MexicoThe United States is currently undergoing a massive influx of Central American immigrants along the Southwest border. Due to gridlock and political interest in courting the Latino vote, federal policies have been ineffective in resolving this looming national crisis. The consequent bureaucratic quagmire, in turn, prevents states from protecting the interests of their citizens. A dangerous situation looms, where local communities and citizen groups feel compelled to take action to preserve property and maintain their way of life.

Resolving this immediate crisis is important but the nation’s political leaders must also examine the migration and demographic trends which threaten the geographic cohesiveness and prosperity of the United States. This existential threat could be turned into a strategic opportunity if viewed through a different, long-term lens.

In his final book Who Are We? The Challenges to America’s National Identity, Harvard political scientist Samuel Huntington addressed what he viewed as an impending crisis posed by Hispanic immigration. He argued that Anglo-Protestant culture, the fundamental reason the United States has prospered as a nation, was eroding because of this northward population shift. He also noted that Hispanic immigration differed from past such movements for six reasons: contiguity, scale, illegality, regional concentration, persistence, and historical presence. It is this last factor that requires further examination.

People from no other immigrant group in America’s history can make a claim of ownership of U.S. territory. Most of the Southwest region from Texas, to California, to Utah was incorporated into the United States after wars with Mexico in the mid-19th century. Peter Skerry of Boston College notes:

Unlike other immigrants, Mexicans arrive here from a neighboring nation that has suffered a military defeat at the hands of the United States; and they settle predominantly in a region that was once part of their homeland…. Mexican Americans enjoy a sense of being on their own turf that is not shared by other immigrants.

This history certainly challenges assimilation of the migrants, potentially leading to the bifurcation of a national culture.

Huntington further posits that blood relationships are thicker than national borders. The concentration of Hispanic immigrants along the Southwest border, with relatives nearby but outside the US, poses a true stressor on the political line drawn between the two states. Despite long- established borders, cross-border networks, often based on family connections, have the potential to spawn a unification movement. Historically, such culturally divisive borders have been a source of bloodshed, with Rwanda, Korea and Vietnam as recent examples.

Huntington was not alone in this school of thought. Another academic, Charles Truxillo of the University of New Mexico, predicts the Southwestern American states and the northern states of Mexico will form a new republic by 2080. “Southwest Chicanos and Norteño Mexicanos are becoming one people again,” he said and it should happen “by any means necessary.” What this new political entity would look like – a semi-autonomous region or an independent state – no one knows.

While this notion may seem absurd, recent polls indicate measures of trust and confidence in the US federal government are at an all-time low and nascent movements are underway in several states (Maryland, Colorado, and California) to change existing borders to create more representative political entities. In democratic republics, can this type of secession occur without bloodshed if demanded by its citizens? Recent events in Crimea may portend the future of state borders not supported by the populace. So something should be done.

In the thought-proving book The Revenge of Geography, Robert Kaplan compares the current crisis along America’s Southwest border with the decline of the Roman Empire. Political overreach elsewhere while ignoring problems close to home contributed to the demise of Rome. Kaplan argues that the influx of immigrants along the Southwest Border poses a similar strategic security concern for America. Like Huntington and others, he highlights the dangers of ignoring the long term effects of unbridled illegal immigration and concludes some form of conjoining Mexico and the United States may be inevitable. Conversely, Kaplan also identifies opportunities from such a situation.

Obviously, a more vibrant Mexican economy would lower the push of migrants seeking work in the United States. If Mexico were to achieve first-world economic status, Kaplan asserts, a stable and prosperous republic south of the Rio Grande, working in concert with United States, would be an unbeatable combination in geopolitics. Considering the much younger population of Central America, the natural resource abundance, particularly energy, of Canada, and economic infrastructure in the US, a tri-lingual “supra-state” of the three North America countries would serve as an effective global balancing force.

Elevating Mexico to this status is a daunting challenge needing the same level of American commitment that it has demonstrated with distant nations around the globe. While economic development and reducing the income disparity across the border are critical components to stabilizing the region, economic efforts alone will fail unless security problems are resolved, too. Unlike other security alliances where the sale of expensive weapon systems serves as the foundation, Mexico needs a different form of security assistance.

Mexico needs a capability to disrupt sophisticated transnational criminal organizations. US military, intelligence, and federal law enforcement agencies must expand their support to Mexican law enforcement and military forces. After a decade of honing irregular warfare skills in Iraq and Afghanistan, US Special Forces and US Marines are ideally prepared and suited for this mission.

