Crime and illegal immigration go hand-in-hand, and that's why border security was at the top of the bilateral agenda when Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice visited Mexico 10 days ago. So I think Congress should take a hard look at the pernicious effects of illegal immigration before approving President Bush's thinly disguised amnesty plan for millions of illegals.
Although it's true that millions of illegal immigrants are hard-working folks who seek to better their lives in the Land of Opportunity, too many others come here for nefarious reasons and become involved in dangerous street gangs and organized crime. Meanwhile, the new Mexican consul in Nevada vows to defend the alleged rights of "undocumented workers." That's what we're up against.
According to Foreign Policy magazine, gangs have gone global. "Gangs exist in 3,300 cities across the United States ... and in a growing number of small towns and rural areas," wrote Andrew Papachristos of the University of Chicago, who has studied gangs for more than 12 years. He added that Hispanic gangs have expanded their illegal activities - including drug trafficking and ties to international terrorism - to many other countries.
In his chilling article, Papachristos disclosed that "leaders of the (Central American) Mara Salvatrucha gang ... met in Honduras with a key al-Qaeda leader to discuss smuggling immigrants into the U.S. via Mexico," which is why we should continue to crack down on immigrant smuggling along the Mexican border.
In February, Congress approved 9/11 Commission recommendations by passing a bill that toughens border security and denies driver's licenses to illegal aliens, but much more needs to be done in order to secure our borders. Another ominous example of this potentially devastating national security threat is the fact that Mexican drug cartels are now operating in the United States. The Washington Post reported last month on "the increasing number of U.S. citizens who have recently been reported missing or kidnapped along the border," especially around Nuevo Laredo, where 27 U.S. citizens have been kidnapped or vanished since last August.
And the Dallas Morning News discovered that "a team of rogue Mexican commandos blamed for dozens of killings along the U.S.- Mexico border has carried out at least three drug-related slayings in Dallas."
Moreover, the notorious Juarez Cartel was able to infiltrate the office of Mexican President Vicente Fox, who promised to wage "the mother of all battles" against illegal drugs when he took office in 2000. Earlier this year, however, he was forced to admit that the cartels' influence had reached his office after his travel secretary was arrested for selling intelligence information to the cartel. Law enforcement sources say drug lords have remained powerful by paying off hundreds of Mexican officials including the former director of the country's anti-drug agency.
Unfortunately, this kind of lawlessness isn't limited to Mexico. Two dangerous gangs that originated in Southern California "barrios," Mara Salvatrucha and Mara 18, have spread to Central America, Mexico and the U.S. East Coast. The Washington Post reported last month that these gangs "have proliferated in Latino communities in Washington and the Maryland and Virginia suburbs," leading to an increase in violent crime.
On the other hand, we should note that American law enforcement officials met with their Central American counterparts in El Salvador late last month in a joint effort to stop the gangs from moving between Central America, Mexico and the U.S., an initiative reinforced by Secretary of State Rice during her recent visit to Mexico.
So how does all of this affect Carson City? Two weeks ago, the Appeal reported that a Los Angeles gang-banger will be tried for the murder of one man and the wounding of another in a bloody, drug-related shootout at a West Eighth Street apartment last March. It's no surprise that the killing involved drugs since at least one local gang, the Eastside Tokers, is active in the narcotics trade and probably has links to violent Southern California-based gangs and Mexican drug cartels.
That's why Mayor Marv Teixeira and Sheriff Ken Furlong are right when they say that controlling Carson City's methamphetamine epidemic is their top priority law enforcement issue. As a court interpreter, I know that far too many illegals are involved in drug trafficking since more than half of my cases deal with drug charges.
So I offer unconditional support to local officials in their high-profile campaign to eradicate gang activity and drug trafficking. It's time for us to confront our ongoing meth epidemic and to stop winking at the proliferation of illegal drugs in Carson and clandestine meth labs in the desert east of town.
If you think I'm exaggerating the connection between illegal immigrants and drugs, just track local narcotics arrests in the Appeal and note how many suspects have Hispanic surnames. At the same time, I'm pleased to report that the new U.S. Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement is now cooperating with local authorities by deporting planeloads of illegal immigrants from border cities.
That's good news because, as the respected Christian Science Monitor commented recently, "The damage to the rule of law and to overburdened social services is clear if the U.S. continues to tolerate the massive lawlessness of more than 10 million illegal immigrants." Basta ya! (Enough already!).
n Guy W. Farmer, of Carson City, is a former U.S. diplomat who served on the front lines of the War On Drugs in seven countries between 1968 and 1994.