“I speak of peace”, said President John F. Kennedy in 1963. “I speak of peace, a topic on which ignorance too often abounds and the truth is too rarely perceived…yet it is the most important topic…I speak of peace as the necessary rational end of rational man…”

President Kennedy spoke at American University of world peace in the face of war. We have just celebrated Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa—times when love and peace and faith are celebrated. These propel me to speak of a desire for peace nestled in security in a world experiencing serious evidence of violence with impunity.

The people in this world seek peace and security. What does security imply? How do we gain peace? Security has been defined as the state of being free from danger or threat of injury or loss. Peace has been defined as harmony and a state of tranquility and stillness. It is the absence of hostility, the lack of conflict, and freedom from fear of violence. It often involves a compromise and therefore is intertwined with thoughtful listening and communication in order to create and enhance mutual understanding.

It is a simple fact of life that humans have certain basic needs. According to the psychologist Abraham Maslow, humans have a hierarchy of needs. The most essential are physiological and safety. Using this hierarchy, feeling bodily secure is critical before a human can successfully achieve love (peace), belongingness, esteem, and self-actualization.

Warfare and Global Hot Spots

Insecurity and problems of well-being mark today’s world, as seen by the numerous problem areas and the volatile “hot spots” around the world monitored by the website Wars in the World.

Africa Hot Spots include: Central African Republic clashes between Muslims and Christians; Democratic Republic of Congo war against rebel groups; Egypt war against Islamist militants of ISIS; Libya civil war; Mali rebel clashes; Mozambique clashes with RENAMU rebels; Nigeria, Somali, Sudan and South Sudan wars against Islamist militants.

Asia Hot Spots include: Afghanistan war against Islamist militants; Burma Myanmar war against rebel groups; Pakistan and Philippines wars against Islamist militants, and Thailand coup d’etat by army May 2014.

Europe Hot Spots include: Chechnya and Dagestan wars against Islamic militants; Ukraine Secession of self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic and of self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic; Nagorno-Karabakh clashes between Azerbaijan army against Armenian army and the Nagorno-Karabakh army.

Middle East Hot Spots include: Iraq war against Islamist militants; Israel war against Islamist militants in Gaza Strip; Syria civil war; Yemen war between Islamist militants.
Americas Hot spots include: Columbia with organized rebel groups; Mexico with organized narco-trafficking groups.

As of December 2016, 67 countries were experiencing wars involving 745 militias-guerrillas and terrorist/separatist/anarchic groups. In addition, eight in Africa; 20 in Asia; 12 in Europe, and two in the Middle East autonomous regions or provinces are struggling for independence.

Reporters without Borders reports that 74 journalists were killed in 2016. In addition, there are 178 imprisoned journalists 178; 157 imprisoned netizens (people with news on the net), and 12 media assistants. On December 27, 2016, an Iraqi journalist was abducted from her home in Baghdad.

Domestic Insecurity

Where can we find peace and security? Not on January 9, 2017, in 20 Jewish Community Centers located in Northeast and Southern states. According to the Jewish Federation of North America, bomb threats were received, and the Centers were evacuated. No one was hurt; no bombs were found.  Similar threats had been received by Tampa and Central Florida Jewish Community Centers the previous week. Centers were also evacuated, and no one was hurt.

Where can we find peace and security? Seemingly not in Chicago during 2016. In America’s third largest city, there were 762 homicides and 1,100 shooting incidents through 2015—the largest spike in 60 years. According to the Chicago Police Department, 2016’s deaths created one of Chicago’s bloodiest years, the most in two decades in the city and more than New York City and Los Angeles combined. Police recovered 8,300 illegal guns in 2016—a 20 percent increase.

Where can we find peace and security? Not country-wide for police officers. Ambushes in Dallas and Baton Rouge and elsewhere around the country led to a sharp increase in the number of police killed in the line of duty during 2016. From January 1 to December 28, 2016, 135 officers lost their lives. Some of these deaths were in traffic accidents, but nearly half were shot to death—56 percent increase over the previous year. Of the 64 who were fatally shot, 21 were in ambush attacks.

Insecurity in Texas and on the Border

Where can we find peace and security? Not in some parts of Texas. During 2015, there was a reported total of 888,155 crimes listed in the Texas Crime Index–a decrease of 2.8 percent from 2014. Of these, there were 1,314 murders, 12,208 rapes, 31,883 robberies, and 67,358 aggravated assaults. In Texas, there was a violent crime every five minutes and a property crime every 41 seconds.

