Drug War

America's Drug War is Indeed Responsible for the Unaccompanied Minor Crisis


I wrote last week that the unaccompanied minors from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador showing up at our doorstep are refugees of America's drug war whom it would be immoral and inhumane to turn away. Many commenters in the conservative press and social media denounced this claim as the usual liberal claptrap which wants to blame America for everything.

Today, Mary O'Grady of the Wall Street Journal — that bastion of left-wing, America-hating nutbaggery — elaborates the connection, citing the work of Marine Corps Gen. John Kelly, perhaps the most authoritative source on the region. She notes:

Central America is significantly more dangerous than it was before it became a magnet for rich and powerful drug capos. Back in the early 1990s, drugs from South America flowed through the

Border Kids

Caribbean to the U.S.

But when a U.S. interdiction strategy in the Caribbean raised costs, trafficking shifted to land routes up the Central American isthmus and through Mexico. With Mexican President Felipe Calderón's war on the cartels, launched in 2007, the underworld gradually slithered toward the poorer, weaker neighboring countries. Venezuela, under Hugo Chávez, began facilitating the movement of cocaine from producing countries in the Andes to the U.S., also via Central America.

In a July 8 essay in the Military Times headlined "Central America Drug War a Dire Threat to U.S. National Security," Gen. Kelly explains that he has spent 19 months "observing the transnational organized crime networks" in the region. His conclusion: "Drug cartels and associated street gang activity in Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, which respectively have the world's number one, four and five highest homicide rates, have left near-broken societies in their wake." He notes that while he works on this problem throughout the region, these three countries, also known as the Northern Triangle, are "far and away the worst off."

With a homicide rate of 90 per 100,000 in Honduras, and 40 per 100,000 in Guatemala, life in the region is decidedly rougher than "declared combat zones" like Afghanistan and the Democratic Republic of Congo, where the general says the rate is 28 per 100,000.

How did the region become a killing field? His diagnosis is that big profits from the illicit drug trade have been used to corrupt public institutions in these fragile democracies, thereby destroying the rule of law. In a "culture of impunity" the state loses its legitimacy and sovereignty is undermined. Criminals have the financial power to overwhelm the law "due to the insatiable U.S. demand for drugs, particularly cocaine, heroin and now methamphetamines, all produced in Latin America and smuggled into the U.S."

The whole column is well worth reading here.

Bonus material: Reason.tv's award-winning documentary by Paul Feine, America's Longest War: A Film About Drug Prohibition

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  1. Can you write about something else already Shikha?

    1. It’s this or millenials. Take your choice.

      1. I want to hear what millenials think about the unaccompanied minor crisis.

        1. I here they were against it when Bushitler was in office, but now they’re for it.

          1. I thought it was the other way around?

            They love freedom and socialism and immigrants in other neighborhoods.

            1. I can’t keep up honestly. I just assume if you ask a millenial if it’s for or against something, they’ll first ask who made the policy and then answer.

    2. Let me be perfectly clear:

      I think the WOD has contributed, but saying that the US and the WOD are “responsible” is vastly overstating the case.

      These countries have some, I would say the most, responsibility for their crappy current state.

      1. How you figure? What could they do differently in the face of so much outside force?

        1. What social forces are they exposed to regarding US drug law that, say, Canada is not?

          1. Ahh, I see the problem. You somehow misunderstood the common slang terms “blow” and “snow” and see all the white powder in movies and think it comes from Siberia.

            Well, it doesn’t.

    3. Can you comment aboutsomething else already Briannnnn?

      1. 🙂 I have to comment on all of Shikha’s articles because she is a hack and a moron.

        It’s a moral imperative!

  2. Legalization of all drugs is the only way to go. Of course, it’ll never happen, so I’m starting a meth lab. Who’s with me?

    1. You get the van, I’ll get all the Claritin D I can carry

  3. If “we” are to blame for parents sending unaccompanied minors across half a continent, then “we” are responsible for fixing it. Taking this premise at face value, what do you propose? Putting these kids on our welfare system indefinitely, and any others who manage the trek? I have a solution: end the drug war and send these kids back to their families. It is more directly tied to the root issue and places these kids back under their proper authority: their parents. I am not persuaded that the goings on at the border vindicate open borders enthusiasts, or that I am compelled to support open borders out of a sense of guilt for policies I had nothing to do with.

