Don’t yell at him just yet. He’s on to something. Only reform in Mexico itself will stop the northward migration:

The Senate takes up “comprehensive” immigration reform again this week. But the meat’s still missing in this burrito. As Mexico’s ambassador to Washington warns, even the “rosiest, peachiest” reform in the US won’t end the flow of poor migrants. Reform must also take place in Mexico.

And begun it has.

For the past seven months, Mexico has been at war with itself, literally. A new president, Felipe Calderón, has dispatched 24,000 troops into battle with the most corrosive influence in Mexico’s economy: powerful drug cartels.

These violent syndicates, which mainly transport drugs into the US, have exploded in the past decade. They’ve escalated crime and political corruption, hindering creation of well-paying jobs for would-be migrants. At election time, they provide cash for many campaigns.

This domestic war, which resembles the Iraq war in tactics and killing rates, was Mr. Calderón’s opening gambit for wholesale reform. It is widely popular but faces an uncertain future. The cartels are fighting back with gruesome murders. And the Army, one of the few respected institutions in Mexico, is not good at policing, a task it must do to root out local drug networks. Some of its elite soldiers have joined the cartels.

You don’t hear much about Mexico’s internal fight in the US press, but Google around “Nuevo Laredo” and you’ll pick up some of it. It’s a brutal, bloody fight and one of its epicenters is Nuevo Laredo, just across the border from Laredo, TX. Here are a few recent headlines from that war:

Mexican cartels in talks to split turf

NUEVO LAREDO – Mexico’s warring Sinaloa and Gulf drug cartels have quietly declared a cease-fire in at least two states as they negotiate a peace agreement that could divide the nation’s lucrative drug routes, U.S. and Mexican intelligence authorities said.

The surprising move could dramatically reduce violence across a nation where more than 1,300 people have been killed this year. But authorities caution that any agreement could easily be derailed like similar past efforts.

In contrast to the raging violence of the recent past, drug-related killings have fallen dramatically in the last two weeks, according to Mexico City newspapers that conduct unofficial daily tallies. Drug experts and senior law enforcement authorities on both sides of the border, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the cease-fire appears to be holding.

Any country that’s depending on a cease-fire between drug gangs to quell violence has major problems.

Cartel’s enforcers outpower their boss

NUEVO LAREDO, Mexico – Even in a country accustomed to gangland violence, the news is disquieting.

In coordinated strikes, armed men rob at least five casinos in four states, killing a bystander and escaping with bundles of money. In the northern state of Sonora, an attack on a police station leaves five officers dead and announces the arrival of a new criminal force in the region. The likely culprit in both cases: the Zetas, a ruthless organization that was virtually unheard of just five years ago.

The Zetas, created by a group of highly trained military deserters to work as enforcers for the Gulf drug cartel, have become so powerful that their old handlers are quickly losing control, authorities said.

The group, first concentrated along Mexico’s border with Texas, has evolved into a powerful threat in its own right, spreading its brand of brutal violence into 31 Mexican states as it battles for control of new regions and key border entry points, U.S. and Mexican authorities say.

“The Zetas have clearly become the biggest, most serious threat to the nation’s security,” said Raul Benitez, a Mexico security expert at American University in Washington, D.C.

“Now they want to control the nation’s drug routes and along the way topple the traditional cartel leaders,” said Mr. Benitez. “We’re witnessing a classic coup under way.”


Mexican lawmaker ambushed

Horacio Garza Garza, a federal congressman from Tamaulipas and former Nuevo Laredo mayor, was critically wounded and his chauffeur killed Monday when their car was ambushed near the airport.

The latest attack against a well-known public figure from Nuevo Laredo came one day after the Mexican government announced it was sending an additional 3,300 federal troops to the Texas-Mexico border and two days before a visit by U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff to Laredo.

Late Monday, Garza was placed in an ambulance and taken to an unknown destination in a caravan of several police cars that sped off toward the Nuevo Laredo airport.

Garza, 65, was heading to the Nuevo Laredo airport about 7 p.m. Monday to board a place bound for Mexico City when his vehicle was hit by a volley of shots.

The congressman, who was shot in the neck, chest and leg, was in a Nuevo Laredo hospital under heavy guard, said Laredo Mayor Raul Salinas.

That last story is from February of this year; the prior two are from this month. Swap a few names around and it wouldn’t be too hard to confuse Nuevo Laredo with Gaza. And it’s a river apart from Laredo, TX.

When we talk about border security, this is the kind of thing we’re talking about. It’s about terrorism first and foremost, but it’s also about basic law and order and keeping Americans safe from Mexico’s rampant violence.

Now, back to the editorial that I led with, and where US border security fits into Mexico’s internal war:

How can the US help? For one, effective border enforcement would keep more Mexicans in Mexico where they can contribute to the economy. The US can also better crack down on the flow of arms to Mexico’s cartels and the flow of drugs into the US.

I see this. You see this. The Christian Science Monitor sees this. But hardly anyone in Washington, and evidently no one in the White House, sees this. And that’s the problem. And we’re a bunch of bigots, yadda yadda yadda, right, Senator Grahamnesty?

The solution to Mexico’s problems isn’t to let more Mexicans into the US to live “in the shadows” or out of the shadows or give them a path to citizenship they’ve shown no interest in so far. The real solution, the compassionate solution, is to help Mexico fix Mexico from the inside out. Better border security and ending sanctuary policies on our side will move things a long way in the right direction on their side.