If They Would Just Build a Fence

After all, securing the border is easy and the forces driving cross-border illicit activities can be curtailed with enough force and security.

Via the BBC:  US police find ‘major drug tunnel’ under Mexico border

US officials say they have uncovered a major drug-smuggling tunnel under the border with Mexico and seized an estimated 14 tons of marijuana.

Customs officials said the tunnel linked warehouses in Tijuana, Mexico, and Otay Mesa, in California.

Pictures of the tunnel showed wooden supports and electric cables indicative of lighting and ventilation systems.

Dozens of such tunnels have been found in recent years as US police have cracked down on overland smuggling.

More than 30 have been discovered this year, Mexican authorities said, according to AFP news agency.

The tunnels are also used to smuggle illegal migrants into the US.

Nine or 10 tons of marijuana was found on the US side of the tunnel while Mexican police seized five tons on their end, said Derek Benner, a special agent with the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.

If only there was a serious border fence in the Otay Mexico, CA and Tijuana region, we could clamp down on these kinds of problems.  Just build the dang fence!

After all, with a serious fence we won’t have to grapple with complex and difficult problems like drug construction and illegal immigration.


Source:  click.

Yes, it is a good thing that it is so easy to deal with these issues.

Indeed, I hear tell that if we just spend a bit more more and engage in a bit more security that we will finally stop these things.

Via ABC News:  San Diego Drug Tunnel Yields 14 Tons of Marijuana

Authorities have discovered 75 drug tunnels under the U.S./Mexico border since 2008, most in Otay Mesa, an area of industrial warehouses, and in Nogales, Arizona, where an existing drainage area underneath the border makes tunneling easy.

“The discovery of this tunnel is a tribute not only to the effectiveness of our joint investigative efforts, but also to the significant benefits we’re gaining by using new technology to target this kind of smuggling activity,” said Derek Benner, special agent in charge for Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations in San Diego. “The drug cartels mistakenly believe they can elude detection by taking their contraband underground, but, again and again, we’ve been able to find these tunnels and shut them down.”

I will now turn off the snark and sarcasm and point out how the above reaction is so very (and depressingly) typical of drug war logic:  failures like these tunnels are actually evidence of success.

Let me fix that last sentence:  ”The drug cartels correctly believe that they can elude enough detection by to continue to make huge profits even if it means taking their contraband underground or by using whatever other methods they can dreams up because, after all, the money to be made is enormous.  Indeed, again and again, we’ve been able to find these tunnels and shut them down but yet the actual amount of cocaine and such on US streets remains relatively constant over time and the price of the product has not risen enough to dissuade consumption (indeed, the street price of cocaine is not all that different now than it was in the 1980s).  All of this despite a serious increase in spending by hundreds of millions of dollars per annum to fight the war on drugs over the last decade. And after all, we keep getting record seizures of product!  Just a little bit more effort and we will win!  Trust me:  it is worth all the money.

Ok, sorry, I guess I lied about turning off the snark.  Some topics simply inspire.

FILED UNDER: Borders and Immigration, Science & Technology, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , ,
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. Eric says:

    See, what you don’t understand is that we really do need to build an electric fence!

  2. And an alligator moat, don’t forget the alligator moat! (Because of course a desert climate is perfect for alligators!)

  3. Vast Variety says:

    Legalize and tax.

  4. Vast Variety says:

    @Doug Mataconis: Those alligators better have freakin laser beams attached to their heads.

  5. John Peabody says:

    Has any one tried talking, I mean really sitting down and talking with these drug people? I’m sure they don’t realize the destruction that their product can bring to kids. What if a puppy should find some cannibis?

  6. Rob in CT says:

    On this issue, Doug, I agree with you.

    Legalize (and regulate & tax – oops, there goes our agreement I guess), just like a variety of other harmful substances that people like to use (alcohol, tobacco, etc).

    If only there was a good test for driving while stoned. The breathalizer for pot, if you will. Without that, DUI enforcement might be a real problem.

  7. @Doug Mataconis: Only if the alligators have lasers on their heads as well.

  8. @Rob in CT: Wave brownies under a driver’s nose?

    *Look for bloodshot eyes, ask the driver to count backwards and wait for giggles…?

  9. Rob in CT says:


    Putting it all on the cop to determine who is and isn’t under the influence strikes me as both unfair to the cop and potentially very bad for certain portions of the population.

