While corruption has been a way of life in Mexico historically, the dominance of drug cartels there now amplifies the corruption, putting the beleaguered country at a dangerous tipping point.

Not unlike terrorist organizations, the drug cartels use violence and the threat of it in conjunction with bribery to destabilize Mexico’s federal and local government.

Billions of American drug dollars have flowed to the cartels and given them their power.

The tremendous wealth has bought the cartels influence, military-grade weapons, vehicles, counterfeit documents, safe houses, and government and military officials.

With more than 6,000 lives lost last year, Mexico is bearing the brunt of the brutal drug violence, which has included videotaped beheadings and hours-long firefights.

Mexico is so fragile that it is on the same level as Pakistan for the potential of rapid and sudden collapse, according to a report on worldwide security threats issued by the U.S. Joint Forces Command. But the situation puts Mexico’s northern neighbor at great risk as well.

On an ongoing basis tens of thousands of illegal aliens push their way across the Mexican border into the United States. Some are seeking an illegal job and serve only briefly as pawns for drug dealers en route by carrying drugs, but others are criminal aliens involved full-time in gangs, such as the violent El Salvadorian MS-13 gang, and the drug trade. They come not just from Mexico and Latin America, but other “special interest” countries — Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan and Syria — known to engage in terrorism.

The border situation is in fact so tenuous that a travel advisory issued this month by the U.S. State Department warns of the increasing violence in Mexico, particularly along the U.S.-Mexico border where police have clashed with drug traffickers armed with automatic weapons and grenades. Carjacking, homicide, kidnapping, petty theft and robbery also are on the rise, according to the advisory.

Mexico can now also claim daytime public shootouts. These have gone down in Nogales, Tijuana and Ciudad Juarez, a city which had more than 1,800 murders since January 2008.

Safety and security are so threatened that the mayor of Juarez relocated his family across the border to El Paso after being threatened by the drug cartels. Increasing numbers of Mexican citizens are following suit, fleeing the violence and seeking asylum in the United States — further straining the U.S. immigration system.

Evidence of the spillage of Mexico’s problems into the United States abounds. The Mexican drug cartel violence has turned Phoenix into a kidnapping capital.

Except for Mexico City, Phoenix last year had more kidnappings than any city worldwide.

Arizona officials believe if the violent drug-related crime is not halted in this city, other cities throughout the United States will begin to see similar brutal crime.

Last week’s announcement that the Drug Enforcement Agency had conducted raids and made arrests of more 750 people across the United States connected to the Mexican Sinaloa drug cartel, seizing $59 million, weapons, vehicles and tons of cocaine, methamphetamine and other illicit drugs in the process, underscores the extent of the flourishing criminal activity.

If that doesn’t send up some red flags, then consider this: it’s estimated that there are now more violent gang members in the United States than there are sworn police officers.

Pro-illegal immigration groups and their misinformed supporters have long played on false themes of “jobs Americans won’t do” and humanitarianism, ignoring the grave security concerns related to their open-borders stance.

But the realities of what illegal immigration has wrought are now too public and too ugly to ignore. There is a clear nexus between our nation’s failures to secure the borders and to create an immigration system that possesses meaningful integrity.

Members of the United States Congress still opposed to securing the borders need to wake up to the urgency of securing our country.

And American citizens must continue to vociferously demand that their elected officials lock down the U.S.-Mexican border and institute a zero-tolerance policy for illegal immigration. Nothing less than the future of a secure and sovereign United States is at stake.

Michael Cutler is a senior writing fellow for Californians for Population Stabilization. Retired from a 30-year career with the INS, Cutler has given expert testimony at more than a dozen Congressional hearings on issues relating to immigration law enforcement and is an advisor to 9/11 Families for a Secure America. Contact him at info@capsweb.org or MCutler007@aol.com.