Border Security Crackdown: It's for the (Mexican) Children!

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Federal prosecutors are cracking down on people who bring the children of illegal immigrants into the United States, reports the Arizona Republic:

A church acquaintance approached Brenda Aguirre with a proposition early last year. Would Aguirre, a U.S. citizen, be willing to bring two Mexican children into the United States illegally?

All she had to do was pick them up in Agua Prieta, Sonora, pretend they were her children and drive them back across the border and up to Phoenix. For her trouble, Aguirre, 25, would receive $500, plus the satisfaction of knowing the children would be reunited with their undocumented parents without a potentially deadly trek through the desert.

But things didn't go as planned. An entry port official in Douglas became suspicious when Aguirre presented Arizona birth certificates for her own kids, not the two Mexican children. Now, Aguirre is going to prison for 15 months. The children were sent back to Mexico.

Not all of the smugglers seem as altruistic as Aguirre, and there are reports that some children have been drugged during passage (though no evidence that kids have been seriously harmed). In 2003, legislators instituted a "zero-tolerance" policy for the practice. As a result, bringing a child through an official port of entry now carries a stronger penalty than marching the same child through the desert to the border. The crackdown will probably encourage more parents to choose the latter–and more dangerous–option. The punchline:

The policy is keeping children out of harm's way, government officials say.

Aside from the incentive problem, note that being "out of harm's way" involves being parentless. In Mexico.

Elsewhere in Reason: Malia Politzer spends some quality time with the border patrol here, and Tony Snow hearts illegal immigrants here.

NEXT: Policing Ourselves

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  1. “Aside from the incentive problem, note that being “out of harm’s way” involves being parentless. In Mexico.”

    Why did I hear that spoken in Vizzini’s voice?

  2. I wonder if the Congress will realize that this just means that illegal immigrants will be more likely to bring their families over with them and stay forever. I imagine they do, but they just want to get “tough on immigration.”

  3. Regardless of one’s position on immigration, can we really buy into Ms. Howley’s logic that a law shouldn’t be passed based on the possibility that it makes a crime more difficult or dangerous to commit?

  4. Not all of the smugglers seem as altruistic as Aguirre

    I could have sworn the article said she was smuggling children for a fee. This is altruistic how, exactly?

  5. Dan T.,

    Suppose you lived somewhere where public assembly of more than three people was not allowed.

    Now suppose a law was passed that, if the police saw four or more people assembled, they could summarily use a machine gun to disperse them.

    Are you saying there is nothing wrong with such a law?

  6. I think the point, Dan T., is that it makes it more likely that they will break the same law in a more dangerous way, thus increasing the harm to children, all under the banner of protecting them.

    In any case, your definition of “crime” must be broader than mine. These are people looking for a better life, better jobs. If a law becomes immoral to enforce, do you just prop it up anyway, and say, “Well, a law’s a law” ? That excuse didn’t get much mileage at Nuremberg.

  7. It’s about kids and immigration.
    Do you think LoneWhacker and thevoiceforschoolchoice will both weigh in?
    Will this website collapse from their combined self-assuredness?

  8. So the stiffer sentences are supposed to result in fewer children getting across the border? Can we call this policy Every Child Left Behind?

  9. Trea;

    Does your home have a lock on the door, or do you just let anyone come in and take what they want, so that they can have a “better life”?
    As for wanting a “better job”, I’ll bet its not your job that they are after.

  10. kindness skills,

    Economics, blah blah blah, jobs, blah blah, not zero sum blah blah. Blah blah we all win blah blah blah.

    (MikeP,
    Go ahead and fill in the “blahs,” but why bother? It’s not like he’s going to listen to facts and logic anyway.)

  11. It’s about kids and immigration.
    Do you think LoneWhacker and thevoiceforschoolchoice will both weigh in?
    Will this website collapse from their combined self-assuredness?

    Economics, blah blah blah, jobs, blah blah, not zero sum blah blah. Blah blah we all win blah blah blah.

  12. I’ll bet its not your job that they are after.

    And people said the age of the chastity belt had come and gone…

  13. “I wonder if the Congress will realize that this just means that illegal immigrants will be more likely to bring their families over with them and stay forever.”