  10. Hey Norm says:

    Great momnents in GOP thinking:

    “Just build the dang fence…”

  11. Barb Hartwell says:

    All the money spent fighting to keep marijuana out of this country is foolish, the people want it like alcohol, and cigarettes Let them have it and tax it. How much will change, we will have more revenue to go after the big stuff. Like murderers, molesters. and terrorist, and we will have more room in the jails for them to stay. I don`t think it is a bad idea for the fence, the states should decide what they wish to do.

  12. James H says:

    @Doug Mataconis: Doug, an alligator moat around the United States would be kind of awesome.

  13. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Ok, sorry, I guess I lied about turning off the snark. Some topics simply inspire.

    Some topics, snark is all they deserve.

  14. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Doug Mataconis: We should add hippos too. They kill more people than crocodiles, lions, and….. what is the 3rd one…. um….. well combined anyway…. ummm… They have hippos in Libya, don’t they?

  15. Tsar Nicholas says:

    There are a number of moving parts to this and related issues. Yes, we should legalize pot. That’s a no brainer. We also should legalize soft drugs and prostitution. Unfortunately, however, it’ll never happen. The Bible bots have far too much influence. You can’t reason with that demographic. They won’t change their stripes.

    Putting aside the issue of contraband and the misguided war on drugs, however, there is in fact a need for beefed-up border fencing. For reasons that would be quite obvious to anyone other than a leftist. Drug tunnels and the ingenuity of drug traffickers are not reasons not to build better fencing along the southern border. That’s a strawman argument and also is the hobglobin of lazy and cloudy thinking.

  16. @Tsar Nicholas: I am of the opinion that “strawman” is the most over-used retort on the intertubes.

    Just because you don’t like something, doesn’t make it a strawman.

    The fundamental point remains that the pull of jobs and economic improvement will draw people into the US, fence or not. A fence does not solve the immigration problem any more than it solves the drug problem.

  17. grumpy realist says:

    My own view is that anything you can grow on your back porch should be legal. I figure that if nothing else, this should encourage black-market gene splicing….

  18. DMan says:

    Just because you don’t like something, doesn’t make it a strawman.

    I call strawman!

  19. tyndon clusters says:

    This just in….Herman Cain announces his plan to build an UNDERGROUND fence…

  20. Unless you give back a large portion of the territories from the Guadalupe Hidalgo Treaty or annex the north of the northern states of Mexico a fence will have no results. There is dozens of binational metropolitan areas in the border.

  21. superdestroyer says:

    @Vast Variety:

    Only law -abiding amercians pay taxes. People who do not own homes, have children, or have a job do not have to worry about paying taxes.

    Think of the competitive advantage that the drug dealers will have with a legal market where no corporation will enter due to legal liability but that the non-regulation following, non-tax paying growers and distributors will dominate.

  22. john personna says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    I am of the opinion that “strawman” is the most over-used retort on the intertubes

    Kinda like calling “tree” in a forest.

  23. @john personna:

    Kinda like calling “tree” in a forest.

    At least in the sense that the person identifying said tree is unable to distinguish amongst the various types of trees (as well as confusing trees, as a category, with bushes and other things with leaves).

  24. john personna says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    The list of proper fallacies is available to all, but certainly the straw man, as defined, is in wide use.

    In fact, it is one of the most common ways to respond to a competing essay. That is, by selecting the weakest claim in the original and extending it, rather than taking the higher ground and addressing the strongest argument therein.

    “drum circles” anyone?

  25. @john personna: Yes, I do understand the definitions. My point was that most people who assert “strawman” are just using the term against an argument that they don’t like, rather than necessarily identifying a logic fallacy.

    And indeed, in re: the drum circles.

  26. john personna says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    So knowing the fallacies you’d know that you should have some datum to support “most people?”

  27. @john personna:

    So knowing the fallacies you’d know that you should have some datum to support “most people?”

    Feel free to peruse the comment sections of the blog to cull said data, if you like.

    (I do recognize the point).

  28. @john personna: Or put it this way: I find it annoying when people call “strawman” and then act as if that is a counter-argument (which is what superdestroyer did about). I seem to be noticing this tactic quick a bit of late in my readings.

    BTW, you need to work on your style: I can’t decide half the time if you are just attempting to yank my chain, are being an ass, or are interested in engaging in an actual conversation on these topics.

  29. matt says:

    @Rob in CT: Hell breathalyzers are questionable at best in a lot of situations…

  30. grumpy realist says:

    (This must be due to a collision in the hash tables but I now have the image stuck in my mind of a police officer trying to give a breathanalyzer test to an alligator with something like goggles strapped to the top of its head and a little laser-emitting LED propeller whirling around giving out BEEP BEEP noises.)

  31. Lit3Bolt says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Comment sections on political blogs are fueled by assholedom. That, and vodka.

