Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Fencing Us In, Not Keeping "Them" Out

To say that Congress's vote to erect 700 miles of “secure” fencing along the southern U.S. border is an “empty” gesture is a felonious act of understatement. It is barren of any meaning save cynical political opportunism: The fence offers politicians on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border (which is slated for abolition in 2010 anyway) to strike faux-populist poses while screwing down the police state lid on their respective helot populations -- who are soon to be co-mingled in one polity, anyway (about which more anon).

Mexico is threatening to protest the border fence at the UN. Please forgive me for not being terrified by the news. Outside of the guild of professional wrestling referees, it is impossible to find a body with less credibility or power to enforce its decisions than the United “Nations" (nor should it have that power, of course).

The Bush regime's media auxiliaries have touted the “border fence” as testimony of the comparative seriousness of the Republicans in matters of border control. This is just one of several themes that the shills and spokesthings for the Grand Old Pederast Party have been throwing at the wall in the hopes that something will stick. This is done in the desperate (and probably forlorn) hope that the Republicans can change the subject from the perverted Page-Turners on the Hill – the scandal serving as the proverbial elephant in the living room as mid-term elections approach.

Illegal immigration, like terrorism and narcotics trafficking (all three of these subjects are related, naturally), is probably impossible to prevent, but can be mitigated through intelligent policies, such as ending “birthright citizenship.” Milton Friedman's insight that it is impossible to have a welfare state and open borders remains valid.

Were the US serious about dealing with illegal immigration, we would abolish birthright citizenship, scale back (preferably eradicate) the federal welfare state, end subsidies and other material support for Mexico's kleptocracy, and stop undermining the status of English as our common tongue. But this problem – once again, like drug trafficking and terrorism – is simply too profitable, both to the regime in Washington and its corporatist consorts, to solve.

The Cold War begat the behemoth called the Military-Industrial Complex (MIC), a self-sustaining, incestuous cluster of corporate interests and government bureaucracies that thrive on perpetual war. The Homeland Security State (HSS), which incorporates many elements of the MIC, similarly subsists on the persistent peril of terrorism.

The obvious selling point of the HSS is its supposed mission of protecting us from savagely bearded Mohammedans bent on swaddling our women in burqas, beheading infidels at random, and reducing the rest of us to Dhimmitude – a scenario as grim as it is implausible. But in order to “strengthen itself in exercise, and entangle [itself] in precedents” (to borrow James Madison's useful expression yet again), the HSS is working to exploit public concerns over illegal immigration.

A few weeks ago we learned that several major military contractors, both nominally American (Raytheon, Northrup) and foreign (Sweden's Ericsson), were in competition for a $2.1 contract to provide electronic sensors and other hi-tech hardware for the Border Patrol. The prize was ultimately awarded to a consortium led by Boeing (also known as the lead agency in Beijing's corporate lobby).

Query: With so much money to be made – both by corporate contractors and the politicians whom they ply with campaign contributions and other emoluments – from illegal immigration, why would any serious effort be made to end that “crisis”?

Query the second: With the United States and Mexico scheduled for consolidation in 2010 via the Security and Prosperity Partnership (commonly called the North American Union), why are huge sums going to be spent on hi-tech surveillance and monitoring devices along a soon-to-be-abolished border?

Apart from the corrupt enrichment of the political class, the obvious answer is that the border “crisis” is being used as a convenient way to build the sinews of our domestic surveillance state.

A good example of how this works in practice was offered by a series of raids conducted by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), an appendage of the Heimatsicherheitsdienst ("Department of Homeland Security" in the original German) in the Northeastern U.S.

Noted one press account (and pay careful attention to the highlighted portions):

"Homeland Security agents took to Ohio streets the past week, arresting 154 undocumented immigrants. The agents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement offices in Boston, Philadelphia, Buffalo and Detroit came heavily armed and loaded with files and warrants for deportation. They took in immigrants from 30 countries and every continent save Antarctica.... The men and women had been caught entering the country illegally and were ordered to court but never showed or had been ordered deported but never left, authorities said.... No recent event spurred the sweep, government officials said.

`Sept. 11 showed us that, to have security, we have to have an immigration system with integrity,' said Marc A. Raimondi, national spokesman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Most of the Sept. 11 terrorists had taken advantage of lax enforcement, he said. `You can't have integrity if there is no consequence for abusing the laws or ignoring a court order.'