    We can only hope.

  14. If a law becomes immoral to enforce

    Why is it immoral to enforce the law against illegal immigration? Is there any point at which any of you would say, “Stop, it’s gone too far”? Or should illegals be able to keep coming indefinitely?

  15. It would be nice if everyone would remember that being an illegal immigrant is not a crime. It is against the law, but they just deport them. No trial, no crime.

  16. Aside from the incentive problem, note that being “out of harm’s way” involves being parentless. In Mexico.

    Is abandoning one’s children a crime under Mexican law?

  17. Not all of the smugglers seem as altruistic as Aguirre

    R C Dean beat me to it, and I’m not judging the morality of what she did, but for $500 I don’t think altruism played much of a role.

  18. Not all of the smugglers seem as altruistic as Aguirre.

    R C Dean,

    That’s what you think. The kids didn’t remember to bring their coupons, but she gave them the $500 special, anyway.

    Aguirre. Hmmm. She should be familiar with taking paths into the heart of darkness and evading–or is that embracing?–the wrath of God.

  19. This law is bad and needs to be changed. A big problem with amnesty in the 1990’s is it wasn’t tied to immigration reform. Congress should have greatly increased the immigration limits and streamlined the immigration process.

  20. Ah, yes. That old “illegal” immigrants problem.

    I’ll bet if people had to get permits to breathe and they only issued five thousand a year and then it took anywhere from ten months to two years to process the paperwork we’d have a shitload of illegal breathers too.

  21. Parentless in Mexico?

    So…it’s like spring break? Hmm.

  22. Or should illegals be able to keep coming indefinitely?

    Around here they’d say yes. They think we can take anything, any number of immigrants, at any rate. And they don’t entirely get the fact that you can’t have a welfare state and open borders too.

    I think they’re wrong. But I also think it would cost a whole lot more than anybody is willing to pay, in order to stem the tide.

    It would be far cheaper to bring everybody home from Iraq and start annexing Mexico a piece at a time, and assimilating it. It would work something like this.

    We start by legalizing drugs. Then we shoot up all the drug cartels during the invasion (for the simple reason that orginized crime is an industry that will find other illegal avenues if you let it live). Then, once law and order have been imposed at gun point, you start assimilating the newly conquered territory.

    In fact, Mexico was rich back when it was ruled well.

    But these same dweebs who advocate The Boundless Welfare State, would probably find something immoral about annexing Mexico. You have to understand that the drift is decidedly to the Left. And on the Left, it’s okay to do things that amount to self immolation (like The Boundless Welfare State). It is not okay to do something that actually benefits us.

  23. Aguirre. Hmmm. She should be familiar with taking paths into the heart of darkness and evading–or is that embracing?–the wrath of God.

    I’ll bet she didn’t find El Dorado, either.

  24. Around here they’d say yes. They think we can take anything, any number of immigrants, at any rate. And they don’t entirely get the fact that you can’t have a welfare state and open borders too.

    You obviously spend a lot of time “around here”, with us welfare-state-lovin’ Reasonoids.

  25. Gotta tell ya, I laughed my ass off tonight watching one of those “immigration reform” assholes trying to squirm her way out of the old “how can you say you’re not racist when you don’t get a bug up your skirt about all those white, Christian Canadians at the other border” question.

    Gets ’em every time.

  26. You obviously spend a lot of time “around here”, with us welfare-state-lovin’ Reasonoids.

    Yup. It’s still better on net balance than most of what’s out there.

    But here and there I do criticize when I think it warrented. Such as this particular issue.

  27. “…all those white, Christian Canadians at the other border…” – Jim Walsh (quoting a cranky broad on Nightline?)

    Damned frostbacks!

    Kevin

  28. “…all those white, Christian Canadians at the other border…”

    The damned canucks can stay the fuck outa here, too, as far as I’m concerned!

  29. “you start assimilating the newly conquered territory.”

    Seems to me like they have already begun. Oh! You meant the U.S. assimilating Mexico…I misunderstood.

  30. Aside from the incentive problem, note that being “out of harm’s way” involves being parentless. In Mexico.

    Oh, boo-fucking-hoo. The parents made a bad choice, and the solution is for them to go back to Mexico if they’re concerned about their kids. And if they’re not concerned, why should anyone else be?