    1. How about, I don’t know, we make drugs legal?

      1. Sure, but that doesn’t solve the immediate problem. I think most people that read Reason are for legalizing drugs, but to suggest that because the drug war started this problem ending it will stop it misses a few steps.

        1. It pretty much does solve the immediate problem.

          1. It reunites the unaccompanied minors with their parents and stops parents from sending even more?

          2. The cartels could just turn to another business like human trafficking. And this is assuming that the black market for drugs won’t exist in America. Remember, these people can just grow their own stuff in their backyard, with zip regulation.

            The drug cartels can only thrive in these places because they’re third world countries to begin with.

    2. But you’re mean, and they’re kids, and we should help, because it’s our fault, and…

  4. With Mexican President Felipe Calder?n’s war on the cartels, launched in 2007, the underworld gradually slithered toward the poorer, weaker neighboring countries.

    True as that probably is, it’s an odd coincidence that all of these unaccompanied minors suddenly showed up by the tens of thousands within a few months of each other 7 years down the line. There hasn’t been a gradual uptick, culminating in a peak the coincides with some mitigating factor like an escalation of violence in a particular region or a natural disaster or something like that. The drug war alone is insufficient to explain such a sudden “crisis” without a lot more data to support that contention.

    1. Dude, it’s Dalmia. Her argument is automatically 6 steps away from making sense before she even puts pen to paper.

    2. This makes it sound like Mexico is “responsible” for the Children’s Crusade.

      Which is it? The US? Mexico? Howabout global warming?

      1. It probably is global warming now that you mention it. I hear it’s 200 degrees in Guatemala today!

  5. I hate the drug war, but this is bullshit.

    The flood of kids started with a stupid law, dumb “dream” statements and lack of enforcement by the Administration, and savvy human smugglers who are taking advantage of the situation.

    It’s perfectly moral and humane to send them back to their parents. It’s also the quickest and cheapest way to deal with the problem.

    1. Their parents and relatives are often here in the United States. These kids are turning themselves in to the Border Patrol, and when they’re released, they’re often released to their parents or other relatives.

      If we want to remove the moral hazard problem, we should be stripping these children’s parents of their parental rights–on the basis of neglect or child endangerment–and then criminally prosecute the parents or relatives of these kids for neglect or endangerment.

      When the word gets out that if you want your children to disappear into America’s foster care system and then get prosecuted for child abuse, go ahead and send your children into the United States unaccompanied? Then we’ll see how many unaccompanied children show up across our southern border.

      We arrest American citizens for leaving their children at a playground by themselves. Why aren’t we going after the adults who either send their children here or encourage them to walk across the desert either by themselves in the company of a dangerous coyote?

      1. We arrest American citizens for leaving their children at a playground by themselves. Why aren’t we going after the adults who either send their children here or encourage them to walk across the desert either by themselves in the company of a dangerous coyote?

        Presumably because those parents live in Honduras and Guatemala, and we respect the sovereignty of those nations to establish their own custody laws? Sovereignty: a concept that libertarians are perfectly comfortable with when it comes to foreign policy, and not so much when it comes to immigration.

        1. . . . and we respect the sovereignty of those nations to establish their own custody laws?

          Yeah right. This is ‘MERCA! We have a pretty decent history of absolutely not respecting other nation’s sovereignty when some pol feels its convenient.

        2. “Presumably because those parents live in Honduras and Guatemala, and we respect the sovereignty of those nations to establish their own custody laws?”

          That’s what I’m trying to tell you.

          Many of these kids’ parents do not live in Honduras and Guatemala.

          They live right here in the United States, and these children are being released to family members while they wait for their immigration hearings.

      2. They will be trapped in that foster care system until adults. Who would adopt a kid with living parents who could show up at any time?

        1. Why does abandoning a child as an illegal immigrant give you special status?

          Were these children neglected by their parents or weren’t they?

          I think Child Protective Services should determine that. I’ve seen cases where Child Protective Services determined that children were being neglected over much less–than sending them into the desert alone or with human traffickers.

          Was the child neglected or endangered with the cooperation of a family member?

          Well I think that question should be answered by a jury. Don’t you?

