There have been a few topics that have been at the top of talk radio this summer: Ukraine, Israel and Hamas, Lois Lerner and the IRS and immigration and the border.
Many have said the world is going crazy and is getting more dangerous. We can’t do much about Ukraine, and we have been trying to solve the Israel and Hamas problem for a very long time. Lois Lerner and the IRS is politics as usual, but perhaps we can do something about the border problem.
The children coming across the border have gotten the attention of most Americans. Is it really a crisis? No, said Veronica Escobar, a Democratic judge from El Paso, Texas, on Saturday in an op-ed she wrote in the New York Times.
“Cities in the USA have been dealing with this for a long and that there is myth and overreach on the part of politicians,” she said. “There’s no denying the impact of this latest immigration wave or the need for more resources. But there’s no crisis. Local communities like mine have done an amazing job of assisting these migrants.”
She goes on to give the facts and figures of the cost to the communities and how the money might be better spent.
“The costs are significant,” she writes. “Every day we detain an undocumented child immigrant, it costs Immigration and Customs Enforcement – i.e., the taxpayer – $259 per person, significantly more than we spend to educate a child in a middle-class school district.”
Escobar talks about our political leadership and says, “The irony is that this cash-intensive strategy comes from leaders who consistently underfund health care, transportation and education. And they ignore the crucial fact that children crossing our borders aren’t trying to sneak around law enforcement: They are running to law enforcement.”
President Obama met on Friday with the presidents of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, and they issued a statement that addressed the need for the humanitarian solution to the problem. The statement recognized the criminal networks that are smuggling children and putting them at high risk of violent crime and sexual abuse. There can be no doubt that the escalating crime increases motivation for parents sending their children on this dangerous journey. However, the good people of the U.S. have to recognize our part in this. We have an insatiable market for illegal drugs, and that is contributing heavily to crime syndicates.
If we decriminalized drugs so we aren’t paying huge amounts of money to incarcerate people, we could free up some of that money. According to the White House Office of National Drug Policy (2012), Americans spend approximately $100 billion on the four major illegal drugs and $116 billion on alcohol. The Drug Policy Alliance says, if you add the costs of arrests and incarceration for drugs, it can be as much as $51 billion a year.
We are paying dearly as a society, and the drug cartels are making huge amounts of money making sure that the illegal drugs cross the boarder. Now imagine if the incentive were taken out of the illegal drug trade, and some of that money were used to help via foreign aid to build tourism, education and job development for our neighbors in Central America. We would not be paying billions of dollars to incarcerate people using drugs. We would not be paying law enforcement to be worrying about people smoking a joint or even worse. We could “invest” in our Central American neighbors so they could become better trading partners and could stem the cartels, which would be finding new work to do.
Would these gangs take children and traffic them for sex? Of course they would still try to engage in sex trafficking, but their main pipeline of business would be shut down. One additional benefit is that we could use some of that money for prevention and treatment. We know that public health campaigns work better than prohibition. The smoking rate in 1970 was 40 percent and now it is less than 24 percent. On Sunday, the New York Times called for a repeal of pot bans, and they called it repealing this prohibition “again.”
Will this stop people seeking a better life across the border? No, but it will certainly take one major incentive away and help Americans avoid becoming criminals for use of drugs.
It’s time to stop with the election-year politics and do something that is going to make a difference in illegal immigration, as well as the lives of many of these very young people stuck in a society that has gone to ruin because of the drug incentive.
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