Commentary: War on drugs is driving immigrant children north

There is a strong parallel between what is happening on our southern border with the large numbers of unaccompanied immigrant children crossing or attempting to cross into our country and what happened at the beginning of World War II.

Then Jewish parents in Germany sent their children to England to protect them from the Nazis. Today Central American parents are sending their children to our country to protect them from the violence of drug gangs.

It took a huge world effort to destroy the Nazis. However, only the United States can reduce the violence caused by these drug gangs by ending our failed war on drugs and controlling the distribution of all drugs. Note what is happening with marijuana in Colorado and Washington.

Consider a recent front-page story in many newspapers. A 7-year-old boy from a town in Honduras went to find his 13-year-old brother after he went missing near the homes of drug gang members. The next paragraphs describe how the 7-year-old and his older brother were soon found stabbed and shot to death.

The news story then continues by saying that the mothers of children in these areas state that they routinely send their kids to the U.S. to seek safety and sanctuary from the drug gangs — gangs that, of course, never existed before our war on drugs started.

Put yourself in the place of those parents. Who in their right mind would raise their kids in a war zone? Would you? No, you would try to get your children away to a place of safety and probably even try to join them after they were settled.

Similarly, if you had any place in the world to invest your money, why would you choose a war zone — even if you lived there? Of course, this lack of investment creates a lack of legitimate jobs, which, like the drug war, increases poverty. In the meantime, the drug gangs grow stronger because they are the only ones making money — and they are making a lot of it. And as they grow stronger, the government grows weaker, which in turn further reduces investments and leads to more violence and poverty.

So who doesn't want sanctuary from this situation? The parents are choosing safety and a better life for their children. And faced with these prospects, they are not concerned about whether their actions are illegal. Furthermore, since drug money comes from our country, directly helping to cause their plight, maybe we have a moral responsibility to help them.

As another example, look at northern Mexico, which is an economic wasteland compared to what it was before former Mexican President Felipe Calderon began his own war on drugs. And, as a result, now most of northern Mexico is literally run by the drug gangs, which have more money and guns than the police. But in many ways that does not make any difference, because so many policemen are on the drug gangs' payroll anyway.

So why does the government of Mexico not call a halt to so much carnage, misery and despair? Maybe it is because of the $20-billion "bribe" that our government provides every year to continue to pursue drug interdiction on our behalf. By the way, this is also occurring with the substantial grants (bribes) our federal government provides every year to many police departments in cities all around our country, which expressly require the money to be used to fight the war on drugs.

Throughout the Americas, people are beginning to understand that the tragedies are inflicted upon them and their communities not because of drugs but because of our war on drugs. Our policy of drug prohibition is the most damaging policy in the recent history of our country — and far more damaging than the policy of alcohol prohibition.

This is true also in Mexico, Central and South America, Afghanistan, Thailand and just about everywhere else in the world.

Fortunately, with the passage in 2012 of the initiatives in Colorado and Washington to regulate marijuana for adults, and with the recent decision by the government of Uruguay to regulate the sale of these drugs, the repeal of our policy of drug prohibition is in sight.

The reality is that Mexican drug gangs could raise illegal vineyards in our national forests in competition with Robert Mondavi, but they don't because there is no money in it. The same reality applies to other drugs as well.

But look at all of the misery and destruction that will continue to be inflicted upon so many people before that repeal is realized, like the huge migration of unaccompanied minors up to our border from countries like Honduras. We couldn't do it worse if we tried.

Former Daily Pilot columnists JAMES P. GRAY is a retired judge of the Superior Court in Orange County.

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