          Isn’t that what should be done with Americans who neglect or endanger their children? What is it about being an illegal immigrant that gives you special status?

      3. These kids are turning themselves in to the Border Patrol, and when they’re released, they’re often released to their parents or other relatives.

        That’s going to need some factual support.

        1. The reason I doubt that its true that their parents already live here is that, if a kid’s parents are legal residents, the kid gets to be a legal resident as well pretty automatically.

        2. This is the first link that came up from Google:

          “The children are awaiting immigration hearings to determine whether they can stay. More than 380 juveniles were sent to Pennsylvania between Jan. 1 and June 30, with 96 percent of them discharged to relatives, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.”


          All of these “relatives” should be investigated. If their parents or other relatives encouraged them to come through the desert by themselves or with a human trafficker, then they should at least be arrested. And if there’s sufficient evidence, then, of course, why shouldn’t they be prosecuted?

          1. Thanks. Small sample, government data, etc., but its higher than I thought.

            1. You go find all the samples you want. The ones I’ve seen have all been pretty much the same.

              If it doesn’t match your preexisting expectations, you think that means it isn’t so?

              People aren’t sending their children here with no plan and no destination. They’re sending their children to live with family.

              Why wouldn’t they?

          2. “Relatives” does not necessarily mean parents. What you seem to be saying is if, say someone’s niece or nephew shows up at the border and names you as their relative to whom they can be released, said aunt or uncle should be arrested? I don’t think you’ve thought this through very well.

            1. If I tell my child cousin to leave home, walk through the desert–and arrange for him to do so either by himself or with a human trafficker–and if I tell him that when he does so, I’ll be sure to take care of him once he gets here…

              You don’t think that’s a problem?

              I think the accused should have the right to an attorney, a right to remain silent, a right to a jury-trial, etc., etc. And I think prosecutors should only prosecute when they have sufficient evidence.

              Why is probable cause so easy to drum up when I’m driving down the street, but so hard to imagine when a child walks unaccompanied through the desert, with or without a human trafficker, in order to meet up with a relative the child himself must be able to identify?

  6. Someone should point out, too, that gangs like the 18th Street Gang, which is responsible for a lot of the violence in El Salvador, especially, started as a gang in Los Angeles.

    How can anyone claim that a gang like the 18th Street Gang, which integrated vertically up the supply chain to control distribution routes in Central America–and started as a street gang in Los Angeles–isn’t a direct result of America’s Drug War?

    I.e., the means by which the Drug War made this happen are not mysterious or even much disputed!

    The impact of Darryl Gates, in the early ’80s, creating a militarized police force and the world’s first SWAT teams to combat these gangs is obvious.

    When Bush Sr.’s drug kingpin law made federal sentences harsher for drug distribution than they were for killing those who might rat on you, the impetus for extremely tight organizations and extreme violence was set in motion…

    How far do you have to bury your head in the sand to think that these gangs working their way from the streets of Los Angeles back up their distribution chains to Central America–isn’t really the result of America’s stupid Drug War?

    1. Sure, sure.

      But that isn’t what Shikha is arguing here, or at least not all. That’s just the first step.

      Her real argument isn’t that America’s WOD has had, what’s the word, “unintended” consequences in Latin America. We can all agree on that, although we might differ on whether America is 100% responsible for every Bad Thing that happens in Latin America, or whether perhaps the people and governments there have some responsibility themselves.

      She’s arguing that the WOD is responsible for this flood of illegal immigration. And that’s a huge leap.

      1. “She’s arguing that the WOD is responsible for this flood of illegal immigration. And that’s a huge leap.”

        I don’t think it is a huge leap.

        I think the economies of Central America would be much different from the way they are today were it not for the Drug War in America.

        Check out my comment here:


        I’d also note the impact our Drug War has had on corrupting the politics of Central America; so it isn’t just their economy that would be fundamentally different without the Drug War in America.

        I’ll also say this: just because leftists say stupid shit and blame America for things that aren’t really our fault? Is no reason to pretend the truth isn’t the truth.

        If the truth is that our Drug War is ultimately responsible for this, I’m certainly not going to pretend otherwise just because the left gets such a kick out of blaming us for things that aren’t out fault.

