Judging from recent reports by the National Drug Intelligence Center, you could come to the conclusion that Mexican drug cartels can do something the U.S. government cannot: control border crossings.
The cartels maintain "gatekeepers" -- their own sort of Border Patrol.
"Gatekeepers regulate the drug flow from Mexico across the U.S.-Mexico border into the United States by controlling drug smugglers' access to areas along the border," says identical language in NDIC reports on southern Arizona and West Texas. "Gatekeepers collect 'taxes' from smugglers on all illicit shipments that are moved through these areas, including drugs and illegal aliens. The taxes are generally paid to the DTO that controls the area; the DTO then launders the tax proceeds."
By contrast, these and other reports published this year by the NDIC -- a division of the U.S. Justice Department -- describe a U.S. government that often exerts little control over who crosses the border and with what.
California's border, says NDIC, is "easily breached."
"The vast border area presents innumerable remote crossing points that traffickers exploit to smuggle illicit drugs, primarily marijuana into the country from Mexico," says NDIC's March report on California's border region. "These areas are easily breached by traffickers on foot, in private vehicles or in all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) as they smuggle drugs between POEs (Ports of Entry), particularly in the mountainous areas in eastern San Diego County and the desert and sand dune areas in Imperial County."
Between official ports of entry, says NDIC, Arizona's border has "few physical barriers" and is "underprotected."
"Large amounts of illicit drugs are smuggled into the area from Mexico, and bulk cash is transported from the area into Mexico," says NDIC's report on southern Arizona. "These trafficking activities are facilitated by several factors unique to the region, including ... a remote, largely underprotected border area between Arizona's points of entry."
Most of this "underprotected border" is not fenced.
"By the end of January 2009," says the NDIC report, "108 miles of the 262-mile shared border between Arizona and Mexico will have some type of fencing. However, few physical barriers exist in border areas between POEs, particularly in the West Desert area of the U.S. Border Patrol (USBP) Tucson Sector, to impede drug traffickers, chiefly Mexican DTOs, from smuggling illicit drug shipments into the United States from Mexico."
Some fences that have been built are pathetically inadequate.