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On Wednesday, four Senators leading in the push for comprehensive immigration reform headed down to Nogales, Arizona, to check out U.S. border security in action.

From the beginning, it was clear the trip was simply another act of political showboating, an attempt by the members of the “Gang of Eight” to prove they had found common ground on at least one issue—border security. Even Politico didn’t take the Senators’ trip all that seriously, calling the visit a “spring break road trip.”

Even so, one might have hoped that the trip would have at least raised attention to the challenges still faced at the border, or a discussion of what is needed moving forward. Instead, however, the major story coming out of the trip was Senator John McCain’s (R–AZ) tweet about witnessing a woman trying to flee across the border:

McCain followed that tweet with:

Yet, while McCain at least recognized that threats along the border remain real, the group as a whole still appeared out of touch, both in their perceptions of the threat and their thoughts on how best to combat it. Indeed, in another quote from the trip, Senator Charles Schumer (D–NY) stated:

One of the things we learned is that a lot of people cross the border are doing it for drug purposes, too.

Never mind the fact that Schumer’s comment seems to imply that he just learned about the long-standing threat of drug smuggling along the border; the quote also serves as a very real reminder of yet another issue with linking border security to comprehensive immigration reform.

Quite simply, border security is not just about halting illegal immigration. Any attempt to enhance border security will not succeed without recognizing the threat of transnational criminal cartels still rampant in Mexico and much of Central America.

If the Gang of Eight wants to get serious about border security, they should do more than merely use it as a “political football” and call on the Obama Administration to work with Mexico to develop a comprehensive approach to combat drug violence and crime.

Any serious effort to develop an effective border security strategy requires a reliable security partner in Mexico.

immigration reform