Michael: Minuteman Project - Civil Border Patrols are the Temperance Movement of the New MillenniumSome see an all too familiar pattern of xenophobia and racial intolerance underpinning the “Minuteman Project” militia border patrol. People fear that the same poison flows beneath the surface of civil border patrols that permeates much militia activity. I see something different. I see the sort of well-intentioned, but uninformed, patriotic zeal that might make one, faced with the imminent collapse of a dam, rush dam-ward with spackling and fingers akimbo, anxious to hold back the waters. Rather than working to determine why the dam failed, using available resources to minimize the attendant loss of life, and planning for a better way to manage the watershed in the future, their solution is manly action. Masculine fun, perhaps, but futile and dangerous.
I see the “Minuteman Project”, in the main, as a bunch of gung-ho patriotic guys too amped on testosterone to realize that they, with their ATVs, hunting rifles, and night scopes, are not the solution to the busting dam on our border with Mexico, but just more potential casualties to worry about. They remind me of the hatchet-wielding temperance ladies of Prohibition in their authority-pricking vigilantism, their moralistic zeal, and their complete naivté. There are elements in their movement harboring motives more atavistic and ugly than their leaders care to acknowledge, but that is not the well-spring of their creed: boyish dreams of being a crusader in a righteous cause are.
The hydraulic pressure pushing people north is the very structure of the American economy and the logic of black markets, such as drugs and people smuggling, not any grand conspiracy to take over the country, or ruin our way of life, as too many of the Minutemen believe. Attributing the problems of illegal immigration to the moral failings and individual choices of those caught up in the hydrology of illegal immigration is like blaming individual molecules of water for a collapsing dam.
The failures that lead to the many tragic outcomes along our border occur far from our border, where the system to manage the natural tendency of people to flow north was designed and is maintained. Our problems will not be solved with spackling, fingers, sponges, or any other remedy that seeks to shore up the dam, or soak up and expel the people who cross our increasingly porous border. Our problems will only be solved once people realize that the policy equivalent of a dam, no matter how well reinforced, won’t work; people are far more clever and resourceful than water at finding a way downstream. The calls for a massive, militarized wall along the border are the product of rigid thinking, they are just stronger dams with the same flaws. The people will still come, but they will bring with them even higher costs; more crime, more deaths, and more corruption.
Proposals for managing our border with Mexico via a legal guest-worker program to better monitor and document the flow of people are sensible alternatives to fighting the same losing battles more strenuously. Any such system must serve not only our needs - cheap labor and decreased crime and violence along the border - but also the rights and aspirations of the people who participate, and the nation of Mexico. Many who wish to come to the United States naturally aspire to stay here and become citizens. Whether via a path to citizenship or permanent residency, or by working with Mexico to make American citizenship comparatively less attractive, those natural aspirations must also be addressed.
Only when economic immigration to the United States is decriminalized will the terrible exploitation, crime, and deaths associated with the illegal trade in people across the border finally end. Whenever there is a strong and enduring demand, criminalizing the supply of that want will not eliminate the thing demanded, it will only ensure that the profits of that trade finance criminal enterprises and the crimes in which they engage.
Prohibition should be a stern warning to American policy-makers, but the clear results of that experiment are too often ignored. Prohibition was promoted by the moralistic zeal of a grass-roots temperance movement that was well-intentioned, but too narrowly focused to have any perspective. The grass-roots anti-immigration crowd are similarly motivated by well-intentioned, but ill-informed, concern for the nation’s security. The crisis of violence, corruption, and deaths along our border is directly analogous not only to a failing dam, but also to our failed ‘War on Drugs’ of today, and the Prohibition of the past. They all sought unwisely to hold in abeyance the laws of the free market instead of working with market forces. Attempting such a feat brought the Soviet Union to its knees. China is still afloat only because its leaders chose to be carried with the flow of the market, rather than swim against the tide of history.
What makes us think that we will fare any better in our own futile attempts to hold to anachronistic anti-market policies like drug prohibition and criminalized economic immigration? Immigration policy is closely associated with and inextricably bound to the drug trade, both conceptually and practically. Until American policy-makers embrace solutions that respect and work with the market forces that drive both issues, neither can be effectively addressed. The "Minutemen" patroling in the desert isn't going to fix the border, nor cause the government to do so; it is simply childish immitation of a policy approach that has already failed completely.