The mountainous terrain and sparse population of northern Mexico makes it difficult to eradicate the para-military transnational criminal organizations that occupy the region. And UN peace keeping forces have deployed to places less dangerous than some northern Mexican cities, such as Ciudad Juarez. In contrast, US Marines have a long history of operating in the region, dating back to the Mexican wars of the 1800s, the Banana Wars of the early 1900s, Veracruz in 1914 and operating as part of a Joint counter-drug task force in the 1990s. Further, the Marines have the ability to partner with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service to create a capable hybrid law enforcement-military team, similar to the Delta Force – FBI unit that reportedly captured terrorist Ahmed Abu Khattala.

This role may seem inappropriate for the US military. But while nearly three thousand people tragically died in the 9/11 terrorist attacks, this number is dwarfed by the number of deaths along both sides of the Southwest border since that fateful day in 2001. Since then, America’s national security enterprise has been distracted by fighting the global war on terrorism; vast intellectual capital was expended and national debt accumulated to rebuild nations of little strategic interest to the United States, all the while allowing security conditions to deteriorate much closer to home. This is a national security issue, pure and simple.

The Pentagon is transitioning from fighting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to contending with the rise of China as a regional power. Making this shift will be an impossible task unless America’s domestic problems are resolved, however. Chief among those problems is developing a long-term solution to the immigration problem and forming strategic partnerships with Mexico, Canada, and other Latin American States. An effective partnership with a stable Mexico not only contributes to American prosperity but will create a powerful geopolitical balancer in the future.

Posted by Robert Kozloski in Homeland Security
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  • Diogenes

    No doubt the US is in imperial decline but that isn’t always a bad thing. And I would take the creation of a new Latin state a bit premature. Latinos in Texas and New Mexico where I was raised are proud Americans… Don’t see any correlation to the Roman Empire quite yet… Kozloski’s reporting deftly defines the difficulties faced by any government to “secure” its borders without militarizing them and then he suggests doing so is a good idea. Mexico however isn’t Haiti or the D.R., there are no fruit companies agitating the situation, no illiterate peasants to kill in pursuit of nation building. In addition there is sovereignty rights as well as other pressing political and social arguments that prohibit sending in the Marines without the endorsement of the Mexican government – unless Mr. Zozloski is suggesting we invade Mexico. Without rebuilding the services we can’t invade New Jersey, much less Mexico. A redefined border strategy is our only real option.

  • Isaac Cubillos

    This is one of the most ignorant pieces I read on USNI’s site. Cherry-picking quotes without context leads only to faulty conclusions, as this piece demonstrates.

    For example, Kozloski quotes Perry Skerry but fails to understand that Skerry’s conclusion was that Mexican-Americans are, as the title suggests, ambivalent. Skerry points to the fact that Mexican-Americans are very different than Latinos coming from south of the border. While Skerry, a self-described neo-conservative, brings up some good points in his 1993 book, times has proven him off the mark in some of his conclusions. As a note, I know Peter, and we’ve had great conversations and interviews on this subject.

    Indeed, Skerry modifies his opinion in his 2013 piece: “All of us should stop to appreciate that America is a remarkably open and absorptive society, where newcomers and their children put down roots and develop ties rapidly. Indeed, these forces are so powerful that they overcome much of the indecision and ambivalence of illegals who typically do not arrive planning to stay here. We should allow ourselves to feel good about this, and use such positive sentiments to help us address a dilemma that, in its intractability, does not reflect well on any of us.”

    If Kozloski really knew this subject, he would know there are no “Hispanics” in Latin American. That is a made up name only used in the U.S. Latin Americans see themselves as individuals from their own countries, Mexican, El Salvadorans, Hondurans, Peruvians, etc. Just by applying the generic term “Hispanic” shows the author’s ignorance on the subject, and the diverse population differences.

    Leading the piece about the “Latino vote” is also shows lack of knowledge of the subject. There is no “Latino vote” — period. And the political parties don’t cater to them and much as the author thinks. As many Latino leaders have said, the politicos show up when they need our vote, but ignore us the rest of the time. Thus, while some polls show that Latino voter turnout may be 56-60% in some areas, nationally the turnout is about 8% of the total voting population. In other words, Latinos who are American citizens — whether by birth or naturalization — for the most part feel the political system has failed them, and they simply don’t bother registering or going to the polls.

    The author glaringly ignores several realities: First the largest group of Latinos in the U.S. are not immigrants, rather they are five-plus generations-old Red-White-and-Blue Americans. They are as loyal to the U.S. as any one else. Yes, there is cultural pride, just as fervent as those who are Irish-Americans, Italian-Americans, German-Americans.
    Second: Study after study show that children of Latino immigrants — especially those born in this country — learn English quickly and adopt American culture as their own.

    The author also ignores the 11 million illegal immigrants (about 4% of the entire U.S. population) is fewer than the 12 million in 2007. The reverse trend of illegal immigration comes from tightening border security started in the Bush administration and continued with a heavy had by the present administration. Another factor, is the immigrants are on their own volition leaving.

