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The US War on Drugs is Driving the Displacement Crisis

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We are torn by images of unaccompanied minors and overcrowded facilities at our southern border, but few in the United States are asking why so many Central American families are so desperate to escape their own countries that they are willing to risk everything — including family separation.

These migrants are not fleeing some Act of God — drought or hurricanes or the like — that could not be anticipated or prevented. Rather, they are fleeing cartel violence and governmental corruption.

As CNN recently noted, “poverty, crime, and corruption in Latin America have long been drivers of migration.” Indeed, many Central Americans have concluded that the risks of the journey, of the smugglers, and of the possibility of losing their children are outweighed by the near certainty of violence or death at home.

But what explains the cartels, the violence and the governmental corruption? Fundamentally, it all stems from the U.S. War on Drugs.

When something that people want is declared illegal, the inevitable and predictable consequence is violence. Our experiment with alcohol prohibition in the United States (1920-1933) led to violence and corruption in U.S. cities as the unabated demand for alcohol led traffickers to pay bribes to police and politicians. Criminal gangs (think Al Capone) slaughtered each other as well as bystanders while battling over control of the alcohol trade.

However, during Prohibition, we did not try to force the rest of the world to join in our crusade. All the costs in violence and corruption stayed home to........

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