    Forget about making actual coherent thoughts and just imagine two kids on a playground yelling, “Snark!” and “Strawman!” in shrill voices.

  32. An Interested Party says:

    Comment sections on political blogs are fueled by assholedom. That, and vodka.

    Well, that would certainly explain comments like…

    Only law -abiding amercians pay taxes. People who do not own homes, have children, or have a job do not have to worry about paying taxes.

  33. mannning says:

    Do I hear the clarion call for that much touted solution called “Amnesty” echoing in the halls here, along with completely Open Borders?

    Has anyone delved into what the consequences of these “solutions” would be in an honest, unbiased and thorough manner?

    We seem to be stuck between the ideas of: a fully-closed border; a reasonably well-closed border; a partially-closed border (the current situation); and an open border in our thinking.

    A fully-closed border would be horrendously expensive. Our partially-closed border is not too effective. Open borders is not practical or desirable, in my opinion. Which leaves the “well-closed border” as a working idea needing full definition.

  34. john personna says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    BTW, you need to work on your style: I can’t decide half the time if you are just attempting to yank my chain, are being an ass, or are interested in engaging in an actual conversation on these topics.

    There is probably more pot, kettle, black to that than you are aware.

  35. john personna says:

    (Just to be clear, I thought my original “tree/forest” comment was a gentle observation, bordering on humorous. There was certainly no need to challenge it, not to make it into an internet argument resulting in ultimately … nothing. Nothing more than your own personal opinion that most cries of “strawman” are false. Versus mine that they are not.

    I at least have the self-awareness that mine is opinion.)

  36. @john personna:

    There is probably more pot, kettle, black to that than you are aware.

    I am actually probably more aware of this that you think. I do realize that I sometime get snippy, if not worse. Indeed, after I left the above the comment to you I regretted its unnecessarily confrontational nature. As such, I apologize.

    I will say this: often I think I am making a conversational, polite response to you and you come back in a rather argumentative fashion. You are quite correct about the error I made above by overly generalizing and deserved correction. My response was done quickly, in an attempt to politely and timely respond (in my mind, at least) to your original comment. Since I wasn’t even arguing with you in the first place, and since I was trying to simply explain myself to some degree, I couldn’t decide if you were teasing me for falling into my own error or being a bit rude about it–or, at least, unnecessarily confrontational (I often have this type of interpretation issue with your comments). For what it is worth, I do find you to be one of the more reasonable commenters who haunt the site.

    Recognize: I read a lot of blog comments and try to respond to most of them. A lot of them are critical, and some of them are plain rude. This does influence the way I respond in a general way sometimes.

    Plus, the discussion we had on the making money with blogging post was another example of where I could’t decide what you were trying to accomplish. Clearly mine was a snarky, simplistic post. You seemed to be wanting to start an argument over it without attempting to understand the points about language that I was trying, I thought patiently, to explain. It often seems that instead of trying to at least engage in what is being said, you simply want to make some other point (which, I am sure I do sometimes as well).

    So, again, I apologize for the comment above. I would have erased it, but once said it seemed that honestly dictated I leave it. But I will qualify with this: I am not sure, sometimes, what your goals in a given conversation are. My default position is that people want to have a conversation. I don’t mind being teased, but sometimes it can be frustrating when intentions are unclear (and this is, a problem with the medium as inflection, body language, and the ability to immediately gauge reactions is no present).

    Really, in this case: I simply thought that superdestroyer was deploying “strawman” sloppily and that this has been a pet peeve of mine of late. Fair?

  37. superdestroyer says:

    It is amazing that someone who refuses to think about how a policy will be implemented believes that any discussion of possible outcomes is a strawman argument.

    The current pot growers and sellers do not pay taxes and do not have to comply with regulation. Why would they suddenly decide to pay taxes and comply with FDA and OSHA regulations just because it becomes legal.

    Also, why would any company that produces consumer goods want to get into the pot selling business. The liablity downside would be massive. It will not take the liability attorneys very long to start suing every pot grower who has real assets. Just look at the Tobacco companies.

  38. john personna says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    You are very generous Steven.

  39. matt says:

    @superdestroyer: Probably because it’ll only be legal if they do comply? Sure some wont but the vast majority of consumers will because they don’t want or need a criminal record…

    Hell I know a couple people that grow their own tobacco and they don’t have a quarter of the worries about complying that you’re trying to imply…

  40. matt says:

    @superdestroyer: The growers and sellers involved with the medical marijuana industry are already gladly paying taxes. So there’s already plenty of proof contradicting your view. Sadly you don’t seem to really care for facts that contradict your opinions/ideology.