The War Inside America

The New York Times had an interesting story on the front page today called “Immigration and Gang Violence Propel Crusade,” about the bubbling war between African-American gangs and Mexican gangs in Los Angeles. Apparently, members of the African-American community are asking the police to start checking on the immigration status of suspected Mexican gang members.

According to the Justice Department’s National Drug Intelligence Center report, “Mexican Drug Trafficking Organizations control the transportation and wholesale distribution of most illicit drugs in every area of the country except the Northeast; their influence is increasing. Their established overland transportation routes and entrenched distribution networks enable them to supply primary and secondary drug markets throughout these regions. They have gained a greater share of the drug market by forcing African American street gangs out of midlevel drug distribution and relegating them to lower-level retail distribution.”

The fight for control of the drug trade in the United States is exacerbating tensions between African-Americans and Mexicans throughout the country. According to the Office of National Drug Control policy, many Mexican gang members are trying to blend into the local community of Mexican immigrants, from which they develop a marketing plan to distribute drugs. This is especially prevalent in the Midwest.

When Americans talk about their anger at illegal immigration, they are talking about this festering problem. It will behoove both John McCain and Barack Obama to focus on it during this upcoming campaign.

McCain needs to talk about it because he is still viewed with suspicion by those who hate illegal immigration. He has talked about sealing the borders first, and for many, that is a good start. But cracking down on these drug-dealing gangs is important for two reasons. First, they endanger the personal security of many Americans, more so than Osama bin Laden. Second, they deal the drugs that infect thousands of people in the heartland of America. The crystal meth epidemic has destroyed not just individual lives, but entire small towns. McCain needs to be proactive in protecting America from these purveyors of death.

For Obama, the challenge is finding a way to bring the African-American and Mexican communities together. The battle for supremacy in the drug trade has ramifications for the wider communities. When somebody from the Crips kills somebody from the Latin Kings, and vice versa, it creates even more distrust from those communities. Obama needs to take a bold stand against drug distribution by the criminal elements of both communities. So far, he has talked only about the audacity of hope. He needs to start talking about the failure of dope.

While Washington is focused on the war on terror, there is another war going on inside America. It is a war to control the drug distribution, and it is having a real impact on the American people. Police departments across the country are fighting this battle, but they are often out-gunned and out-manned. The next president should not neglect this war inside America.