Editor's note: In September 2011, the Immigration Policy Center published the report "Guns, Drugs, and Money: Tackling the Real Threats to Border Security." Here author Josiah Heyman discusses its importance and the fundamental questions it raises. Please click on the title for the original report.
"Guns, Drugs, and Money" articulates an alternative to current U.S. policy toward the Mexican border. It points out that terrorism against civilians has no connection to this border. The flawed drug war has huge presence there, but the U.S. government’s main “homeland security” effort still is directed against labor and family migrants who pose no security threat at all. The essay proposes that we do a comprehensive and genuine security rethinking of border policy. It argues that if we do this, we will reduce overall security attention to this border, and also shift the border focus away from migration enforcement toward violent drug trafficking organizations, especially addressing gun and money trafficking from the United States to Mexico, identified as the core violent threats to civilians.
The essay was published by the Immigration Policy Center, a pro-immigration Washington, DC think-tank. It addresses policy in Washington, and as a result, has received some attention. Because it accepts the DC frame, it does not question borders in a more profound way, in terms of rights, economics, migration, or drug policy. Certainly, that is a limitation, and a conscious decision on my part. But the essay does something important, which is rethink and reclaim the concept of civilian security. That is its fundamental starting point. How can we protect civilians against arbitrary violence? Demanding an honest appraisal of human security in those terms, how can we critically challenge the current authoritarian, abusive, and misaligned “security” agenda? The essay stops there, but it implies one more question: how can advocates for human rights, social justice, and dignity also be visionaries of, and advocates for, security in a genuine sense?
Josiah Heyman is Professor of Anthropology and Chair of the Department of Anthropology and Sociology at University of Texas El Paso. His current work addresses border security, including a comprehensive review of U.S. border policies since 9/11. For more from the Border Wars blog, visit nacla.org/blog/border-wars. You can also follow it on twitter @NACLABorderWars.