Editorial: Americans moving south risk safety

A growing number of Americans appear to be facing a tough choice: live in fear of violence, or live in fear of going poor.

Increasing numbers of U.S. citizens are choosing to move to Mexico when they retire. According to the Mexican Association of Retirement Communities, about 1.2 million American and Canadian retirees already live in Mexico, and as the U.S. economy worsens even more are expected to head south, where their retirement income can go farther.

Officials say the change shouldn’t affect established retirement communities in Texas border cities, where people can take advantage of lower prices in Mexico while still enjoying the benefits of living in the United States.

Unfortunately, growing violence along the border and throughout Mexico could be unsettling for those who see life in that country as a better option for living comfortably with limited resources. Reported gun battles in Reynosa and Matamoros in the past week, and renewed travel alerts from the U.S. State Department about entering Mexico, drive home the fact that life in that country carries some risk.

Certainly, the United States can’t guarantee the safety of those who choose to leave its boundaries. In addition, crime is just as much a reality north of the border, and most of the violence in Mexico involves drug gangs battling each other or Mexican military and law enforcement units. Honest residents aren’t likely to find themselves in the middle of such unrest.

Still, innocent people have been kidnapped and robbed or held for ransom by people looking to fund other activities. And sadly, police in Mexico are known for being either inept or corrupt.

People who choose to move outside the United States must recognize they assume any risks that go with their decision, and that police effectiveness and even the laws are different in other countries.

Still, U.S. policy, particularly its interdiction-only drug war, has a significant effect in Mexico by raising the price — and profitability — of illicit drugs. And since prohibition has placed the industry in the hands of people who already, by nature, are willing to break the law, we can expect the violence to only increase.

Our government can do much to make life easier for retirees, and for all Americans, regardless of where they live. Officials must take an objective look at drug policies that only make things worse and don’t significantly affect the flow of drugs into this country. Prohibition didn’t work for alcohol; in fact, it had the same effect that drug interdiction efforts are having now.

Just as importantly, officials might inspire more Americans to choose to stay in this country by cutting taxes, and the unnecessary bureaucracies they feed. Allowing Americans to keep more of their money, and letting them spend it as they see fit, will truly stimulate the economy and help us climb out of our current doldrums more rapidly.

Then, some people might be more inclined to live out their lives in the country of their birth, and not feel they are being driven to live in a foreign country where their safety might not be as secure.