Let’s be honest. We have no clue what the world will look like once Donald Trump becomes the 45th US President. If you think he has failed to present details on how to “Make America Great Again” in most policy issues, it is equally uncertain when it comes to his plans to tackle organised crime.
Trump’s plan to stop “rapists and murderers”
One of his few clear proposals was the 1,000-mile wall on the southwest border with Mexico. With an estimated cost of $25 USD billion—78% of the US Department of Justice budget—Trump proposes to stop illegal immigration, allegedly, as a way to disrupt the networks of ‘rapists, murderers, smugglers, and drug traffickers’ coming from the south.
When confronted with reality, there are reasons to believe this measure will not be effective. For instance, it fails to understand the problem. Net migration from Mexico to the US is in its lowest recorded level. Today there are more Mexicans moving back from the US to Mexico, than the other way around.
Moreover, nearly half of all the unauthorized migrants living in the US entered the country legally through an official port of entry—such as an airport—and over-stayed their visa. No matter how high, a wall would not make a difference.
Trump’s plan to stop drug traffickers
Trump’s wall won’t stop drugs entering the US either. While Mexico is the primary producer of heroin for the US,—due to logistical requirements—American citizens are obviously involved in border drug operations. Four out of five drug busts by the border patrol involve US citizens. Even when there is not an ‘American Chapo’, someone is moving the drugs once they are inside the US, and a wall will not make a difference.
Even if drugs and crime were exclusively coming from the south, Trump’s proposal seems to be quite naive. Since 1990, more than 150 secret narcotunnels have been found along the border. With the growing availability of hundreds of commercial drones creating huge situational opportunities for trafficking, a wall will be meaningless.
Drug-markets are also changing. Alongside Trump’s election last Tuesday, voters in Massachusetts, Maine, Nevada, and California chosen to legalise marijuana for ‘recreational use’.
With almost 30 states allowing medical marijuana and 10 permitting some type of ‘recreational use’, it may be not surprising that domestic marijuana production has increased up to more than 10,000 metric tons/22 million pounds. Currently, half of the marijuana consumed by Americans is already produced inside the US. A wall is unlikely to change this situation.
Trump’s plan to stop illegal migrants
The President-elect also proposed to deport 11 million migrants, the largest mass-scale deportation in all American history. Due to its economic effect, it is very unlikely that this will occur, at least in the short term. What is more conceivable, however, is a steep rise of racially motivated violent assaults. As a normalisation effect, we can expect an expansion of gangs and organised criminals starting to target specific racial groups.
Unrealistic? Well, a similar phenomenon occurred some months ago after the controversial Brexit vote in the UK where hate crime increased by almost 60%.
When it comes to the US, we should not forget that some highly organised groups, such as the Ku Klux Klan, were prevalent not many years ago, thus it wouldn’t be surprising if we see a rise of far-right extremist and white supremacist groups, which have been notable players in organised crime.
We should not ignore that minorities routinely suffered racial attacks during Trump rallies. Hate speech has a cost. When Trump proposed to ban Muslims, hate crimes against American Muslims increased 78%.
Should we be concerned? Probably.
Trump’s openly hostile stance against financial regulation makes it less likely that his administration will target money launderers, facilitating organised crime activity. Furthermore, his closeness to the NRA is very likely to increase gun availability, and hence lead to more violence and shootings. Lastly, his isolationist foreign policy foreshadows obstacles for international cooperation to tackle organised crime.
Difficult times are coming. More than ever, science and evidence should play a central role in our approach to preventing and disrupting organised crime.
*David Pérez Esparza holds a Master in Public Policy, a Master in Political Economy and Conflict Resolution, and a Master in Security Sciences. He is a PhD candidate at University College London (UCL) and founding member of the UCL Organised Crime Research Network (OCRN).
The views expressed in this blog post are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of UCL, the Department of Security and Crime Science or the UCL Organised Crime Research Network.