Ben Carson, number two in nationwide GOP presidential polls, made a series of insane statements and policy proposals today at a huge campaign rally in Phoenix, in front of a Breitbart News-estimated crowd of 12,000 people. Sample:
[W]hat I have said consistently is we need to seal our borders—but not just the southern border, the northern border, the Pacific border, the Atlantic border, every border.
Reality check on the political surrealist: Even if you put up 7,500 miles worth of fencing (including 5,500 on our porous frontiers with menacing Canada), the border would not be remotely "secure" in the way that half the GOP field and a huge swath of its fanbase fantasizes. That's because—for now, anyway!—residents from 38 countries are allowed to enter the United States as tourists without a visa. Millions more came here on temporary visas for work or school, and then just stay. An estimated 40 percent of the current illegal immigrant population in the United States arrived in this country legally.
So to "seal" American borders in any meaningful sense of that word, you'd have to not only put up those 7,500 miles of Berlin-style walling (at a cost in the hundreds of billions), but also eliminate the Visa Waiver program (thereby crippling the U.S. tourism industry and restricting American freedom of movement abroad), and then affix tracking technology to every foreigner who sets foot inside the country. You would, in short, have to build a police state.
Which fits in snugly with Carson's next comments:
We can use a whole series of things to do that, not just fences and walls but electronic surveillance, drones and many of the techniques that are used to keep people out of top secret places.
To be sure, Carson did not specify that his border drones would rain death upon those humans brazen enough to seek better lives for themselves outside of Washington-approved bureaucratic channels. Also, Customs and Border Patrol Protection have already shelled out more than $360 million on (mostly ineffective) non-lethal border drones. But what few of the buggers have been deployed are useful mostly in detecting contraband shipments, not individual humans. We shall see what Carson's ideas are for making drones operational on river-swimmers and fence-jumpers and tunnel-diggers, but [UPDATE: Rare collects some more Carson commentary on the subject today, including this statement: "You look at some of these caves and things out there one drone strike, boom, and (they're) gone"].
Anyway, judging by who he thinks is coming across that border, lethality is not hard to imagine.
All of those things are available to us. We have the ability to do it, we just don't have the will to do it. That will change when we have the right administration in place. The reason that is so important—a lot of people think there are just people coming from the south of the border—there are radical global jihadists who want to destroy us and our way of life and we have to keep them out. We have to make it not easy for them to get in here. This is a matter of our own security.
Bolding mine. As Ron Bailey recently pointed out, since 9/11, every single vaguely Islamist terrorist attack on U.S. soil has been perpetrated by people who came to this country (or were born here) legally. "In other words," Bailey wrote, "building a wall across our border with Mexico would have done nothing to prevent any Islamic terrorist attacks."
But Carson has other reasons to keep foreigners out:
[O]nce we have that border sealed, we have to turn off the spigot that dispenses the goodies. If there are no goodies, guess what? They won't come. It won't be worth trying to get through our borders if there are no goodies. That includes employment—we should make it illegal to employ people in this country who are not legally here.
It actually is illegal to employ illegal immigrants, a thing that should give Carson and other restrictionists pause. If Americans and immigrants keep breaking laws by the millions, and adopting mutually beneficial black-market employment arrangements rather than asking at every turn for the government's permission, is this a problem of rampant criminality, or is it a problem of prohibition? Is the solution always to keep making this behavior illegaller?
Carson's emphasis on "goodies" here is instructive, as is his authoritarian notion that there is a single, governmental "spigot" that "dispenses" them. The U.S. already turned off the "spigot" of most welfare programs for illegal immigrants in the 1990s; the result being that illegal immigrants are a net contributor to the welfare state. As mentioned above, the goodie of employment is already illegal, as is much of illegal immigrants' punching-above-their-weight entrepreneurialism, yet human stubbornness and ingenuity keep making both happen. Perhaps as importantly, the United States has unmatched "intangible wealth," in the form of institutions, civil society, rule of law, and so forth. Government did not build that wealth, and it cannot take it away, despite the worst efforts of would-be presidential aspirants.
Lastly, Carson joins the chorus line of GOP politicians seeking to repeal part of the post-Civil War 14th Amendment:
I know the 14th Amendment has been brought up recently, about anchor babies—and it doesn't make any sense to me that people could come in here, have a baby and that baby becomes an American citizen….There are many countries in the world where they simply have recognized that and don't allow that to occur.
As Damon Root wrote here in 2010,
the 14th Amendment's Citizenship Clause specifically overturned the Supreme Court's notorious 1857 decision in Dred Scott v. Sandford, which held that persons of African descent could never be U.S. citizens. It was a magnificent achievement for the young Republican Party.
It is remarkable, though no longer surprising, that the GOP is actively seeking to undo what few selling points it still has.