Why Trump's border wall may never see the light of day
President Trump's ambition to build a wall along the United States/Mexico border continues to lose steam. The latest blow to the border wall plan comes as a result of a recent study published last year by a multidisciplinary team of researchers. The results of the study suggest that a border wall won’t slow down drug trafficking over the southern border.
The researchers began their report with a clip from an interview of a former Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agent with New York Times in 2012. The former agent described in vivid terms the fiasco at sections of the border that have high-tech border fencing. According to the former agent, the fence failed to stop traffickers - they simply began flinging drugs over the fence and picking it up on the United States (U.S.) side. In essence, as long as the U.S. demand for illicit drugs continues to grow, there will be willing traffickers determined to supply.
The U.S. demand for illicit drugs is extremely high, close to Australia’s 2009 population as a whole, and growing. Source
Based on their findings, the researchers are rooting for a totally different solution to the drug trafficking aspect of border insecurity in the country: Rather than fight the flow of drugs into the country, why not put the traffickers out of business by wiping out their profit margins?
It's all about the money
Without the flow of money to the drug cartels, there will be much less incentives - if any at all - as well as much less willpower and firepower to fuel violent drug gang activities. Cash flow from illicit drug sales fund turf wars as well as corruption in the justice system, and these lead to higher crime rates.
Last year, economists Evelina Gavrilova and Floris Zoutman, together with sociologist Takuma Kamada, published a report in The Economic Journal that shows that cannabis legalization has lead to a 12% reduction in crime rates in legal states bordering Mexico.
The locus of the research, as you can imagine, is a simple hypothesis: The introduction of a legal marijuana market can quell crime by siphoning the flow of funds to traffickers of illicit substances, depriving them of resources to invest in crime.
With access to federal records, the researchers were able to track crime rates across various states from periods prior to legalization to periods afterwards. They noticed a significant decline in the rate of drug-related crimes. This eventuality has been much more palpable in Border States that are flash-points of drug-related crimes. These border areas are usually the most crime-battered, as drug gangs continually clash over smuggling routes (the holy grail of the drug world) that cut through them.
The researchers also assert that legalization in inland U.S. states, which has been diminutive to the profit margins of drug cartels, has also served to curb violence in Border States.
The researchers modulated their approach based on the types of marijuana laws deployed in each location, and they steered clear of major cities and counties where the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) filled crime reports based on assumptions. The hypothesis, however, was proven right at all times.
Other similar studies
To further buttress their hypothesis, the researchers referred to two other studies that show crime rates are directly proportional to the market value of illicit drugs. One of the two reports showed that when the government made corn a much more attractive commodity, revenues to drug cartels took a major dip.
On the converse, the other report showed that when cocaine was outlawed, it became a hot commodity in the illegal black market, and revenues from the black market then further empowered violent drug gangs.
Colorado, one of the first U.S. states to legalize cannabis for recreational uses, has since seen a decline in crime. Source
Final words - the reality check
The researchers’ prepositions may sound like common sense - perhaps too common for people in high places. With the Trump presidency comes an administration that continues to play hardball with legalization. The federal government continues to breathe down the necks of state-regulated marijuana markets, while the president is battling to build a wall to cut off drug supply. All of this created a scarcity that makes the drug even more profitable for traffickers. The reality check is that such policies may be a recipe for disaster.
As the former DEA agent quoted in the opening text, as well as others opposing the border wall idea have noted, these traffickers will always find a way to smuggle their illicit drugs across the border. The researchers also point to anecdotal evidence accumulated over decades that show that punitive measures actually only end up increasing the incentives of drug trafficking.
These are all suggestions that are heavily supported by significant correlations. Further, the most basic but accurate argument of them all, is that a physical wall can be easily overcome by the simplest attempts - such as flinging illicit drugs over the to the other side.