Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Human Rights: Arizona's anti-immigrant legislation could feed organized crime

The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author only, not the International Relations and Security Network (ISN).

Arizona's tough anti-immigrant legislation, though watered-down, could still feed into recruiting efforts for Mexican organized crime, Samuel Logan comments for ISN Security Watch.

By Samuel Logan for ISN Security Watch

A federal judge offered a minor win for the Obama administration with a decision to block the most controversial sections of Arizona's anti-immigration law, SB 1070, on 28 July.

As Arizona fights the federal government over the ultimate fate of SB 1070, the details of how the law will affect the daily lives of illegal immigrants in Arizona will not be settled until early November, according to Arizona's Douglas Dispatch.

Still, the ripple effect has already spread across the state - as wave after wave of immigrants - illegal or not - return to Mexico, some will invariably offer their services to criminal organizations constantly in the need of new recruits.

On 2 August, many immigrants began preparing to return to Mexico. The next day, 500 immigrants left Arizona for Tlaxcala. Thousands more have begun arriving in other parts of the country. By 5 August, most of the toughest anti-immigrant legislation in the US entered into force, with Arizona Governor Jan Brewer vowing to push through the entire legislative packet.

Across the US, state governments have already considered their own tough anti-immigrant legislation. Idaho andVirginia lead a 20-state effort to propose anti-immigrant legislation, according to a recent report from the Associated Press. Ahead of November mid-term elections politicians have recognized that Jan Brewer's political gamble can electrify constituent support. They will play toward resentment against illegal immigrants and propose legislation similar to SB 1070; such an agenda that contributes to a networked effect that could lead to more deportations and voluntary removal of Mexican citizens, among other immigrants.

Most deportees re-enter society forced to find work in an old life they abandoned to find opportunity in El Norte. These penniless and broken souls are the fodder for criminal recruitment efforts across Mexico. Some groups, such as Los Zetas, focus recruitment on current and former military soldiers. Others, however, such as La Familia, specialize in scraping the bottom of the social barrel to fill the rank and file. All criminal groups, however, have money and the need for fresh faces. They thrive on desperation.

Many deportees harbor knowledge of US cities and streets - the region's top drug consumption market. They speak some English and maintain contact with a social network north of the border - all added value in the mind of the criminal recruiter interested in sending drugs across the border, or bringing cash and guns back south. Every piece of the deportee's former life inside the US could bring knowledge to bear against law enforcement tasked with stopping them.

One in four Mexican deportees destined for Mexico City arrive from Arizona, according to the Mexican daily El Universal – approximately 2,000 individuals since the beginning of 2010. How many of these deportees will find work in the formal economy? Employment in Mexico is improving, but most of the available jobs are with criminal organizations.

As Governor Brewer's quest to push through all of SB 1070 encourages politicians across the country to try to do the same, they should keep in mind that deportation could support Mexican organized crime. The very men and women they force to flee or kick out could very well return - not to be the hard worker the once were but the criminal Governor Brewer fights so hard to stop.

Samuel Logan is a Latin American analyst for iJET Intelligent Risk Systems, an investigative journalist, and author. He is the founding editor of Southern Pulse | Networked Intelligence, and has reported on security, energy, politics, economics, organized crime, terrorism and black markets in Latin America since 1999. He is a senior writer for ISN Security Watch.