This past weekend, three U.S. consulate officials were brutally shot and murdered by the violent Aztecas drug gang in the Mexican city of Juárez. In response, Joe Arpaio, an Arizona sheriff known for his controversial immigration enforcement tactics, announced this morning on MSNBC that the U.S. should send troops to Mexico to deal with the drug cartel problem:
I don’t want to be an extremist. We do send our military to other countries. I know it’s a difficult economic and diplomatic problem what I’m going to say but possibly we should send the troops into Mexico, work with the Mexican government, give them resources, not just technical equipment. When I was in the DEA we worked undercover, involved in gun battles. We were operational. Maybe we should get more operational in that country especially at the border areas.
Arpaio quickly pivoted to the topic of immigration and proceeded to complain about how the drug problem is obscuring the nation’s immigration problem:
I’m not liked by Washington and certain politicians. I’m the poster boy because I go after illegal immigrants, smugglers on crime suppression operations. There’s violence here — tons of violence in this country because of illegal immigration but we seem to always talk about the drug problem because politically people don’t want to talk about the illegal immigration problem.
Many experts have pointed out that militarizing the drug war is counterproductive. Shortly after his inauguration in 2006, President Felipe Calderon began assigning large numbers of troops to fighting the drug war. The National Human Rights Commission specifically cited the case of Ciudad Juarez, Mexico’s murder capital, when it concluded that “using the Mexican military against drug cartels has brought no improvement in public safety.” Chances are U.S. troops wouldn’t necessarily be welcomed with open arms either. Jorge Angel Pescador Osuna, the former Mexican consul general in Los Angeles, stated in 2008 “[Mexican] foreign policy has been subordinated to that of the Americans, the policemen of the world. … What we need here is to strengthen our democracy, and we will not accomplish that by using the military for civilian law enforcement.”
Meanwhile, if anyone is guilty of conflating the drug war problem with the problem of immigration, it’s Arpaio. Rather than focusing his resources on violence that has spilled over the border, Arpaio has dedicated most of his energy to chasing busboys and nannies through the desert and most of his talking points to bragging about it. Despite the fact that research shows that immigrants are less likely to commit crimes or be behind bars than the native-born citizens, Arpaio allots an overwhelming amount of his budget to targeting and hunting down non-violent undocumented immigrants and throwing them in jail for “smuggling themselves” across the border. Two independent reports by the East Valley Tribune and the Goldwater Institute show that Arpaio’s immigration-enforcement crusade has contributed to a huge county budget deficit and that crime rates have actually escalated as Arpaio has failed to arrest top smugglers and criminals.