Our Immigration Police State

As I have long argued, a system of immigration controls necessarily comes with an immigration police state. Warrantless searches of farms and ranches near the border. Domestic highway checkpoints. Roving Border Patrol checkpoints. Immigration raids on private businesses. Felonies for hiring illegal immigrants. Felonies for transporting illegal immigrants. Boarding of Greyhound buses to check people’s papers. Forced deportations. Forced separation of children from parents. And on and on.

And now we learn that the immigration police state has added another weapon to its arsenal. According to the Los Angeles Times, “Immigration and Customs Enforcement has crafted a sophisticated surveillance dragnet designed to spy on most people living in the United States, without the need for warrants and many times circumventing state privacy laws, such as those in California, according to a two-year investigation released Tuesday by the Georgetown Law Center on Privacy & Technology.”

According to the Georgetown investigation, ICE spent an estimated $2.8 billion between 2008 and 2021 on surveillance. That would be U.S. taxpayer -funded money of course. And that is billions with a “b,” not millions with an “m.”

The Times reports that “ICE officials did not respond to a Times request for comment.” Why should they? They are in charge of their immigration police state. Why should they have to respond to anyone? And anyway, if they did respond, they undoubtedly would just say that they’re keeping us “safe.” What’s wrong with sacrificing liberty and privacy for the sake of “security?” they’d ask.

The Times writes:

In California, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill in 2020 that promised to protect utility customer data from exposure to federal immigration officials. But ICE officials found a way around the law, purchasing access to hundreds of millions of Americans’ utility records provided by data brokers Thomson Reuters and Equifax.”

Thus, as I have long emphasized, advocates of immigration controls necessarily endorse, at the same time, an immigration police state. That’s because an immigration police state necessarily comes with a system of immigration controls, just as thunder necessarily comes with lightning. Of course, that doesn’t pose a problem for conservatives and liberals. They love police states, so long as the enforcers wear an American flag on their sleeves. But it obviously poses a problem for conservative-oriented libertarians who also favor a system of immigration controls, given that a police state is antithetical to the principles of libertarianism and a free society.

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.