Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Odds in favor of Mexican drug cartels

One of the biggest buzzwords in business today is “efficiency.” Everybody wants to get things done faster with less work.

The U.S. Border and Customs Patrol program on the Mexican border is no exception. A recent Associated Press article called into question the program’s effectiveness on security.

Years ago, the agency launched its C-TPAT program – Customs Trade Partnership Against Terrorism. The premise was to speed border crossings for companies who shared their security programs and established a record of trust with the Border Patrol.

The upside for the companies was fewer delays at the border. The program was lauded as a huge success by some of the participating companies.

Take for example this ringing endorsement by Confab Laboratories Inc.

“Our transporters, which are all C-TPAT accredited, can use at the U.S. border the ‘FAST Lane’ which minimizes the time to cross the border. Only two of our transporters were inspected since our accreditation in November 2007.”

Wow, only twice?

According to Customs’ own numbers, the program has indicated from its inception that C-TPAT importers are “four to six times less likely to incur a security or compliance examination.”

The flip side, according to the Border Patrol, is that non-trusted companies would have their shipments inspected more often.

It doesn’t take high level math, or even a “Jimmy the Greek” level oddsmaker, to figure this one out. If you’re the Mexican drug cartel, you’re going to put your money – and dope – on those C-TPAT shipments.

Leaning on some poor dock worker at a preferred carrier’s shipping operation could land massive amounts of illegal drugs on a trailer that’s going to sail through the border in less than 20 seconds by some estimations.

We won’t even go there on accusations of corruption at the border. That concern has been documented and beat around in publications, on news stations and even in Congress.

Streamlining the border has obvious unintended consequences. The illegal criminal element will always circumvent the law and programs designed with good intentions.

The C-TPAT program is an obvious example of that. It’s a system that, if the criminal element hasn’t already broken it, is in the process of breaking.

Before we start opening up any more lanes, or “trusting” any more Mexican motor carriers or shippers – like in a long-haul cross-border program with the U.S. – it’s time for some tough decisions on the border.

Even though some would like you to believe we have no choice but to grant access to freight from Mexico because of NAFTA. That’s just not true.

The U.S. is under no more obligation to open the border to Mexico and risk harm to our citizens, than good parents are obligated to let the troublemaker down the street into their home.

Sure, we’d like to play nice with Mexico, but with its out-of-control drug problems – it’s kind of like the next-door neighbor kid who brings pot in your house.

“We’d love to welcome you here. But, until you clean up your act, you’re just not allowed to come over.”

Simple, but sometimes solutions are.