    Finally, in this alarmist piece, Kozloski comes very close to stereotyping Latinos — and even, to use his words, “Anglo-Protestants ” This is a very dangerous position to take. If the author is concerned about security, certainly the problem isn’t at our southern border, but rather the terrorists who arrive legally from Europe and Canada. But by quoting Samuel Huntington — a zealot for “Anglo-Protestant[ism]” Kozloski shows his true colors by agrees with Huntington’s description of what an authentic American is: Protestant Christians, who speak English, and believe in the legacy political institutions of English liberalism. When one pulls away the facade of elitist intellectualism, you are left with xenophobic, anti-Catholic, rhetoric that appeals to the most hateful members of our society.

    From an editor’s perspective, (I know it’s the author’s opinion), USNI’s editors should have questioned the author’s premises more, as they do others.

    The piece is a disservice to USNI’s readership who rely on quality arguments being presented.

    • Robert_Kozloski

      Clearly you missed my point and as the author of this piece I accept full responsibility for the miscommunication. Obviously, this is a controversial piece but I expected this type of vitriolic response from the more conservative members of the group for looking at the current immigration issue optimistically.

      So to your points Mr. Cubillos, I am guilty of one thing and that is using Kaplan’s framework (in the context of current events) to advance my position. He cited Huntington, Skerry and Truxillo to illustrate the potential danger if this situation is not addressed. I used those three examples with the same intent and added that this problem is exacerbated by the fact that Americans writ large are becoming increasingly dissatisfied with the government, to the point they are currently looking at ways to alter political borders. I don’t see this situation improving anytime soon and it has the potential to get much worse in the future.

      Further, like Kaplan, I think the current discussion needs to move beyond the racism/amnesty/build-a-fence schools of thought and look for a long term-solution that benefits both countries. I don’t see that happening until security conditions improve throughout the region (again, as an enabler for economic development).

      Which brings me to the reason for writing this piece on the USNI blog in the first place, America’s national security apparatus needs to adapt to deal with transnational threats and a tighter linkage between the Marines and Federal Law Enforcement Agencies is a good start. I am not suggesting an invasion of Mexico but if both sides want to mitigate the violence along the border, then security assistance provides the ways and means.

      I will agree with Mr. Cubillos on one point. If my article hints of racism (as a lifelong Roman Catholic I’m not sure how you inferred that I was anti-Catholic) as he alleges it should be taken down immediately; we all agree USNI is not the forum for that type of discussion and I defer to Mary to make that decision. That clearly was not the intent of my post.

      • Isaac Cubillos

        I appreciate Mr. Kozlozki’s response, and I would say to Mary that this piece should stay up as an example of poor research and faulty conclusions of a complex subject that needs more thoughtful reflection. Cherry-picking quotes from Kaplan’s book suits no one well without understanding the background and context of those he is quoting. But Kaplan’s approach has always been to send in the military, first. As he wrote in “Imperial Grunts”, the American military’s mission is to bring civilization to the heathens of the world. It is this attitude that colors Mr. Kozolki’s piece.

        I reported on the Marines along the Texas border in 1998, and interviewed the Marine — a Latino — who shot and killed a teen-aged U.S. citizen Latino boy along the border.

        While I don’t necessarily agree with neo-conservatives’ views about the border, a good read of Skerry’s latest thesis which delves deeper into the roots of the migration, the inevitable change of what is an American, and posits viable solutions without the need of a military presence.

        As the 1st Marine Division general said in 1998 at the time of shooting of that American teenager, “Marines are not the tool to be used for this kind of enforcement.” He was correct then, and is today.

      • Robert_Kozloski

        Again, I must disagree with you. While the Marines of 1990s may not have been appropriate for the JTF-6 mission, they appear to emerging as the “force of choice” for fighting TCOs.

        From a recent Marine Corps Times article,

        “PUERTO BARRIOS, GUATEMALA — Marines are contributing to the fight against some of the most sophisticated and brutal narcotics traffickers the Americas have ever seen, known for hanging their rivals from overpasses and ruthlessly assassinating government officials.

        As troops in Central America turn up the
        fight against narco-traffickers, they’re looking to the Marine Corps for guidance. Now the Corps has a year-round training mission that leaves
        small teams of Marines deployed to Central America for six months at a time. They’re helping train troops in some of the most dangerous
        countries in the world, teaching them how to patrol rivers long devoid of any enforcement, destroy clandestine airstrips used by drug runners, and turn over urban villages seized by gangs.

        Marines deploy here in the form of Security Cooperation Teams — or SCTs. They’re based in
        the port cities like this one; La Ceiba, Honduras; and Ladyville, Belize. In June, Marine Corps Times spent a week with the Marines on the
        ground in the three countries.