Where can we find peace and security? Not on the Texas Southern Border. Immigration data released on December 30, 2016, for fiscal year 2016 by Department of Homeland Security (DHS) show an increase in apprehensions compared to FY2015 – a consistent number of deportations that nearly matched those caught crossing the border illegally. The DHS fiscal year ends in October, and it has often taken DHS up to six months before publicly reporting apprehension, deportation and other immigration-related annual statistics. A new data system has helped modernize the process, allowing data to be more quickly aggregated and analyzed, improving reporting enterprise-wide. “The recent report is one example of this effort,” said Marc Rosenblum, Deputy Assistant Secretary at DHS Office of Immigration Statistics (OIS). “It’s the first time we’ve released department level data this close to the end of the year.”

In 2014, the Secretary of Homeland Security announced a number of measures to strengthen and unify the Department’s immigration enforcement priorities by concentrating resources on arrest, detention and removal of individuals identified as threats to national security, public safety or border security. The priorities emphasize criminal convictions over criminal arrests, and focus on felonies and seizures or multiple misdemeanors over minor infractions of the law. They are also to target recent border crossers and those who abuse the visa system. The DHS OIS plans a report for the Spring that will provide more detailed information on how individuals apprehended by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) move through the system—from apprehension or arrest to removal or release.

In FY2016, CBP made about 416,000 apprehensions, including 409,000 at the U.S.-Mexico border. This number is down 75 percent compared to the number of apprehensions in FY2000, and down 15 percent from FY2014, but up 23 percent from FY2015, according to DHS information. CBP reported 331,333 apprehensions in FY2015 across the entire Southwest Border. Apprehensions have not dipped under the 300,000 mark since 1973.

During the FY2014 surge of unaccompanied minors that brought national attention to the Rio Grande Valley, CBP reported 479,371 apprehensions, a 13 percent increase compared to FY2013, and a 26 percent increase compared to FY2012. According to CBP data, more than half of the people apprehended in the RGV sector in FY2016 were parents with children, or children who crossed the Rio Grande by themselves. “The rise in non-traditional border apprehensions means that fewer aliens are evading detection. But those who are apprehended impose a much greater burden on CBP and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) resources,” said the Deputy Assistant Secretary Marc Rosenblum, “because almost all of them go through an extended immigration hearing process rather than being quickly removed or returned to their countries of origin.”

According to DHS Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) statistics, the cost of repatriation in FY2015 was $12,213 per individual. This includes all costs necessary to identify, apprehend, detain, process through immigration court, and remove an individual from the country. DHS reported 451,000 repatriations or deportations in FY2016, about 35,000 more than the number of people apprehended after crossing the border illegally—about one percent down from FY2015 and 20 percent less than FY2014. “The bottom line,” according to Marc Rosenblum, “is that almost 100 percent of DHS enforcement resources in 2016 focused on illegal border crossers, recent visa violators, and national security and public safety threats.” Does a wall help this?

Insecurity for Texas Children

Where can we find peace and security? Life is not secure for children in Texas. Texas is consistently ranked as one of the nation’s 10 worst states for children. Nearly one in ten U.S. children call the Lone Star State home. Their well-being of should be a top security concern. Peace that provides security for children creates better chances for a good future for humanity. Regardless of gender, zip code, income, race, ethnicity—435,000 children live in the RGV (Hidalgo, Cameron, Starr and Willacy counties). The Center for Public Policy Priorities 2016 State of Texas Children report found several instances of insecurity for children living in Texas.

The CPPP report says that one in four children live in poverty, and that number worsens when examined by race and ethnicity. Statewide, 33 percent Hispanic and 32 percent Afro-American children live in poverty compared to 11 percent of white children. In nearly all categories studied by CPPP, Hispanic and Afro-American children in Texas are faring worse than their white counterparts.

Geography is an important factor in the conditions children face. The three poorest metro areas in the nation are in the Rio Grande Valley—including Brownsville, McAllen, and points in between, as well as Laredo. CPPP says that more than 90 percent of all Valley children are Hispanic; 43 percent of them live in poverty. That data is consistent with another trend—the growing number of children statewide who live in areas of concentrated poverty (poor people living in poor places, e.g. colonias). Thirty percent of Hispanic children live in areas of concentrated poverty versus just four percent of white children.

Family immigration status matters to the conditions children face. The vast majority of Texas Hispanic children are U.S. citizens—95 percent. One-third of Texas children live with one or more parent who is an immigrant. While children in immigrant families can face language barriers that may limit their opportunities, they fare better on other aspects of well-being. They have lower infant mortality rates than children with U.S.-born parents and are more likely to be born with a healthy birth weight. Seventy-five percent of children in immigrant families have married parents (compared to 59 percent of U.S.-born parents), and research shows that children of married parents have better physical, cognitive, and emotional outcomes.

