What Enforcement Requires

At Outside the Beltway James Joyner laments the measures that have been taken to enforce our immigration laws:

Defense One reports “The Border Patrol’s ‘Constitution-Free’ Zone Is Probably Larger Than You Think.” Considering that I didn’t realize we had a Constitution-free zone, they’re certainly right.


I’ve long known, of course, that borders are essentially Constitution-free zones. I lived in El Paso for eighteen months and crossed into Juarez on a few occasions. Studying Constitutional Law as an undergraduate, I learned that the Supreme Court had, not unreasonably, ruled that pretty much all searches conducted at our borders were “reasonable” under the 4th Amendment.


Essentially, for the purposes of border enforcement, we’ve redefined “probable cause” as “looks Hispanic.” Combined with longstanding SCOTUS rulings that people in motor vehicles have essentially no expectation of privacy, this makes much of the country “Constitution-free.”

but towards the end of his post he gets to the crux of the matter:

In fairness, we’re a continental nation with a two thousand mile-long border with a developing nation.

I like to work from premises, identify objectives based on them, and then identify ways and means for accomplishing those objectives. James’s post presents an opportunity for me to return to themes common here. Here are my premises:

  1. American nationals have a right to live here.
  2. Mexican nationals don’t except as provided by law.
  3. Most Mexican nationals who come here don’t particularly want to live here; they come to work.

The objective, obviously enough, is to enforce our rights. That’s how I arrived at what I’ve suggested many times here. Rather than focusing on border control we should emulate our Canadian neighbors and put serious workplace enforcement regulations in place. As a balance to that we should issue a lot more work visas to Mexican nationals than we presently do although I recognize that’s more of a bone of contention.

I also think that need to stop patronizing Mexico. It’s no longer a poor country. It’s a middle income country with a lot of poor people in it. It’s quite capable of dealing with its own problems. We need to stop allowing its aristocracy to offload their problems onto us.

Immigration involves both push forces and pull forces. Historically, for Mexico the push forces have included population, demographics, social factors, and economics. Pull forces have been social and economic. Both the push forces and pull forces are weakening. Translated, that means that we should expect immigration from Mexico to slow which is precisely what has been happening.

4 comments… add one
  • Roy Lofquist Link

    “Rather than focusing on border control we should emulate our Canadian neighbors and put serious workplace enforcement regulations in place.”

    The problem with that approach is that enforcing the regulations is well nigh impossible. A very large proportion of illegals work for very small companies – restaurants, lawn services, etc. In the case of the construction industry almost all of the work is done by sub-contractors that typically have a high turnover. Way too many employers to monitor.

  • It’s a lot cheaper, easier, and more effective than controlling the border.

  • I agree that enforcing employment rules, while not easier, is much easier than enforcing a gigantic border or trying to chase down people with expired visas in a continental nation. I agree that Mexico as a polity is well-developed, although I haven’t the foggiest how we’d go about enticing them to police their borders on either the illegal immigration or illicit narcotics fronts.

  • What I mean by “patronizing” is that far too many Americans continue to think of Mexico as a poor country full of indigents. That’s just no longer the case. Mexico is quite capable of taking care of their own problems and dealing with the refugees coming across their border from Honduras and Guatemala in some way other than speeding their way to the U. S. border. Using the U. S. as a safety valve is a strategy that has just about run its course.

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