A Monumental diversion: put money into border ports of entry

our benefit. Now, 90 percent of all illegal drugs enter by way of Ports of Entry into the United States.  The new border wall has and will change how the drug cartels smuggle drugs, but only the 10 percent of all drugs along our Mexican border.  What about the 90 percent at our POEs?  That’s why it was a major setback for border security a few months ago when DHS announced it was cancelling the Advanced Spectroscopic Portal, a $230 million technological Titanic promoted for years by Raytheon as the only answer to detecting drug shipments at the POEs.

While Congress has generously provided for border wall construction since 2006 as well as new Border Patrol agents and new means of surveillance along the border, Congressional allocations for Customs Agents at the POEs have risen very little - when adjusted for inflation - from the 1990s. 

Worse still, POE infrastructure is aging badly. As cited in a recent reportby Nolan Rappaport, to bring POE infrastructure forty years or older to contemporary standards requires a $6 billion investment.  These necessary Congressional allocations to POEs have not been forthcoming.

In spite of the new border wall, illegal drug loads by the ton, detected at POEs have become the price of doing business, mere overhead to the narco-trafficantes who continue to reap tremendous profits. According to DHS, drug cartels - wall or no wall - are estimated to have smuggled an astounding $25 billion worth of illegal drugs across our southern border last year.” 

The Clinton, Bush, and Obama administrations have been blind to the simple fact that the supply of available illegal drugs from the Mexican border has not diminished. So too has Congress. Even as larger and larger loads are interdicted at the Mexican border, in almost every American city and town, drug dealers offer cocaine, methamphetamine, and marijuana at consumer friendly prices.

Throughout our land and regardless of race or class, the impact of these drugs upon our system of medical care, schools, crime rates, and government is devastating. The very viability of many communities is at stake. 

We need to put our limited fiscal resources to the greatest use. We need to stop believing a monumental, multi-billion dollar wall is going to protect or save us. Instead, let’s rebuild and update our POEs even as we consider broader, pragmatic solutions to the drug problem, both illegal drugs and prescription drugs, that undermine our communities, our basic American values, and our way of life. 

Robert Lee Maril, a professor of Sociology at East Carolina University and founding director of the Center for Diversity and Inequality Research, is the author of The Fence: National Security, Public Safety, and Illegal Immigration along the U.S.-Mexico Border. He blogs at leemaril.com.