According to recent reports, the U.S. is in talks with Mexico to strengthen security along Mexico’s southern border. The effort reportedly includes a three-level security system for Mexico’s border with Belize and Guatemala to stop human trafficking, drug running, and other gang-related activity.
Stopping such activities is critical to not just Mexican security but also the U.S.’s. As the only southern neighbor with a land border with the U.S., Mexico serves as conduit for trade but also for the illicit flow of drugs and humans and other criminal objectives. Partnering with Mexico to enhance their security efforts would have several beneficial results.
First, it will limit violence and unlawful activity from reaching the U.S. border. The more drug smugglers, human traffickers, individuals seeking to enter the U.S. illegally, and other criminals who can be stopped in Mexico, the fewer that have to be dealt with in the U.S. For example, it is estimated that of the approximately 400,000 individuals who enter Mexico illegally every year, 150,000—or 37 percent— intend to enter the U.S. illegally.
Second, working with Mexico to fight crime and prevent criminal organizations from operating with impunity will also make Mexico a safer country. Together with initiatives to curb corruption and reform law enforcement and the judiciary in Mexico, Mexico can crack down on the gangs and criminal organizations that cause so much of the violence in Mexico as well as spillover violence in the U.S.
A Mexico that is more secure and focused on the rule of law will also have more opportunities to advance economic freedom. Boosting economic freedom will make Mexico a more prosperous trading partner and also help increase employment, which will draw people away from the black market and cartels and raise the well-being of Mexico’s citizens. Considering that Mexico is projected to surpass Canada as the U.S.’s top trading partner in the next 10 years, a Mexico with more rule of law and economic freedom will be an even greater economic and security ally.
So how exactly should the U.S. promote security, rule of law, and economic freedom in Mexico? While many of the specific details of the Obama Administration’s plan are unknown, the reports mention valuable, existing programs such as the Merida Initiative as the basis for additional cooperation. The Merida Initiative is a cooperative program between the U.S. and Mexico that assists law enforcement efforts, improves the vetting of law enforcement officers, enhances judicial and prosecutorial effectiveness, and fosters better court and prison management in Mexico. Costing less than $2 billion since 2007, Merida, together with other collaborative and reform efforts, can pay big dividends in U.S. border security and trade.
While the U.S. needs to do more to secure its own southern border, cooperation with Mexico on security and immigration issues is essential to those efforts. Through programs like the Merida Initiative, the U.S. can help Mexico combat crime and illegal immigration before it reaches the U.S., enhancing U.S. security and prosperity.