        1. To me? This is like the left claiming that raising income taxes has no impact on the unemployment rate. This is like the left claiming that raising capital gains taxes has no impact on the level of investment.

          To think our giant market distortion of a Drug War has only an insignificant impact on Central American society and government, I’d have to forget everything I know about economics and public policy.

          You know what this sounds like to me? It sounds like a bunch of culturally conservative establishment Republicans trying to reassert themselves and silence libertarian opposition to the Drug War. If American policy is to blame, then it is the way it is, and as far as I’m concerned, the establishment Republicans can go fuck themselves.

  7. Any theories as to how Costa Rica and Nicaragua have managed to avoid being overrun by “[d]rug cartels and associated street gang activity”? That cocaine has to pass through both countries.

    1. In Costa Rica’s case, the government is more or less like ours and their approach is to eliminate the most blatant aspects of trafficking while letting the rest slip by. It has experienced more violence recently, but since they are a stable government with a coherent civil society, they get by.

      In Nicaragua’s case, most of the immigration goes towards Costa Rica (which as a country is miles away better than Nicaragua). This fact has caused not a little bit of resentment among the ticos — if you think US rhetoric on the issue is extreme, you haven’t heard a Costa Rican complain about Nicaraguan immigration.

  8. refugees of America’s drug war whom it would be immoral and inhumane to turn away.

    But it would be ideologically consistent. What’s the point of an immoral drug war if you’re going to be moral and take the refugees of the war?

    If you want be to moral, end the drug war – then the refugee problem goes away. Being half-moral is immoral.

    1. How does it make the refugee problem go away? Those countries aren’t going to repair all of their problems by magic when the drug war ends. Ending the drug war is great, but it’s not a magic bullet.

      1. I think it’s important to look at it in proportion.

        My understanding is that the market for illicit drugs in the US is approximately $450 billion per year.

        When you add Honduras’, El Salvador’s and Guatemala’s annual GDPs? It’s less than $100 billion–all three combined.

        A simple supply curve tells me that the economies of those three countries SHOULD be oriented almost completely to America’s black market for recreational drugs.

        There’s probably more impetus orienting their domestic production towards elicit drugs than cotton would have been an impetus driving the Southern economy before the Civil War.

        You take away that black market and bring it above ground, like we’re doing in Washington and Colorado, and all of the impetus to serve those black markets goes to normal productive economic growth that doesn’t involve black markets and violence.

        Yeah, maybe these people would have a hard time swimming against the current under normal circumstances, but proportionally, why are we dropping the entire Pacific Ocean on top of them and wonder why they can’t seem to get up for air?

        1. You’re preaching to the choir with regards to the drug war, but we need a practical solution to the issues on the border. These kids aren’t taking a nice 12 hour plane ride to el paso and then getting off and going to aunt ruths house. They’re going on a perilous month long journey, where thousands have died and then ending up in refugee camps.

          I’m all for ending the war on drugs, but I’d like to see a real solution for fixing that problem first.

          1. “”we need a practical solution to the issues on the border.””

            Involving Magic Bullets?

            what was the ‘practical solution’ you failed to mention?

            1. Fuck dude, I definitely don’t have a magic bullet or a great solution. I just think crying about the drug war in unproductive with regards to fixing the current border issue.

              The only thing I can say, is that letting these kids stay here creates an incentive for parents to send more, and that endangers children’s lives.

              1. “crying about the drug war in unproductive with regards to fixing the current border issue.”


                In the sense that the Drug War is an utterly failed policy that billions of dollars away from other law-enforcement measures, I fail to see how ending the Drug War, and freeing up said billions of dollars would be anything but a net positive to improving our “border issue”

                What “More productive” ideas, if not entirely-magical, do you think are more worthy of discussion

                1. I don’t have a well thought out solution at all. Please, let’s end the drug war. But giving parents incentive to send their kids here isn’t helping anyone, so I think we need to get rid of the incentive.

          2. Do you see what I’m advocating up thread?

            That’s a real solution.

            In the meantime, if want to stop the patient from bleeding, the first thing we should probably do is stop shooting the patient in the chest over and over again.

            1. That was a criticism of Dalmia, not you Mr. Shultz 🙂

  9. “due to the insatiable U.S. demand for drugs, particularly cocaine, heroin and now methamphetamines, all produced in Latin America and smuggled into the U.S.”

