Saturday, October 22, 2022

Enforcement of the USA’s Southern Border Leads to U.S. Intervention South of That Border

Stuart K. Hayashi

Screen shot from the motion picture "Born in East L.A.,"
prod. Peter Macgregor-Scott, dir. Cheech Marin (Universal Pictures, 1987).

The following is adapted from my longer essay, “The War on Illegal Migrants: A Repeat of the War on Illegal Drugs.” The longest version of that essay is here.  A shorter version of that essay can be read here.

Former U.S. Rep. Ron Paul (R–Tx) and his fellow writers of the Ludwig von Mises Institute blabber about the need for the U.S. federal government to get tough with guarding the USA’s southern border. They don’t want undocumented immigrants getting through. And Ron Paul and the Mises Institute also gnash their teeth about the evils of the U.S. federal government sending agents to intervene in foreign countries, including those of Latin America.

Yet such intervention is actually integral to enforcing the USA’s southern border. The leftwing journalist Todd Miller writes of how the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has vast operations within Latin America, and their purpose is to do exactly the border enforcement that Ron Paul and the Mises Institute scream that they want. These U.S. agents spy on those they suspect of being smugglers or their clients. Then, when they judge appropriate, these agents apply armed force in order to preempt the smugglers and clients from reaching the border in the first place.

Todd Miller notes that, by blocking undocumented immigration in this manner, the USA is establishing, unofficially but in practice, a border that is even farther south than the official one north of Mexico. The border enforcers are, de facto, lowering the USA’s southern border further southward. As Todd Miller phrases it,
The United States has been purposely pushing out its borders, meaning that the border doesn’t end at the US-Mexico southern border. For example, in Puerto Rico, the Ramey sector of the U.S. Border Patrol can patrol a thousand miles to the south of the U.S. mainland. This allows Border Patrol agents, and effectively the Coast Guard and Department of Homeland Security, to patrol around the Dominican Republic and Haiti. So what happened in the January 2010 earthquake that hit Haiti, one of the first U.S. responses was to send sixteen Coast Guard cutters that were right around the coast line of Haiti; they sent an airplane over Haiti with the voice of the ambassador, who was speaking Creole, but asking people not to leave the island while they were digging themselves out of their homes after they collapsed.

So, all of the sudden, the U.S. border isn’t where you think it is. It expands and goes all the way up to the coast of Haiti. [When some Haitians did try to migrate, there were already] detention facilities at Guantanamo to intercept them. Everything’s in preparation.
Here, fans of Ron Paul and the Mises Institute are wont to say, “No, instead of messing around in other countries, the agents should be focused on the U.S. southern border, and the border only.” According to arguments put forth by the Mises Institute itself about other government agencies, nothing about that demand is realistic. Calling for a beef-up in border enforcement only causes more of the international meddling. It is unrealistic to expect that if a federal agency’s authority is enlarged in just one specific area, it will stick only to that one specific area. That enlargement of authority in that one area allows for administrators to rationalize their expansion into various other affairs that, to taxpayers, seem only tenuously related to what the agency’s original task was.

After all, by expanding their reach and jurisdiction, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and the Homeland Security Department they work under can all further justify their existence and budgets. It helps them look even busier and more important, which places pressure on the Congressmen holding the purse strings to renew their budgets. With renewed or expanded budgets, there is a reduced risk of layoffs within the departments. The agents maintain job security. But one would think that this would already be known by Mises-Institute libertarians so savvy about how the Drug War and other federal programs engage in “mission creep.”  

Besides, to the degree that the federal government is serious about stopping illegal entries into the USA — something that those in the Mises Institute orbit demand quite zealously — it makes sense to meddle in the countries of the south. Agents can be more effectual in stopping border-crossings by going on the offensive against the smugglers within their countries of origin.

White nationalists try to conjure up the image of impoverished, nonwhite immigrants being a barbarian horde overwhelming an understaffed and underfunded Border Patrol. The reality is that the fervency of the anti-immigrationists has given the USA’s border-enforcement agencies another excuse to introduce upon foreign soil.

Ron Paul and the Mises Institute go on demanding both a closing of the USA’s southern border and that the USA stops intervening in other countries. But as Todd Miller shows, intensified enforcement of the USA’s southern border always leads to more U.S. intervention south of that border.

Fans of the Ron Paul and the Mises Institute also like to say, “You can have open borders or a welfare state. You can’t have both.” Evidence from academic studies happens to suggest otherwise. Here is a much more realistic binary choice: Either you can have the USA’s southern border closed, or the USA can stop intervening in other countries. You can’t have both.