The police, adequately suited up and armed, were ready. So were the media staked out by the Father Rahm church in El Paso where a massive influx of migrants was expected in a much-anticipated border crisis. This would be the result of a law expiring – Title 42 – that denied entry of immigrants on grounds of disease. But nothing happened. The invaders failed to appear. I drove several miles to the east of El Paso where I’d seen a number of migrants and police the day before. Now I didn’t see anyone. The police around town were relaxed and joking. Just an average day, they said.
Had the cartels lost their punch? That didn’t seem likely. Here’s a conspiracy theory: President Biden made a call to his favorite drug cartel boss. How about doing me a favor. Call off your boys for a few days. It’ll make me look good. No open border. The boss complied and may ask for a favor in return.
Now for the facts. The Mexican drug cartels which basically control the entire 2000-mile border don’t care for dramatics, only for business which has never been better. They’re making tons of money from charging migrants to cross the border. If they don’t pay, they don’t cross. This comes on top of enormous earnings from drug sales to Americans already on the other side. Americans and Mexicans are both cash cows. Why jeopardize a good thing by making an unnecessary splash. So there will be no flood of migrants, just the usual trickle and occasional stream. The cartels are nothing if not strategists. In this respect they have no match on the other side.
Routinely, migrants gather at Father Rahm’s church awaiting their processing and dispersal to various parts of the country. In contrast to past migrations, there are hardly and women or children, just vigorous young males who don’t look as if they need asylum. They say they want work and indeed could make up for job shortages in some areas of the economy. They could also add to the cartel drug distribution network around the U.S. A group of three acted rather mysteriously. They seemed to head back toward Mexico. Homesick already? As they approached the border, they ducked into a building controlled by the U.S Border Patrol. I tried to follow but was stopped. Have to get permission higher up. Border Czar Kamala Harris? Were they informants of some kind or specially privileged? Surely not cartel members. You never know in this murky drug business.
Other migrants await their turn on the other side of the Rio Grande, now a muddy stream easy to cross. A much-traveled foot bridge leads to Juarez, known as the murder capital of the world when I was there a few years ago. Now it is several rungs down on the homicidal ladder and its downtown is as active and vibrant as that of El Paso, though a photographer tells me there have been some shootouts at a popular night spot. An expatriate familiar with border life says Americans are pretty safe In Juarez. The cartels are tolerant. If, say, a boisterous American gets carried away at a local bar and starts railing against the drug cartels, he will be gently escorted out and put to bed. Anything violent would be bad for business. Murdering an offending Mexicans is another matter, unreported.
About fifty migrants are waiting in makeshift tents close to the footbridge in Juarez. Once again, they are almost all youngish men, this time from Venezuela. They are cheerful and approachable and could use a little money. They know they must await the command of the cartel to cross and hope it will be sooner rather than later. The cartel in turn conquers by dividing. The aim is to send a group over at a certain point to draw the attention of the Border Patrol. Thus diverted, they leave an opening for drugs to be sent across. Not a moment is wasted. It’s strategy.