    That excuse didn’t get much mileage at Nuremberg.

    Too bad Nuremberg has nothing to do with anything except your meretricious crocodile tears. Every country in the world has immigration laws.

  31. Around here they’d say yes. They think we can take anything, any number of immigrants, at any rate. And they don’t entirely get the fact that you can’t have a welfare state and open borders too.

    Great–that means all we have to do to end the welfare state is open the borders! Talk about a win/win situation.

  32. “Great–that means all we have to do to end the welfare state is open the borders! Talk about a win/win situation.”

    Correct. ASSuming that you consider bankruptcy a “win”.

    I had a teacher, when I was in the 8th grade, who made lifelong impression on me … I can’t really remember WHAT course he was teaching… World Economics or something like that… matters not… but every now and then, while we were discussing some at-the-time hot topic social issue, he would suddenly throw his book against the wall and shout “Let’s do it. Now! The sooner we start, the sooner it will all fall apart, and THEN we can rebuild it right.” Very impressive. Helped make me what I am today… whatever that is.

    CB

  33. Yeah, I’m with Dan T – the takeaway from this article is ridiculous. The example about 3 people assembling and machine guns is straw man nonsense. The real message this article is delivering is that preventing people from breaking the law easily is bad because people will break the law in more dangerous ways, therefore we should stop. The real room for debate here is whether illegal immigration should be illegal (or drugs, or prostitution, or whatnot) – NOT that we should stop enforcing what laws we do have because crimes need to be easier to commit at less risk to the criminals.

    If we need a wacky example to reinforce this point, a far more apropos simile would be to liken this to a call to stop enforcing laws against mugging because it makes people more likely to commit home invasions. (Even that, though, holds little water because the danger in this article is more to the criminal. So perhaps the argument is not to enforce laws against mugging because it makes people more likely to commit home invasions, at which point the robber is far more likely to be shot.)

  34. No, this law is more akin to the ones preventing black people from sharing lunch counters with white people.

    The more vigorously a victimless “crime” gets prosecuted, the more people are hurt needlessly.

    In fact, one of the grievances agaisnt the king of England in the ol’ Declaration of Independence was his restrictions on immigration!

    He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

  35. “No, this law is more akin to the ones preventing black people from sharing lunch counters with white people.”

    I don’t remember any laws that prevented black people from sharing lunch counters with white people. I do, however, seem to remember that once upon a time there were laws that prevented anyone from forcing the owners of said lunch counters to let black people share them with white people.
    I have only my personal experience of living in Texas to go by, so I may be mistaken about the deep south.

  36. Every country in the world has immigration laws.

    That’s your justification for the law? A political version of “all the other kids are doing it”? By that logic we should still have the rule of kings and arbitrary law because that’s what everyone else was doing in 1776.

    Because I think we want motivated people who are willing and interested in working hard and taking risks, we should permit just about anybody to enter the country. I think a vanishingly small number of immigrants come to the US to take advantage of the welfare state, and would support a sharp limitation in the availability of social programs for any recent immigrant. (Actually, I would support a sharp limitation in the availability of social programs for all, but that’s a different discussion.)

    Because only the most motivated people move away from their home country to pursue new opportunities, we would receive the most motivated from all over the world. As has been observed, all other countries limit immigration, so we would have a monopoly position on getting those who are motivated.

    This would be good for America — not just now, but for generations to come — as the energy and economic power of these immigrants and their children would be added to our country. It also has the potential to create a humanitarian bonanza around the world. As other nations in the world watch their most motivated people drain away to a land of opportunity, those governments would be encouraged to create conditions that reward industry and effort. Conditions such as free expression and the rule of law.

  37. Tarran,

    I would object to your characterization of illegal immigration as a “victimless crime” – there are a wide variety of victims, including law-abiding immigrants patiently waiting for spots to open up in a system that is unwilling to accommodate them due to the influx of illegal immigrants, the denizens of the American Southwest who are disproportionately bearing the economic and social costs of immigration, to say nothing of fairly compelling evidence citing high arrest and offense rates (even excluding drug and immigration-related offenses) among illegal immigrants.

