Immigration is claimed to be the root of a myriad of problems in the United States. It is declared to be the reason our culture will become unrecognizable. The reason our welfare system will be overloaded. The reason Democrats will take over the whole of government. The list goes on and on but these are ones most often repeated. What is immigration, though? Immigration is the act of moving one’s physical location, usually from one sovereignty to another. The other concerns are possible outcomes that may or may not result after immigration occurs.
This should establish that immigration is a victimless activity. If those possible outcomes are of concern to a population, they can be dealt with through mutual aid, community action, or even possibly legislation. The bottom line is that stopping people from immigrating is a form of prohibition.
There is another popular prohibition that is also maligned for a host of possible outcomes which have nothing to do with the actual prohibited thing itself. This, of course, is the War on Drugs. Owning drugs of any kind does absolutely no harm to anyone. Ingesting the drug may only harm individuals when it is done without caution, which can be said of many permitted substances and activities. Yet, the rhetoric abounds that families will crumble, crime will skyrocket, essentially the sky will fall if people are allowed to use drugs whenever they want. Studies from Portugal, where all drugs are decriminalized, tell a wildly different story, but that is often ignored.
When someone immigrates to a new place, there is no way to know what they will do. The ironic thing is that many people who claim to know how immigrants will behave after coming to the U.S., also supposedly adhere to Hayek’s concept of the knowledge problem. The knowledge problem states that one cannot know how to properly command an economy because one cannot have sufficient knowledge to predict all of the unknown variables which may occur. If this principle is true regarding an economy of human participants, can this be true of humans themselves?
Many people assume unchecked immigration will cause the problems previously listed, though studies of legal and illegal immigrants living in the U.S. do not bear out those catastrophic views. When it comes to crime, use of welfare, and political/cultural leanings, the available data shows that in most cases immigrants use less welfare than native-born citizens, commit less crime, and tend to assimilate culturally and politically.
Another area where immigration and drugs share commonality is that they are used to create an atmosphere of fear and hatred to justify enforcement of their prohibitions. In both cases, enforcement revolves around para-military-style tactics to cause an effect of intimidation. The Border Patrol, since becoming part of the Department of Homeland Security, has undergone many changes in terms of training, equipment, and weaponry to more closely resemble a military than a law enforcement agency. Similar changes have been observed over the years with local law enforcement agencies, and especially that of SWAT.
The normalization of these new violent arms of enforcement is sending a very clear message of “compliance or else.” That message does not seem intended for the drug dealer or the immigrant alone. Civil asset forfeiture, visits from authorities over social media posts, or catching a face full of pepper spray for exercising your right to protest are all becoming commonplace. During the initial stages of lockdown in the U.S., many states set up checkpoints resembling those used along the border to inhibit unauthorized travel.
It should also be mentioned that many of the factors causing individuals to flee Central and South America, have been caused by the War on Drugs in the U.S. and abroad. Election meddling, regime change, and military expeditions in South America to benefit U.S. interests have created havens for organized crime. The cartels responsible for supplying the massive demand the U.S. has for illicit drugs utilize the same types of violent control observed by the mafia during alcohol prohibition. Additionally, many migrants suffer extortion and violence at the hands of similar cartels because of the de facto prohibition on immigration.
Lately, an idea of requiring a vaccine passport for every person in the U.S. has been floated. A passport, historically, has been an official document used to travel or immigrate to another country. So, what would be the purpose of issuing immigration papers to U.S. citizens? The same purpose as issuing them to anybody else, control.
This would likely make a government document required to dine out, go to work, and travel state to state. Essentially, it would bring the state of immigration restriction into the interior of the U.S. It would be imposed on citizen, immigrant, and resident alike. With the U.S. government’s history of never letting a crisis go to waste, it doesn’t seem a stretch to think these documents would eventually contain more than just your vaccine information. Other medical history—”for your safety”—could easily be stored. Access to criminal records, employment history, and any other data deemed necessary by the state could be included with such a concept. All of this information could be used by those in power as a sort of social credit score, affecting the way individuals interact. This is something that, at least in a performative sense, has been maligned as a practice of the oppressive Chinese government.
The infrastructure to implement such a program is already in place to some degree. Tax dollars have been fueling the expansion of immigration enforcement for years. In fact, the U.S. spends more on immigration enforcement than all other federal law enforcement programs put together.
The U.S. Border Patrol has been active since 1924. Most people think they are just a bunch of folks with badges chasing immigrants through the desert to arrest them. While that is a large part of what they do, they are also regularly tasked to work with other agencies such as the FBI, DEA, ATF, and others.
The Border Patrol tactical team, or BORTAC, was deputized by US Marshals to assist with protests in Portland in 2020. They have assisted in natural disasters, prison riots, and high-profile warrants. Members of BORTAC have also been sent to the middle east to assist in training forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as conducting counter-drug operations in South America in recent decades.
It’s not difficult to imagine a scenario where the Border Patrol is tasked to train local law enforcement agencies in ways to enforce vaccine passport checkpoints and compliance. Currently, the Border Patrol uses the guise of immigration enforcement checkpoints to conduct searches for drugs, guns, and large sums of cash. This same rationale could easily be applied at a vaccination checkpoint.
It’s not new to point out that unchecked power will almost certainly be expanded. Before granting the state more authority to protect your special interest du jour, remember, you may not have all of the information necessary to know if the results you fear are possible, or even likely. There is always the danger that whatever mechanism is built to crush the things you don’t like may be used to crush you someday.
Josha Childress is a veteran of the U.S. Army and National Guard where he served in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Following his deployments, he took a job as an agent of the U.S. Border Patrol. After spending seven years in Arizona catching border crossers, he became convinced of the libertarian position on immigration, and resigned out of moral obligation.