When I was a kid growing up on farm on the Rio Grande outside Laredo, Texas, my dad hired illegal immigrants to help us harvest the crops we were growing on our farm. My brother and I would work out in the fields with them bailing hay, and I can tell you out without any equivocation whatsoever that they were the hardest working people I’ve ever seen.
They also lived on our farm with us. My dad had built an area that housed them. We also fed them three meals a day. I don’t know how much my dad paid them but it was obviously more than they could earn in Mexico, which is why they came to our farm to work.
Oftentimes, my dad would give our workers a ride into town on some particular weekend, where they would cross the border into Nuevo Laredo to be with their families. They would then later make their way back to our farm.
There is something important to know about America’s federal immigration system — it comes with enforcement. Duh! And over the decades, this immigration enforcement system has progressively turned the borderlands into an immigration police state.
When I was growing up, it was not illegal to hire an illegal immigrant. However, it was a federal felony to transport or harbor illegal immigrants. Therefore, while my dad wasn’t committing a crime by hiring those workers, he was committing a crime by harboring and transporting them.
I sometimes wondered why he was willing to take that risk. All that the Border Patrol had to do was spy on him and then bust him when he was either taking our workers into town or housing and feeding them on our farm. Being busted for a federal felony would not have been good for my dad, who was an attorney and who had served as the U.S. magistrate in Laredo.
The reason that my father never worried about being busted was that the Border Patrol had an informal, unwritten policy of not enforcing America’s system of immigration controls against Laredo citizens. They wanted to maintain good relations with the people of Laredo, and so farmers and ranchers didn’t need to be too concerned about harboring illegal immigrants who were working on their farms and ranches. The same held true for Laredo’s middle-class housewives, many of whom had live-in maids or nannies who were illegal. The Border Patrol would simply look the other way except when some disgruntled housewife would report on one of her friends who had “stolen” her maid by offering her a higher wage.
Part of the immigration police state involves the power of the Border Patrol to enter farms and ranches within 100 miles of the border to search for illegal immigrants. They did that regularly on farms and ranches outside Laredo. They did it with our farm. They would enter our farm from the highway that adjoined it. They would come onto our farm whenever they wanted — without a search warrant — to search for illegal immigrants. If we put a lock on our gate at the entrance, we had to give them a key. If we failed to do so, they would simply shoot the lock off the gate and enter our farm. If they found our workers, which they sometimes did, they would bust them and carry them away.
One of the common calls we hear about America’s immigration system, even among some rightwing-oriented libertarians, is that we just need “comprehensive immigration reform,” and — voila! — America’s perpetual immigration crisis will be over. That’s ridiculous. The reason it’s ludicrous is that America’s immigration-control system is a socialist system, in that it is based on the core socialist principle of central planning. Central planning comes with crises or what Ludwig von Mises called “planned chaos.”
What all too many immigration-control proponents fail to realize is that socialism is an inherently defective paradigm, which means that there is no possible reform that can make it work. Instead, immigration reforms oftentimes expand the immigration police state along the border.
For example, in 1986 there was a “comprehensive immigration reform” that was adopted that was supposed to resolve the perpetual immigration crisis once and for all. It made it illegal for America employers to hire illegal immigrants.
Thus, if my father had still been alive, he would have been committing a criminal and civil offense just by hiring an illegal immigrant who wanted to work on our farm. The same applied to all other farmers and ranchers and housewives who hired illegal immigrants. The reform package converted these American citizens into criminals just for hiring people who wanted to sustain or improve their lives through labor.
The idea was that if American employers could be turned into criminals for hiring illegal immigrants, there would be no more employment for illegal immigrants, which, in turn, would mean that immigrants would no longer come to the United States illegally.
That was more than 35 years ago. How did that comprehensive immigration reform work out? Obviously not very well because we still have the forever immigration crisis that comes with our socialist immigration system.
Yet, does anyone call for the repeal of that particular police-state measure? Of course not. It remains on the books, which gives the feds one more hammer to hold over the heads of the American people.
There is one rather humorous aspect of America’s immigration police state. That’s when we hear right-wing advocates of America’s immigration socialism and the immigration police state that comes with it tell us how devoted they are to “freedom, free enterprise, and limited government.”
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