campaign rallies. It’s an enduring topic of discussion in diners, taverns, social media, cable news channels and in policy journals. The arguments are multi-faceted, dealing with immigration, narco-trafficking and possible terrorist incursions. And in fact, Trump’s executive order on the construction of the wall, states that the purpose of the wall is – “to prevent illegal immigration, drug and human trafficking, and acts of terrorism.”

Because most everyone agrees about the importance of border security, the debate mostly hinges on whether the wall Trump has used to galvanize his political base, is a practical way to achieve border security. The discussion on practicality primarily involves questions of effectiveness, topography and cost.

We’ll cover the cost issue last and start with effectiveness centered on the three main issues noted in the President’s executive order. Let’s begin with the drug problem.  President Trump has told the Associated Press that, “The drugs pouring through on the southern border are unbelievable. We’re becoming a drug culture, there’s so much. And most of it’s coming from the southern border. The wall will stop the drugs.”

So let’s look at this. “The wall will stop the drugs” is a very absolutest statement. Is it realistic? First, is Trump correct in stating that a significant amount of drugs are coming into the country from Mexico, Central and Latin America? The answer is yes.

Data from U.S. Customs and Border Protection, shows that 97.4 percent of marijuana seizures during the 2016 fiscal year took place at the southwest border and around 89.8 percent of cocaine and 87.8 percent of heroin seizures as well. However, the vast majority of these substances aren’t being muled or hauled across the desert into the United States. According to the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) the drugs are primarily being smuggled in through official border crossings. The Justice Department website outlines the following facts:

It is important to realize that drugs are by and large – according to the federal government, not coming across stretches of the border in between official ports of entry (POE). They are coming in by vehicles and they are coming in through the ports of entry. And to illustrate how unrealistic the notion of a wall being an end to drug smuggling, one need only to review this Justice Department map of the various drug corridors.

As you can see, a significant amount of controlled substances – cocaine, methamphetamine, marijuana, heroin – arrive in the country from points of entry that are not in anyway related to the Southwest border of the United States.

The newest major drug epidemic (aside from legally available opioids) is Heroin, which was the cause of 12,989 deaths nationwide in 2015. A border wall would have zero impact on the importation of Heroin, because as Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance advises, “All the heroin in the U.S. could fit into one or two containers on a container ship.”

Furthermore, small but significant quantities come in to the US through airmail, commercial air flights and once again, people with Visas and passports crossing at legal ports of entry.

We could continue for page after page outlining the body of research that illustrates the fact that more border walls or fences are not a fix for drug smuggling, but the facts are clear from the government’s own figures and data that the answers lie elsewhere.

Our next report in this series on the wall, will look at illegal immigration and measure the impact of construction of more physical barriers on that situation.

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