The dream of a better life in America came to a terrifying halt last week for 72 Central and South American migrants trapped between gunfire and cinder-block walls. The scene of blindfolded and bound bodies strewn where they fell in an abandoned warehouse near the Mexican town of San Fernando exhibited a measure of cruelty beyond the comprehension of the civilized world.
A survivor attributed the massacre to the Zetas - members of a deadly drug cartel - who purportedly killed the migrants for refusing to smuggle drugs into the United States. However, others closer to home share responsibility for engendering the conditions that led to the tragedy. Just as the steady flow of illegal drugs across the Mexican border is ascribed to America’s decades-long addiction to illegal drugs, the relentless northbound stream of illegal immigrants is encouraged by American politicians’ craving for new voters.
To be sure, Republican President George W. Bush accomplished little to shore up security at the southern border during his eight years in office. Nevertheless, the recent intensification of border violence has been abetted by President Obama and congressional Democrats, who have exploited the illegal immigration issue for political gain. One stated goal of their “comprehensive immigration reform” plans is to provide a path to citizenship for the 12 million to 20 million illegals already in the United States. Most Hispanic Americans vote Democratic - 67 percent pulled the lever for Mr. Obama in 2009. If newly naturalized Hispanics were to follow suit, the president’s party would garner a majority for the foreseeable future.
Failure to take serious steps to secure America’s southern border has allowed the migration to persist year in and year out. As southern migrants funnel through northern Mexico toward lightly guarded entry points, they run a gantlet of dangerous cartel thugs, corrupt police officials and petty thieves who lie in wait. Mexican human rights groups estimate that 20,000 migrants have been kidnapped during the past year. Some are simply robbed, some are ransomed back to their families for thousands of dollars, and others - evidently like the victims of last week’s massacre - are killed for refusing to serve as drug mules. Mexican authorities said the victims identified thus far came from Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and Brazil.
Two other mass killings already have been discovered in Mexico this year. In May, 55 corpses were found in an abandoned mine south of Mexico City, and in July, investigators uncovered 51 bodies near a garbage dump near the northern city of Monterrey.
There is no clear distinction between the victimization of migrants and violence over the drug trade, but both are exacerbated by Democrats’ refusal to seal the southern border. In June, Arizona’s Republican Sen. Jon Kyl attributed the Obama administration’s foot-dragging on border security to its reluctance to diminish political pressure for the passage of immigration reform legislation, a charge the White House denied. Still, considering the border’s 2,000-mile length, the president’s recent deployment of 1,200 National Guard troops there appears to be little more than an election-season gesture in response to Americans’ clamor for security measures.
In July, the Obama Justice Department succeeded in persuading a federal judge to block key provisions in Arizona’s new law that would have mandated state enforcement of existing federal immigration restrictions. The move stands in defiance of American consensus, as a national poll showed that 59 percent of voters favor passage in their own state of a law similar to Arizona’s.
In August, the Justice Department redoubled its efforts to hamstring famed Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio in his energetic enforcement of existing state immigration statutes in Maricopa County, where illegals are rampant. Justice has launched an investigation of the sheriff and his staff for purportedly violating the civil rights of Hispanic immigrants during arrest and detention. Federal officials have given the sheriff a Sept. 10 ultimatum for turning over arrest records. Additionally, the State Department condemned Arizona’s immigration practices last week in a report to the U.S. Human Rights Council. Only the naive would believe that Arizona’s actions to strengthen border security and the Obama administration’s moves to undermine the state’s law enforcement procedures are coincidental.
This is not to say that Mexico is blameless in the ongoing, tragic abuse of migrants traveling north through its territory. Endemic political corruption and law enforcement negligence have been cited as factors contributing to the nation’s reputation for lawlessness. Still, in the aftermath of the San Fernando massacre, Mexican President Felipe Calderon attributed the recent spike in violence to drug-gang desperation in the face of his government’s crackdown.
Nevertheless, with its tepid border enforcement measures and attacks on Arizona for attempting to fill the breach, the O Force shares culpability for transmitting a message to illegal immigrants: The welcome mat is out. It is no wonder, then, that millions risk all for a chance to seize the American dream. As long as hopefuls trek north toward an insecure boundary, highwaymen will be waiting to exact their deadly toll.
Frank Perley is senior editor of opinion for The Washington Times.