Monthly Archives: March 2013

Intertwined Prejudices: Drugs Smuggling, Gun Control, and Immigrants



The Mexican border has been associated with drugs smuggling for a long, long time. As Nevins explains in his book Operation Gatekeeper, Tijuana has been dubbed “the sin city” because of its mass tourism centered on gambling, alcohol, prostitution and, especially in recent decades, drugs.


Furthermore, Mexico represents the connection between US and Latin American drug markets, that e,braces the northern regions of Central America as long as the underground hubs in Colombia.

Even recently the country has met horrific peaks of violence and there the name “war on drugs” seems to be taken literally for “Narcos” don’t hesitate to use grenade and other weapons as such to attack Mexican law enforcers


Are the doors of entrance in the United States the same for drugs flow and immigrants? Probably not at all. The smugglers have to be certain that their very costly and sensitive merchandise arrives safe and stashed in the country, while immigrants’ routes are extremely dangerous, as proven by the corpses that continue to emerge from the desert


The Mexican war against and between the “Narcos”, moreover, has had a pace independent from that of immigration: this last was stepped up in the Nineties, while the first is a much older phenomenon and it decreased for some time just before the beginning of this century, due to a sort of truce.

It has to be added that the drug consumption in the US is the obvious fuel of the smuggling and that, surprisingly, in the border regions too the vast majority of individuals involved in trafficking are American citizens


According to the well-established image of the dangerous boarders-crossing Latino criminal, the debate on gun control involved concerns regarding minorities’ communities. Once again, statistics show that Black and Hispanic possess far less guns than White. Nonetheless, they bring the social stigma of violence and are the most likely victims of the American side of “war on drugs”. In the United States, though, its battles are not usually those of policemen reacting to grenade throwing, but rather consist in frisking young suspected and running the risks of stigmatizing their neighborhoods through oppressive and insistent patrolling.


Hence the danger that gun control entails an increase of inequalities in the treatment of minority members, as it historically happened with the first restrictions to the Second Amendment.


Resounding Releases and Silent Imprisonments




 Last week news that someone found shocking originated from a source that usually is thought as having not much to do with immigration. The discussion on “sequestration”, an economic issue that consists in imposing cuts to the federal expenses, implied the mass release of hundreds of immigrants.


The public eye, together with some Republican politicians, considered this choice a serious menace to citizens’ security and an unjust procedure that closely resembles an amnesty. Now, we know from the debate started months ago that “amnesty” is considered a sort of derogatory label, useful to pull down the adversary’s proposals as “too gentle”.


When we read these alarms-like reports, though, we can easily notice how superficially the information is provided. Immigrants released: so why were they in? One story reported by the New York Times is characterized by domestic violence connected to a quarrel with the convict’s wife. But some other voices can raise more awareness of the reasons of these imprisonments: for example, the witness of Miguel Rodriguez, a nineteen years old who simply failed to use his turn-signal. He was also an “illegal”, of course.


By the way, how many people who read with preoccupation these stories of “criminals” let free to wander around know that these social identities and disquieting nicknames are related more to changes in the country laws than to these people’s actual misdeeds?


The sharp divide between felony and infringement of civil rules has switched in the last decade. Unfortunately, as I noticed hastily in my previous post, it is not only an American problem. Beginning in 1998, also in Italy we are detaining people whose only or most relevant fault is that of being undocumented. Other countries of Southern Europe are reacting in the same way to what they perceives as a threat to national sovereignty.  


Except from the injustice that is to be seen in such a treatment, what affects me most is the short circuit, the blind confusion that these practices engender in the public debate. Statistics easily report that immigrants are, in an overwhelmingly majority, also criminal and that they are detained in numbers incomparable to native citizens. What statistics usually do not report is the sad story of how these persons were transformed in criminal, creating laws capable of circumscribing exactly their social group with the stigma of illegality. That’s how it became possible to detain a teenager because of a (reported) mistake while driving, and to authorize other detentions like this as a consequence of the ascertained danger these guys would constitute to our society. It is a vicious circle alimenting itself.


What these policies don’t aliment, though, are the state’s finances. To detain as many people as possible can sound reassuring, but it clearly has a huge cost. Human rights activists define laws like Operation Streamline “a lucrative deal for the private prison industry”


Perhaps which people are getting benefits from these politics could be called into question. Anyway, what remains unquestionable is also what should concern us the most. We surely know who is paying: us, as citizens, and not only in terms of money but even in terms of injustice.