Apparently not having enough to do to keep illegal immigrants from entering the country, U.S. officials are now also spending their time looking for illegal immigrants leaving the country. According to an article entitled “Border Busts Coming and Going in the Los Angeles Times, federal customs and immigration officials are setting up random checkpoints 500 yards from the Mexican border to search vehicles leaving the United States for illegal immigrants, drugs, and other contraband. People who cannot produce their papers are taken into custody and then turned over to the Border Patrol, which then deports them a few hours later.
Apparently the idea is to send a message to illegal immigrants that the U.S. government is serious about cracking down on illegal immigration. (The message being sent to drug dealers, apparently, is: Don’t even think of removing illicit drugs from the United States.)
Pardon me for asking a discomforting question, but isn’t it likely that, like other government interventions, this measure will have an unintended consequence that is opposite to what government officials want? Once illegal immigrants realize that there is a strong likelihood of being caught returning home, wouldn’t that encourage them to remain permanently in the United States rather than return home after making some money? And wouldn’t that, in turn, induce them to smuggle their wife and children into the United States? And isn’t that the exact opposite of what U.S. officials wish to accomplish with their immigration-enforcement measures?
The U.S. checkpoints for people leaving the country should also remind Americans of something that Germans and Koreans learned long ago: a government that is sufficiently powerful to keep people out is sufficient powerful to keep people in. In a national emergency, people soon discover that enforcement measures that were previously applied to people trying to illegally enter a country can be quickly converted to apply to citizens trying to quickly get themselves, their families, and their capital out of the country. Sealed borders can seal people in as effectively as they seal people out.