Among those taken were immigrants who had been in the U.S. for a decade or more. They must leave homes, jobs and maybe children born here who are U.S. citizens.

`If they had complied and left 10 or 15 years ago, that wouldn't be the case,' said Rob Baker, field office director in charge of detention and removal for Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Ohio and Michigan.

He noted that, by the end of September, seven agents will be based permanently in Cleveland to cover such operations throughout Ohio."

In addition to serving as a pretext for the quartering of Homeland Security goons in local communities, the issue has inspired at least some local officials to petition the Feds to intervene in that fashion.

Here's one example:

"A state Superior Court judge based in Hazleton has written to Homeland Security Director Michael Chertoff seeking more manpower in the fight against illegal immigration. Judge Correale F. Stevens, elected in 1997, has been hearing from county judges and local elected officials about the growing problem of illegal immigrants settling in Northeastern Pennsylvania."

Another example is provided by a Hazleton, Pennsylvania ordinance punishing people who transact business, hire, or, rent housing to illegal immigrants. That example illustrates how the immigration “crisis” can be used to compel common citizens to act as informants and enforcers.

After signing the measure, Hazleton Mayor Lou Barletta said his office would “train city workers in how to check people's immigration or citizenship status....” He also asked the City Council to approve a measure “requiring all tenants to register with the city and prove their legal residency.”

Here's where the issue gets really interesting. Once again, pay careful attention to the highlighted portions:

"`We're also going to be talking with Immigration and Customs (Enforcement) to see if possibly we could receive some assistance,' said Barletta, who said he wore a bulletproof vest to the vote as a precaution because the issue was emotionally charged.... Other municipalities across the country also have considered acting to address illegal immigration. Ordinances similar to the Hazleton measure have been proposed in the Florida communities of Palm Bay and Avon Park and the California towns of Escondido and San Bernardino."

The bulletproof vest was most likely a gratuitous piece of political stagecraft. The intended message, most likely, was that radical elements among the illegal immigrant population (and their advocates) would take a pot-shot at the stalwart mayor.

While not minimizing the dangers posed by some elements on that side of the conflict – such as the toilet bowl crust in human form called coyotes who exploit, abuse, and sometimes kill illegal immigrants – it's possible that Mayor Barletta had more cause for concern about falling prey to an angry landlord or business owner: The Hazleton ordinance suspends the operating licenses of businesses caught hiring illegals, and authorizes fines of $1,000 a day on landlords who have illegals as tenants.

One need not be an advocate of open borders (I certainly am not) to experience a momentary twinge of misgiving over the idea of forcibly deputizing businessmen and landlords to inspect citizenship papers.

The most unsettling aspects of this ordinance (which was, predictably, immediately challenged in court by the ACLU), are first of all the fact that Hazleton is clearly a pilot project, and secondly, that this draconian experiment – creation of a “Your Papers, Please” Regime In One City – is being quietly supported and keenly observed by the DHS.

It is true, of course, that some communities along the U.S.-Mexican border have literally come under siege by illegal immigrants, as well as paramilitaries (from both the Mexican military and militias in the pay of that country's narcotics cartels – or do I repeat myself). But in keeping with Grigg's First Law of Federal Action (“Those problems Washington does not create, it exacerbates by intervening to impose a `solution'”), some people in those besieged communities have discovered that they may have more to worry about from the federal agents supposedly there to “protect” their communities from the invaders.

The Tucson Citizen recently reported that the Border Partol – which, remember, is going to benefit from the billions of dollars' worth of surveillance gear – has been seizing automobiles “based simply on the presence of a passenger who is an illegal immigrant.... The vehicle's owners then face steep impound fees and long waits to retrieve their cars....”

This practice was successfully challenged in court in the 1999 case Gete vs. Immigration and Naturalization Service – yet it persists to this day.
“It doesn't make any difference whether you're taking [illegal immigrants] to the grocery store or taking them from the desert to the hospital,” insisted Border Patrol spokesman Jesus Rodriguez. “There is no free pass.”

The same applies, of course, to people who car-pool with fellow workers who are here illegally.

“Are they saying we're supposed to check somebody's immigration status?” asks real estate agent Cecilia Gutierrez-Arce, a legal permanent resident of the US whose family includes “US citizens, illegal immigrants and a Border Patrol Agent.” “Are we supposed to be spying on our neighbors? Our relatives?”