        The three teams that deployed to Central America in January were the first active-duty Marines to conduct long-term training of foreign troops tasked with interdicting criminals weaving their way up to the U.S. border with drugs, weapons and people. The Marines come from a variety of units and military occupational specialties, and most are Spanish-speaking.

        Marine Corps officials have stressed their commitment to this part of the world
        that is often in the shadows of large-scale operations in other combatant commands, like the Asia-Pacific region or the Middle East.
        Gen. John Kelly, head of U.S. Southern Command, told lawmakers earlier
        this year that it’s imperative for the U.S. to keep faith with the countries whose troops are fighting against the illegal drug trade.

        In recent years, the violence surrounding the drug trade has surged across the region, destabilizing large areas of Mexico, which borders two of the three countries where Marines are operating here. Senior U.S.officials have linked the instability to the recent exodus of tens of thousands of Central American children who’ve fled the violence and
        deteriorating quality of life in their countries for the dangerous, illegal attempt to enter the U.S.”

        I see these types of missions expanding and the Marines could improve their own capabilities with greater integration with LE (similar to the USCG). If done right, the Marines could significantly improve security conditions throughout the region – an enabler for prosperity.

    • V H

      This article doesn’t seem ignorant at all. In fact it is an attempt to stimulate original thinking on an issue where we have seen nothing but hand wringing and the same warmed over “solutions”.

      This grave problem we are facing today demands out the box thinking and while you may not agree with Mr Kozloski’s conclusions it is important that we apply good old American ingenuity to develop solutions that in the long run favor our nation.

      • grandpabluewater

        Please see below.

  • totalitat

    People from no other immigrant group in America’s history can make a claim of ownership of U.S. territory

    British and French immigrants couldn’t make the same arguments? You might want to brush up on your colonial history.

    Adopting a frame is fine, but you need to critique it as well, and Huntington’s problem is that he (a priori) views Latino immigrants as different and ignores evidence to the contrary.

    • rrhersh

      Gotta watch the Dutch, and even the Swedes, too.

    • grandpabluewater

      Ahem… Anyone may make a claim. Anyone may make a specious claim. Anyone may make an ignorant claim.

      The territories gained by the conquest and surrender of Mexico by the United States were ceded to the United States in perpetuity, as were those purchased from the Government of Mexico as the result of the same defeat of Mexico. The treaties stand and neither government questions the treaties enduring validity. No separatist claim or proclaimation of reconquista has any valid basis,

      The only course which would result in partition and separation of huge territories of the States which make up the southwestern United States would a Civil and/or Mexican/American (i.e., US) War.
      (Rant on)
      Nothing would make our enemies happier, throughout the world.

      Indeed, just uncovering of a serious proposal to Mexico or any US domestic group of Spanish speaking dissident persons, be they be U.S. citizens (native or naturalized), or illegally entered non citizens, or visa holding legal immigrants, or any combination thereof, by any foreign power or NGO is a prima facie causus belli – as any student of German history in the 20th century well knows.

      The Big Lie currently in circulation is that spanish speaking catholics and english speaking protestants, (or dumber still, anglo- saxon protestants) have a cultural/religious/racial quarrel which justifies partition “by any means necessary” (which presumably includes acts of war, but somehow portuguese speaking catholics, french speaking catholics, italian speaking catholics, german and dutch speaking protestants, yiddish speaking jews, german speaking jews and russian speaking jews, and greek and russian orthodox are irrelevant.

      The old saw is “divide and conquer” and it is being worked hard in the cause of party politics. Every one needs to come to their senses.

      Only a madman would wish the Rio Grande valley to suffer the same fate as the Shenandoah valley, or El Paso the same as Atlanta. Sober up. The Rio Grande valley, LA and San Diego county and Arizona and New Mexico south of I10 are too small and disconnected to make a nation state, and far to large to succeed as an Insane Asylum.

      The problem is feckless fools (party irrelevant) who hold, or lust for, political office; and a coalition of the history and legal information ignorant which form a dystopic sector of the news media and academe (see also above).
      (Rant off)

      Down this road lies chaos, ruin, and blood. Avoid it.

  • Mike

    Very good article. Being from Los Angeles I don’t think a lot of people
    from the rest of the country really understand how much of the Southwest
    is basically Mexico already. The hispanic drop out rate is very high,
    college graduation very low and all the money thrown at the problem
    isn’t going to solve a cultural weakness. The larger the portion the
    hispanic population becomes the more it brings down the country as a
    whole just as it has with all of these international testing.This isn’t
    meant to be personal to anyone as I am hispanic myself but it is

  • cat48

    So the Naval Institute appears to be full of Anglo Protestants who assume they are God’s chosen ones, while in reality, they are just ordinary, average white bigots.

  • grandpabluewater