Security in Mexico and with Mexicans

Where can we find peace and security? Not in Mexico. Mexico is suffering “a serious crisis of violence and impunity,” according to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). A 2016 recent report highlighted repeated failure to get to the bottom of some 27,000 disappearances in Mexico as of 2015, and abuse of power by police and armed forces against the country’s drug gangs.

This report acknowledges Mexico has made progress on judicial reforms, followed by a government announcement about deaths of five young Mexican youths targeted by suspected gang henchmen. Their remains were ground up after they were mistaken for members of a rival cartel in the eastern part of Veracruz. The Mexican government criticized the report, saying it did not reflect the situation in the country.

Where can we find peace and security? Sometimes not when riding a bus. Demonstrating the intersection of criminal law and immigration is the case of a Mexican man accused of raping a 13-year old girl on a Greyhound bus that traveled through Kansas. According to the Associated Press, he had been deported ten times and voluntarily removed from the United States another nine times since 2003. Three senators have demanded that DHS provide immigration records for 38-year-old Tomas Martinez-Maldonaldo, who has been charged with a felony in an alleged September 27 attack aboard a bus in Geary County. He is currently being held in the Geary County jail in Junction City, Kanas.

A status hearing in the rape case is scheduled for January, 2017. Lisa Hamer, the Defense attorney, has said that “criminal law and immigration definitely intersect and nowadays it should be the responsibility of every criminal defense attorney to know the possible ramifications in the immigration courts.” Nationwide, 52 percent of all federal prosecutions in the recent fiscal year, ending September 30, 2016, were for entry or re-entry without legal permission and similar immigration violations.

President Enrique Pena Nieto has pledged to tackle longstanding failings of the Mexican justice system, but the IACHR Report said “the state’s response is still insufficient.” There is “a gap between what the law says and reality. Somebody needs to take responsibility for changing the practices,” said James Cavallaro, Stanford professor of International Human Rights and Conflict. “It’s like there is no interest in looking for perpetrators and solving crimes.”

More than 120,000 people have been killed in drug-related violence in Mexico since former president Felipe Calderone sent in the army to take on gangs in late 2006. As gangs fragment and change, many increasingly have been focusing on extortion, kidnapping and human trafficking. And it is spreading.

Insecurity Caused by Shifts of Power

The past year ended with the death of Cuba’s longtime Communist President Fidel Castro, and put a new U.S. leader on stage with the election of Donald J. Trump. The year brought new troubles for leftist leaders in places like Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Chile. The past 12-14 months have been a disaster for many in power. After dominating Latin America for the previous decade, the socialist tide has seemingly ebbed. With it, say some observers, went the ideology that had led to poverty reduction, improved access to education and health care, and greater rights for indigenous groups.

How much further can this trend go? What other countries might be affected? How do these hot spots and problem areas in near and not so near countries affect the United States? How can the world achieve peace and security?

We are caught in a global vortex. Events are swirling around us in unsettling rapidity and ferocity. Many have become frightened and uncertain. Old ways of doing things are leaving with old ways of settling problems. Traditional leadership styles and methods of wielding power are in question.

Technology has added a new dimension to power. An independent hacker can bring down an electric system or a political process. Security used to be garnered with bigger tanks or guns. Bombs can add serious power to armies of all sizes, and also to a lone terrorist. Armament was the type of security that could defeat enemies and bring about peace. This type of power destroys opposition, but it doesn’t build anything. This type of power doesn’t really provide for peace. It is not this type of “security” that brings peace. It is peace that brings about security.

Earlier security was defined as the state of being free from danger or threat of injury or loss. And, that peace is harmony and a state of tranquility and stillness… absence of hostility, the lack of conflict, and freedom from fear of violence… involving compromise…intertwined with thoughtful listening and communication to create and enhance mutual understanding. For hundreds of years, power of muscle and strength of weapons have been relied on to create “peace”. Might makes right was the belief. Therefore, good “security” was required to create “peace”. Contrarily, it is right that makes might. It is conversation of humans willing to sit together and reason together to create a compromise. Sitting together in this way creates an atmosphere of peace that opens an avenue to security.

Peace is the way to security, not the other way around. To make this happen requires thoughtful leadership. It requires that people give up some ownership to power; to symbolically join hands and respect other people’s ideas. It also benefits from prayer and faith and hope and trust.

Our Statue of Liberty stands as a beacon to the world. She is a symbol of the peace of a safe harbor. Her shining light promises peace and security and freedom. It is the responsibility of those who live here to guard her and her promises. She stands for peace.