    Of course, none of this is the point. If Howley wanted to make the case that we should legalize immigration, she should do so. And in that case, your defense would be more fitting. However, to say that enforcement of a law should be suspended because it’s making the law more difficult to break, while the law remains in place, takes all power and force out of the legal system. Arbitrary and capricious enforcement of laws is something any person concerned with liberty should fear. If the case is strong enough against a law, overturn it.

    Your Declaration quote is nice, but of course, some equally relevant ones are the very first two complaints addressed:

    “He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

    He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.”

    In short, without a clear and honestly enforced legal system, the rest is just window dressing.

  38. Kevrob, I believe the PC term is “whitebacks.”

    I say we post the military (or civilian contractors)on the borderS and give them the ok to shoot on sight anyone crossing into the United States of God blessed America that isnt at an authorized crossing.

    And as far as the forced integration of blacks into society in the deep south (oxy-moron), as Dr. Phil would say “hows that workin out for ya?” I give you New Orleans.
    Yes I know I am a hateful bastard for bringing it up, but I have to agree with Bill Cosby. I have no reason to expect the Hispanics to be any different in 2-3 generations.

  39. I don’t remember any laws that prevented black people from sharing lunch counters with white people.

    NYAH NYAH NYAH JIM CROWE NEVER HAPPENED NYAH NYAH NYAH LINCOLN WAS A TYRANT I CAN’T HEAR YOU!

  40. jw,

    Sorry, but there were indeed a wide variety of such laws. In fact, fun factoid of the day, (text from Wikipedia):
    “Not all racial segregation laws have been repealed in the United States, although Supreme Court rulings have rendered them unenforceable. For instance, the Alabama Constitution still mandates that Separate schools shall be provided for white and colored children, and no child of either race shall be permitted to attend a school of the other race. A proposal to repeal this provision was narrowly defeated in 2004.”

    Ladies and gentlemen, the South! *jazz hands*

    Rommel,

    I find your remarks to be fantastic, even bordering on inspirational. FWIW, I agree, it’s not “immigration” that’s broken, it’s the system.

  41. In short, without a clear and honestly enforced legal system, the rest is just window dressing.

    I don’t think those two clauses from the Declaration of Independence are discussing the fairness of enforcing the legal system.

    Rather, they are discussing the Crown’s power of veto. In particular, the clauses disagree with (a) the time that it takes to get the Crown’s permission, during which time the law cannot be presumed to be passed, and (b) some particular choices of the Crown’s use of its veto.

  42. MikeP,

    Yes, but the complaint here is essentially that the King is failing to construct any meaningful legal system in the colonies. By refusing to allow laws to be enforced (once put into place by the colonies) without his okay, he is in essence depriving the colonials of a system of justice.

    Clearly, those passages indicate frustration as to both of the things you listed, but they, along with nearly all of the others, continue one consistent theme: Anger that the King has failed to provide for a legal system that fairly and reliably accounts for the will of the governed.

  43. You know that the Libertarians are on shaky ground when they invoke both “the children” and Godwin’s law (“Nuremburg”), rather than debating the issue on the merits.

    Extra credit for the logical fallacy that because some anti-immigration activists are racist (true) that the entire anti-immigration movement is inherently racist (not provable on those grounds).

  44. Last Word,

    I’m curious, since there are Libertarians in this thread arguing both sides of the point, what shaky ground are they occupying?

  45. “Aside from the incentive problem, note that being “out of harm’s way” involves being parentless. In Mexico.”

    But everyone knows(TM) all illegal immigrants are criminals, drug smugglers, welfare cheats, and terrorists. Therefore it’s better for the children to be raised by wolves than live with their parents.

    Why is it immoral to enforce the law against illegal immigration? Is there any point at which any of you would say, “Stop, it’s gone too far”? Or should illegals be able to keep coming indefinitely?

    Once again, there are people south of the U.S./Mexico border who need work. There are employers north of the border who need workers. Most of the workers don’t want to move here, they want to work for a season and go home to Mexico.

    If more workers come north than are needed they won’t find jobs, won’t get paid, won’t be tempted to come. It’s a self-limiting problem.

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