I chuckled when I read that U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-AZ, reinforced his membership in “the sky is falling” club when he blamed illegal immigrants for some of the recent wildfires in Arizona. It’s real easy to blame someone from Mexico for the forest fires that are ravaging Arizona and any number of other problems facing Arizona and America.
McCain is only following the politically successful lead established by the likes of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, State Senate President Russell Pearce and Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu. All four have targeted the “low hanging fruit” in the debate over illegal immigration.
Once it was just weed and dope smuggling that made money for entrepreneurial Mexican criminals. But thanks to failures by the U.S. and Mexican governments, human smuggling became a new and successful profit center for criminals who have evolved from small time hoods to transnational organized crime groups worth billions of dollars.
While McCain, Pearce, Arpaio and Babeu ride through the streets like Paul Revere yelling “the illegal aliens are coming,” the focus of Arizona residents and even law enforcement agencies who have to pander to powerful political figures has been focused almost exclusively on just one or two of the profit centers tied to Mexican organized crime. All while little or no attention is focused on multiple other mob profit centers.
In 2009 the National Drug Intelligence Center estimated that Mexican and Colombian cartels launder between $18 billion and $39 billion annually from wholesale drug sales. Much of that money is reportedly cash from the United States.
Last year U.S. Dept. of Justice officials estimated that approximately $2 million a day in cash profits just from drugs is moved from Arizona to Mexico.
In the 2010 report “What went wrong in the fight against organized crime in Mexico?” by Edgardo Buscaglia, a recognized expert on Mexican organized crime, the author said that the Mexican mob has diversified into at least 20 different areas they derive profits from and that only 45-48 percent of the mob’s profits now come from drug trafficking. Other profit centers include kidnapping, extortion, fraud, smuggling, piracy and trafficking in weapons.
A June 18 New York Times opinion piece, “Legalization Won’t Kill the Cartels,” by retired U.S. Air Force intelligence officer Sylvia Longmire, pointed out Mexican crime groups have diversified successfully beyond drugs and are even involved in oil theft from Pemex, Mexico’s national oil company, and in pirated goods, “a crime that was once dominated by terrorists groups Hezbollah and Hamas.”
In the Feb. 3, 2011 Seattle Post Intelligencer story “Mexican drug cartel selling counterfeit Microsoft software,” it stated that according to an analysis by the Mexico Attorney General, one Mexican crime group’s illegal counterfeiting activities earn more than $2.2 million in revenue every day.
It’s no secret Arizona is a destination for Mexican organized crime. In 2009 the Arizona Department of Public Safety estimated 60 percent of the serious crime committed in our state is linked to organized crime. According to the 2010 National Drug Threat Assessment, Arizona has a presence of Mexican, Colombian, Asian and Cuban organized crime groups and that there are 10,000 or more gang members just in Maricopa County. Arizona has long been a melting pot of diversity when it comes to crime.
McCain’s rants about securing the border and his “danged fence” won’t stop or even slow the tidal wave of criminal activity flowing into Arizona. And it does nothing about crime and criminals that now call Arizona home.
Crossing into the U.S. without proper documentation is a serious issue and McCain should be concerned about it and human-caused forest fires. But he needs to understand blaming illegal immigrants for anything and everything that comes along has only allowed the Mexican mob and their organized crime affiliates to prosper in the state he has been elected to represent since 1982.
• Retired Mesa master police officer Bill Richardson lives in the East Valley and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org