    Well, I guess you’re not going to get a the top regional job fighting drug smuggling unless you have a long and clearly established track record of towing the party lion.

  10. Because before the War on Drugs was accelerated, or even started, those nations were bastions of peace and security?

    Keeping everything else here the same, but ending the war on drugs there’d still be a refugee problem, just smaller. By all means end it, just don’t expect miracles.

    1. I note that critics of Shikhas piece seem to keep referencing “Magic Bullets” and “miracles”.

      sigh. Wizard-Trolls again?

      1. I thought the piece was pretty decent actually, just not long or encompassing enough.

      2. Yes, because she seems to argue that ending the drug war is a magic bullet that would fix all of the problems in central america. So it makes sense to use that term.

  11. America’s Drug War

    Yup, those screwed-up countries are part of the American continents. So is Canada.

    And those screwed-up American countries should change their drug laws, shouldn’t they?

    Or is it a “white man’s burden” kinda thing, as Dalmia claims? That they’re too feeble ‘n’ pitiful to run their own countries without help (bribes) from Naughty White People?

    1. Would you be less insufferable if she said, “United States”?

  12. I think Shikha is belittling this crisis, calling it ‘minor’.

    Also, her claim that it the crisis is ‘unaccompanied’ – yet the consequence of the Drug War – is inherently contradictory.

    Sentences: How do they work?

    (resumes puffing pipe)

    1. Of course she’s belittling it. She believes in open borders, and the present crisis is blatant proof of the impracticality of that position. So blaming it all on the drug war is pretty much all she has.

      No doubt that has something to do with it, but it’s naive to think that if all drugs became 100% legal tomorrow, there still wouldn’t be vast numbers of people, many of them undesirable, trying to get into the US, by hook or by crook.

      I find it amusing that one of the old prejudiced stereotypes of immigrants, that they are carriers of contagious diseases, is irrefutably the case right now. Is there anything so awkward and embarrassing to an ideologue than a real-life negative stereotype? A flood of poor, diseased illegal immigrants is this season’s version of the Obamaphone lady.

      It’s too bad the GOP is so in hock to big business, and the Libertarians have this open borders obsession, because this is now a large and growing concern among voters (of all ethnicities). If either of them got in front of this issue with a plan to secure the border and deport the people who should be deported, they’d do well in November. But a combination of ideological purity, self-interest, and fear prevent any of the 3-4 major parties from dealing with it in a sane way.

      1. I hate to have baited you…

        ..but i was just making fun of her word-sequence.

        “America’s Drug War is Indeed Responsible for the Unaccompanied Minor Crisis”

        …it sounds like the crisis is a small one, and unrelated to the drug war, when written that way.

        It would probably be better as,

        “”America’s Drug War is Indeed Responsible for the Crisis of Unaccompanied Minors at our Border”

        ..but hey! I’m not one of these fancy “web editors” who gets paid the big bucks to make these calls.

        1. Hell, I read it correctly as referring to a crisis involving unaccompanied minors, but then, silly me reading all these HyR pieces, I thought it had to do with parents having their children taken away because they were left in cars & parks. Seriously!

  13. Shikha’s biggest problem here is one of timing, or correlation.

    The WOD has been more or less constant. While it may have moved around some, and may be somewhat worse in these countries now than it used to be, when I see a major change in activity, I look around for some other major change that might explain it.

    The WOD doesn’t fit that bill. Now, the administration’s announcements and actions around minor illegal immigrants – that’s been a major change. Seems like it would be the leading candidate for the US’s contribution to this mess.

    1. Shikha’s biggest problem is that she’s a dumbass.

      1. Now, now, don’t be rude. Ideology can blind anyone, even the intelligent.

        1. No, I’m serious! Even on issues where I agree with her (like this one for example, at least as far as the drug war is concerned) she never fails to ruin the argument somehow.

  14. Nazi Germany had a war against drugs, too, and no one was clamoring to sneak into their Reich.

    Just sayin’.

    If you shot 1000 of these interlopers, buried them in a hole and covered the dirt with a bulldozer, on live TV during prime time, this kind of crap would stop pretty quickly, wouldn’t it?

    1. It wouls stop even if you faked it.

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