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National Security Strategy Says Cooperation, Initiatives Must Confront ‘Unprecedented Levels of Irregular Migration’

The strategy also focuses on transnational criminal organizations and promised "further measures to ensure the United States remains the world’s top destination" for skilled workers.

The new National Security Strategy released Wednesday by the White House says greater regional collaboration and initiatives in economic and public-health spheres are necessary to better secure the United States and fellow Western Hemisphere nations in the face of “unprecedented levels of irregular migration.”

“Infectious diseases, terrorism, violent extremism, irregular migration, and other threats often emerge or accelerate due to deeper development challenges, and once they do, they do not recognize national borders,” the document states. “Transnational threats, in turn, undermine development, fuel poverty and human suffering, and feed a vicious circle.”

The strategy emphasizes shared cooperation on issues with security fallout such as climate change, noting that “tensions will further intensify as countries compete for resources and energy advantage — increasing humanitarian need, food insecurity and health threats, as well as the potential for instability, conflict, and mass migration,” as well as surging energy prices and mounting food insecurity, “which sharpen security challenges like migration and corruption.”

Putting forward plans on greater investment in innovation and the workforce, the strategy promised “further measures to ensure the United States remains the world’s top destination for talent.”

“Since the founding of our Nation, America has been strengthened and renewed by immigrants seeking opportunity and refuge on our shores — a unique strategic advantage,” the strategy states. “We will continue working with Congress and taking executive action to ensure our immigration and refugee systems are fair, orderly, humane, easier to navigate, and consistent with our values and the law.”

The release of the National Security Strategy came the day before the U.S.-Mexico High-Level Security Dialogue at the State Department, with Secretary of State Tony Blinken, Attorney General Merrick Garland, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, USAID Administrator Samantha Power, and their Mexican counterparts. The State Department said the dialogue would “discuss cooperation to better protect the health and safety of our citizens, prevent criminal organizations from harming our countries, and upholding human rights while bringing criminals to justice.”

“We need to enhance our efforts to disrupt illicit fentanyl production and trafficking, and synthetic opioids more broadly… We need to enhance our efforts to disrupt illicit weapons trafficking,” Blinken said today at the dialogue. “…So across these and so many security issues, the same truth holds: our ability to protect our people depends on working effectively together.”

Last week, the Mexico Defense Bilateral Working Group met at the Pentagon with Mexican co-chairs Secretariat of National Defense (SEDENA) Deputy Chief of the Joint Staff for Doctrine Major General Edgar Salador Rodriguez Franco and Secretariat of the Navy (SEMAR) Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations Vice Admiral Carlos Eduardo L’Eglise Escamilla. That meeting focused on “traditional defense activities” and “established joint objectives, lines of effort, and priorities to guide defense cooperation activities, more effectively address mutual challenges facing our region, and advance the security of our peoples and the Western Hemisphere,” the Defense Department said.

“The co-chairs agreed to expand U.S. and Mexican defense cooperation; advance bilateral capability to address mutually identified regional defense challenges; expand bilateral support and cooperation for regional defense cooperation activities; and exchange lessons learned and best practices,” DoD added.

In addition to discussing investments in national power and modernizing the military, the National Security Strategy outlines global priorities — including “out-competing China and constraining Russia,” climate and energy security, pandemics and biodefense, arms control, and security cyberspace — and regional priorities of promoting a free and open Indo-Pacific, deepening the U.S. alliance with Europe, fostering democracy and “shared prosperity” in the Western Hemisphere, supporting “de-escalation and integration in the Middle East,” building “21st Century U.S.-Africa partnerships,” maintaining a peaceful Arctic, and protecting sea, air, and space.

“No region impacts the United States more directly than the Western Hemisphere,” begins the section on the hemisphere. “With $1.9 trillion in annual trade, shared values and democratic traditions, and familial bonds, nations of the Western Hemisphere, especially in North America, are key contributors to U.S. prosperity and resilience. But the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing recession have exacerbated longstanding structural challenges, fueled political and social unrest, undermining faith in democracy’s ability to deliver, and spurred unprecedented levels of irregular migration to the United States and throughout the region. Recognizing the direct link between the region’s prosperity and security and that of our own, it is vital for the United States to revitalize our partnerships to build and preserve economic resilience, democratic stability, and citizen security within the hemisphere.”

The National Security Strategy says the United States “will advance these efforts through regular interactions, multilateral and institutional collaboration, and regional initiatives, and by implementing the commitments made at the Ninth Summit of the Americas.”

