Let's Pay Some Attention to Mexico's Southern Border and the OTMs

By David North on July 23, 2013

Here's an idea. Instead of adding 20,000 Border Patrol agents at our southern border, let's make that 18,000, and use the money saved for 2,000 of them to fund, say, 4,000 Mexican Border Patrolmen (or better, Mexican Marines) at their southern border.

Clearly, it costs less to hire people in Mexico than in the United States, and clearly there are oodles of Central Americans pouring over that border on their way to the United States. The Border Patrol uses the term "Other Than Mexicans" (OTMs) for the non-Mexicans it apprehends after they have wended their way through Mexico.

Border Patrol statistics show that the agency is seeing a lot more OTMs recently. Apprehensions of them by the Border Patrol were 46,997 in FY 2011 and 94,532 in FY 2012.

My sense is that adding 20,000 Border Patrol agents, as is proposed in the version of S.744 passed by the Senate, is mostly overkill. More agents are needed, of course, but there will be the factor of diminishing returns. If the 20,000 could be added to the interior enforcement efforts, that would be meaningful, but Congress does not propose that.

Adding 4,000 agents at the borders between Mexico and Guatemala (and to a lesser extent) Belize, however, will make a terrific difference, even if the force is not as alert as our Border Patrol, and is corrupt to some extent. Mexico does little currently to guard those borders and 4,000 agents there would be very useful.

There is a precedent for this. As my colleague Jerry Kammer has reminded me, we send a lot of money to Mexico to help it control the drug trade. Why not pay the Mexican government something to help control the illegal-alien traffic through their country? Since the OTMs are not about to damage the Mexican economy, Mexico has little motivation to spend its money to help solve one of America's problems.

The Beast. Perhaps the most obvious manifestation of the laxness of enforcement at Mexico's lower border is the freight train called "The Beast", as the accompanying photograph shows.

OTMs and others risk their lives by riding this train north to the US-Mexico border, according to this illustrated article in London's May 1 Daily Mail. That there are many migrants riding on the top of these trains indicates that there is no law-enforcement at all on the part of Mexican authorities.

The train, also called "the Train of Death" because of its inherent dangers, starts its way north at the town of Arriaga, which is a little west of Tonala, shown on the map, and thus about 200 miles west of the Guatemalan border.

Removing illegal migrants from trains is something that our Border Patrol has down pat, there being several rail crossings from Mexico, including those at Brownsville, Laredo, El Paso, and Nogales. A few score Mexican Border Patrolmen or Marines, funded in the way I have proposed, could make sure that this train would move north without its illicit passengers.

Mexico's Southern Border. As the map shows, there is a jagged border between Guatemala and Mexico; it is some 540 miles long. (That's about a quarter of the length of the US-Mexico border.) I have not visited it (as I have Mexico's northern border), but it appears to have the usual characteristics of international borders — some parts of it are crossed more often than others.

My sense is that most of the traffic takes place over the southwestern part, which stands between the more populated parts of Guatemala and the terminus of "The Beast". There is another segment of the border, the straight line running some 120 miles to the west from Belize, that appears to be through jungle and probably is not used much. There appear to be no towns or villages near that part of the line. So most of the proposed 4,000 agents would be concentrated at the end of the border near the Pacific.

There is also 150 miles or so of border with Belize, mostly along the River Hondo. While there is some illegal migration to the United States from Belize, and some illegal migration through Belize from other nations, such as China, as we reported in an earlier blog, this part of the border is less worrisome.

Belize, the former British Honduras, is not as over-populated as other Central American nations and there is only a single port-of-entry between that country and Mexico, suggesting a fairly quiet border.

The International Politics. This proposal would involve not only negotiating a reasonably complex set of arrangements with Mexico, it would also entail working out repatriation arrangements with at least Guatemala, and possibly other Central American nations. There would need to be U.S.-funded transportation schemes to make sure that the OTMs stopped in Southern Mexico would be sent back to their home countries. Buses could be obtained reasonably, and the Mexican officers could ride the buses until they crossed into the next country.

Perhaps some funding to those other nations, such as greatly over-populated El Salvador, would have to be arranged. But whatever was spent would produce much more substantive gains for American immigration enforcement than simply adding more agents at our southern border.

Topics: Mexico