Mexico’s Failings

By John Wahala on January 16, 2009

The fragility of institutions is not a concern for most Americans. Despite our relatively short—and occasionally tumultuous—history, we view our situation with the hubris borne from beginning the world over again. There is a sense we are immune from the internal crises that threaten the civility of other parts of the world.

Yet such a crisis is unfolding on our doorstep. And while few are paying attention, it could have far-reaching implications here at home. The U.S. Joint Forces Command, a strategic arm of the Defense Department representing each branch of the military, recently released a report identifying Mexico as a candidate for “rapid and sudden collapse.” Citing the “sustained assault and press by criminal gangs and drug cartels” on Mexico’s governing structure, the authors warn of serious security issues for the United States. Many scholars believe that Mexico is already failing.

Professor George Grayson has written on the likely immigration impact of escalating violence in Mexico. Given our proximity, history of lax enforcement, and the fact that over 30 percent of our foreign-born population is Mexican, a border surge seems very probable. The sheer numbers would be disruptive and some of those future crossers will be individuals who seek to do harm. Jessica Vaughan and Jon Feere have detailed the spread of transnational gangs in this country. The most notorious, Mara Salvatrucha, began among refugees that fled Central American regimes.

Little has been made of these problems. The media usually reports immigration as an unmitigated good and makes the case for evermore generous policies. But despite their enthusiasm, unfettered immigration is transformational and brings serious consequences. It is a mistake to assume we are invulnerable to the unrest that often plagues others.