America’s Immigration Surveillance State

Licensed under Creative Commons.

As longtime supporters of The Future of Freedom Foundation know, ever since our inception in 1989 we have called for open borders — genuine open borders — as the only way to resolve America’s decades-old, ongoing, never-ending immigration crisis. (See our 1995 book The Case for Free Trade and Open Immigration.)

The primary reason is moral: People have the fundamental, God-given rights of freedom of travel, freedom of movement, freedom of association, liberty of contract, and economic liberty. No government, including the U.S. government, wields the legitimate authority to infringe rights that preexist government, as the U.S. Declaration of Independence points out.

The secondary reason is utilitarian: America’s system of immigration controls is a socialist institution, one that is based on the core socialist principle of central planning, and has come with death, suffering, violence, and the adoption of an immigration police state in the American Southwest. 

I can fully understand why conservatives and progressives (i.e., liberals) favor America’s system of immigration controls. They see nothing wrong with using the state to violate people’s natural, God-given rights. Moreover, they have nothing against the concept of a police state, so long as the police-state’s enforcers are wearing an American flag on their sleeves.

But for the life of me, I simply cannot understand why any libertarian would favor a socialist system that comes with deaths of innocent people and an immigration police state, especially since such a system violates the core principle of the libertarian philosophy — the libertarian non-aggression principle. Aren’t libertarians supposed to be opposed to socialism, police states, and the initiation of force against others?

There is now another police-state factor for libertarians who favor America’s immigration police state to consider: that America’s socialist system of immigration controls is bringing a tyrannical surveillance state to the borderlands that is destroying the fundamental, natural, God-given right of privacy for people living along the border. 

This new police-state phenomenon is described in a Substack article entitled “Spy Blimps in the Sky: The Increasing Surveillance of the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands” by Todd Miller. The article points out that the feds are using America’s system of immigration controls to adopt high-tech surveillance of the borderlands. Quoting Electronic Frontier Foundation analyst Matthew Guariglia, the article points out that the U.S.-Mexico border is one of the “most surveilled spots in the U.S.”

Among the high-tech immigration surveillance techniques are blimps that fly above communities along the border. The blimps have cameras in them that enable officials to watch what everyone is doing. As Nogales, New Mexico, Mayor Arturo Garino asked, “Would you want to have a blimp above your house?”

There are also an increasing number of immigration drones that are now operating along the border. The article states: “On October 20, for example, the company Red Cat Holding announced a new contract to provide Golden Eagle drones to the Border Patrol, as part of a blanket purchase agreement (which CBP has with five drone companies). The deal has an estimated value of $90 million over the next five years.”

There are also what are called “integrated surveillance towers”  or ISTs, “such as the 175 deployed in Southern California and beyond. In a report to industry on October 4, CBP listed its future IST deployments, which will include 63 in the Big Bend sector, 48 in San Diego, 52 in Del Rio, 46 in El Paso, and 31 in Laredo.” 

Nogales resident Francisco Ramos told the Nogales International, “It’s ridiculous. It’s shameful. It’s racist. It’s gone too far. Nobody is invading.” Arizona’s Santa Cruz County Sheriff David Hathaway stated that it is “blatant spying on our community” and went on to tell reporter Jonathan Clark, “I think it’s disgusting. I think it’s evidence of a kind of growing police state along the border, and I don’t know why Americans aren’t more upset about that.”

I too don’t get why Americans aren’t upset about all this. It seems to me that everyone who is concerned with restoring our rights and liberties would be upset, especially libertarians. 

This first appeared on Hornberger’s Expand Freedom blog.

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