Chris Simcox of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps answers that question in the affirmative: All Americans have the civic duty to issue the demand “Your Papers, Please,” and report illegal immigrants to the Feds.

“It would certainly have a chilling effect on employers,” Simcox points out.
It certainly would. And it would also certainly habituate Americans in the practice of acting as spitzel, chivatos, stukachi – each of those terms is the epithet “informants” rendered in German, Spanish, and Russian.

Obviously, the federal government has the constitutional responsibility to secure our borders and normalizing our immigration situation . And just as obviously the political class has abetted the problem, thereby cultivating a politically useful crisis. Now we're told that our choices are between open borders and bloody chaos, or the creation of a garrison state (the latter being the regime's preferred solution to every conceivable problem).

Many conservatives are convinced that a surveillance state within secure borders would be an acceptable arrangement. Apparently I'm not a genuine conservative, because that's not a description of any America I would want to live in.

North Korea has exceptionally secure borders. So did Soviet Russia under Josef Stalin. I'd like to think we could do just a bit better than that.


Tom Eddlem said...

This ia a wonderfully balanced treatment of the current threat on illegal immigration: Illegal immigration is bad, but the federal cure is worse -- and hypocritical. Oh, and the Republican immigration campaign just happens to coincide with their impeachment-prevention efforts to keep control of the House of Representatives.

Anonymous said...

George Reisman touched upon this same subject but more briefly in his post Immigration Plus Welfare State Equals Police State back in April.

A question though: What is your proposed solution to the immigration problem, if boxing ourselves in isn't the trick? I would assume dismantling the welfare state and other institutions of perverse incentives are part of your plan, but what about the specifics of regulating immigration? By what criteria does the Fed decide who can and can't enter the country, and how many?

dixiedog said...

Grigg, to cut to the chase, the admittedly difficult conundrum faced by the commoner folk in all these matters is pragmatism vs. practicality and Americans' demonstrated inability, unwillingness, or both, to walk the practical route. The pragmatic route is less painful. This is not to imply or say by any means that it's the right way, just that it's the way it is, unfortunately, in postmodern America. It's all a clear sign that the society at large has lost its moral compass; nevertheless, that's a topic for another time.

Too many folk fear losing their jobs, their homes, their families, or their entire livelihood to risk speaking up or out publicly, to risk taking overt action in some fashion, etc., etc. Your own recent episode is a stark reminder of precisely that reality.

Again, pragmatism is rarely if ever the right, especially the morally upstanding, way to live life in genral but materialism is king today. Ergo, any methodology or plan of action that would threaten folks' ability to quench their appetite for it, is taboo in their minds.

Also, I think somewhat along the lines of sologue in that I see/hear/read scores of folk continually who lay out in excruciating detail the folly and ominous signs and wonders of policies being orchestrated and/or executed, yet do not disclose or impart, likewise in that same excrutiating detail, their own solutions to the real problem(s) being discussed. And illegal immigration, unlike some of the other more mundane issues oft discussed, is a real problem. Left unchecked, not only does it have the propensity to bankrupt local and state governments, bankrupt and force hospitals to close down due to ER treatment mandates w/o compensation, increase the crime rate exponentially in some locales, but also will inevitably over time change the entire culture. And it won't be to one that continues to honor the Founding Fathers or the constitution, but something more akin to what they've been used to in their old homelands.

dixiedog said...

pragmatism vs. practicality

Sorry, that should be impracticality or prudence might be more on the mark. ;)

kishnevi said...

In the long term, the only solution is open borders without a welfare state. As long as they can get higher paying jobs here in the US, foreigners will come here. And if they can't get here legally, they will do so legally.

We can work to improve the standard of living throughout Latin America (and worldwide, or immigrants would simply come from Africa and Asia like they now do from Latin America); we can open the borders and let the labor market balance it out (basically, let anyone without a criminal/jihadi background come in as long they have a job waiting for them, and without any claim to welfare programs); or we can impoverish America so it is no longer a better place to live than Latin America. Any other "solution" is a hoax; economics ensures that.

This may mean a general lowering of wages and a lower standard of living (no free hospitals, etc.) for Americans in general. But is living in a police state (whose policies are ensuring a general lowering of the standard of living regardless) better?