“The movement of people throughout the Americas, including over six million Venezuelans forced to leave their homes since 2015, affects all of Latin America and the Caribbean and reinforces the need for regional action,” the document continues. “The Los Angeles Declaration on Migration and Protection complements U.S. efforts at home to modernize its border infrastructure and build a fair, orderly, and humane immigration system with a bold hemisphere-wide partnership centered on the principle of responsibility-sharing, stability and assistance for affected communities, the expansion of legal pathways, humane migration management, and a coordinated emergency response. The United States is also leading the charge to expand legal pathways for migration and to combat illicit human smuggling and trafficking that prey on vulnerable migrants. These efforts combined aim to stabilize migrant populations and replace irregular migration with orderly flows that can fuel economic growth in the United States and across the region.”

“We will pursue these collaborative efforts while ensuring a fundamentally fair, orderly, and humane approach to migration management that bolster border security and protects our nation,” particularly through vaccine donations and healthcare partnerships as “ending and mitigating the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and advancing health security are imperative for the wellbeing of the entire hemisphere” and by working with regional partners at “deepening economic cooperation to ensure durable and inclusive economic growth that delivers for our working people.”

The strategy also stresses the need to “support effective democratic governance responsive to citizen needs, defend human rights and combat gender-based violence, tackle corruption, and protect against external interference or coercion, including from the PRC, Russia, or Iran.”

“We will also assist partners in facing security threats,” the strategy adds. “These challenges may be internal — including from local gangs, or transnational, including from criminal organizations that traffic drugs and humans and undertake other illegal operations—or external, as malign actors seek to gain military or intelligence footholds in the region. These threats impact security throughout the Americas, including here at home, and we will therefore promote collaboration to help assist civilian police and, strengthen justice systems in the Americas, and expand information sharing with our partners. These priorities — expanding economic opportunities, strengthening democracy, and building security — are mutually reinforcing and contribute to national, regional, and global stability. We have an overriding strategic interest in pursuing and strengthening collaboration through intensified diplomatic engagement with hemispheric partners and institutions based on the premise that advance a vision of a region that is secure, middle class, and democratic is fundamentally in the national security interest of the United States.”

“The challenge and the stakes of this undertaking are accentuated by the backdrop of increased geopolitical and geoeconomics volatility, the interrelated challenges posed by phenomena like climate change, global pandemics, and mass migration, and the recognition that the security and prosperity of the United States hinges on that of our neighbors.”

Under the terrorism section of the National Security Strategy, a box highlights the challenges posed by transnational organized crime, which “impacts a growing number of victims while amplifying other consequential global challenges, from migration to cyber-attacks.”

“Transnational criminal organizations (TCOs) are involved in activities such as the trafficking of drugs and other illicit goods, money laundering, theft, human smuggling and trafficking, cybercrime, fraud, corruption, and illegal fishing and mining. These activities feed violence in our communities, endanger public safety and health, and contribute to tens of thousands of drug-overdose deaths in the United States each year,” the strategy states. “They degrade the security and stability of our neighbors and partners by undermining the rule of law, fostering corruption, acting as proxies for hostile state activities, and exploiting and endangering vulnerable populations. We will accelerate our efforts to curb the threat posed by transnational organized crime, integrating the vital work of law enforcement with diplomatic, financial, intelligence, and other tools, and in coordination with foreign partners.”

“As part of this effort, we will work to reduce the availability of illicit drugs in the United States, especially the growing scourge of fentanyl and methamphetamines, by bringing all the tools of government to bear to interdict drugs and disrupt TCO’s supply chains and the financial networks that enable their corrosive activities. Recognizing that this is a problem with global reach we will work closely with our international partners to stop TCOs from getting precursor chemicals and work closely with private industry to increase vigilance and prevent the diversion of chemicals for illicit fentanyl production.”

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Bridget Johnson
Bridget Johnson is the Managing Editor for Homeland Security Today. A veteran journalist whose news articles and analyses have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe, Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor and a foreign policy writer at The Hill. Previously she was an editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and syndicated nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. Bridget is a terrorism analyst and security consultant with a specialty in online open-source extremist propaganda, incitement, recruitment, and training. She hosts and presents in Homeland Security Today law enforcement training webinars studying a range of counterterrorism topics including conspiracy theory extremism, complex coordinated attacks, critical infrastructure attacks, arson terrorism, drone and venue threats, antisemitism and white supremacists, anti-government extremism, and WMD threats. She is a Senior Risk Analyst for Gate 15 and a private investigator. Bridget is an NPR on-air contributor and has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, New York Observer, National Review Online, Politico, New York Daily News, The Jerusalem Post, The Hill, Washington Times, RealClearWorld and more, and has myriad television and radio credits including Al-Jazeera, BBC and SiriusXM.

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