The War On (Some) Drugs Immigrants

Thinking today about the questions of immigration that Doug brought up yesterday, and something stuck in my head. We’re fighting the a “War On (Some) Immigrants” (also known as the fight against illegal immigrants), and the tactics and rhetoric is oddly similar to the War On (Some) Drugs. And of course, neither war is winnable. I see a few similarities:

  • Both illegal immigration and drug use are victimless crimes. Both have an appearance of having a victim, of course. In the example of drugs, the victims are the users themselves and those who are hurt in the users’ attempts to get money to pay their drug habit. In the example of illegal immigration, the victims are “the taxpayers” and the people whose jobs have been “stolen” by illegal immigrants.
  • Immigration and drugs are both very attractive behaviors to the person engaging in them. And because they’re highly attractive behaviors, they’re unlikely to stop. To a poor, industrious person from Mexico, the chance to come to the US and work for $6 an hour is a boon. As someone who’s made the difficult choice to leave his home and his parents and move to another part of the country, emigrating ones home country for another must be an even more enormously difficult choice. Yet to escape from the situation they’re in, they’ll do whatever it takes to get here. To a drug user, the lure of the high is enough to get them to do what they need to do to feed the fix. To escape from whatever pain they’re running from in their life, they’ll do whatever it takes to get high.
  • Focus is placed on the effects of making the behavior illegal as if it is inherent to the behavior itself. The complaints, say, that illegals are driving unlicensed and without insurance is largely because they’re forced underground. If they were legal immigrants, they would likely have licenses and insurance. The complaints that they work underneath the minimum wage or don’t pay taxes (both of which are largely false, IMHO) are due to the fact that they must work underground. If they could work legally, I’m sure they and their employers would much rather operate in the open, rather than beneath the radar. The same arguments are used in the Drug war, where the violence of the black market and the lengths to which addicts will go to pay for the inflated price of drugs are blamed on drugs, not on the prohibition of drugs, which is the true cause of the violence.
  • The war on Drugs or Immigrants is prosecuted arbitrarily and unfairly. Alcohol, which is a far more dangerous drug than marijuana, is legal, while marijuana is not. Some drugs which can alleviate pain and induce euphoria are legal but controlled by prescription, but other drugs that can alleviate pain but aren’t backed by pharmaceutical companies are illegal. Likewise, our immigration policies are arbitrary. If you’re from a country from which we have few immigrants, you can probably get here fairly easily (like my sister-in-law, an Australian who came here to marry my brother). If you’re one of the lucky ones to get in under the “quota”, you can get in. But if not, you’re “illegal” for no reason other than not being one of the lucky ones who was within the quota. If you’re an educated professional worker and you get a tech company to sponsor your H-1B, you can legally come here and work. If you’re an educated professional worker and you desire to come here and work part-time until you find a tech job yourself, you’re not allowed to.
  • The rhetoric keeps getting towards “increasing the penalties” Mandatory minimum sentences for drug use and dealing keep getting longer. The government’s right to seize property keeps growing. The use of paramilitary-style raids keeps widening. And yet people still use and sell drugs. What’s the answer of the government? “Fight harder and make the penalties stiffer!” Illegal immigration is a wide and growing problem. They tried to cut the ability for illegals to drive and have licenses. They’re trying to increase the penalties for employers who knowingly (or more commonly unknowingly, due to falsified documents) employ illegals, and to make it illegal to rent a home or apartment to an illegal immigrant. In GA, they decided to put taxes on any money sent overseas, in order to punish illegals for sending money to their home country for their families to use. We’re starting to see heavier INS “raids” to find the lawbreakers. And yet people are still immigrating here illegally. What’s the answer of the government? “Fight harder and make the penalties stiffer!”

At some point you have to ask whether these issues are being brought up for the same reason, since it’s obvious neither one is working. The War on Drugs is quite obviously prosecuted in order for government to increase power, to increase the number of jobs they can give to police, and exploit a “them” with little sympathy in the wider population (i.e. drug users) for their own purposes. Could the fight against illegal immigration be a ruse to give government more control over our economy, more tentacles into hiring and employment practices, all while exploiting a “them” with little sympathy in the wider population (i.e. illegal immigrants who speak Spanish) for their own purposes?

It seems to me that a lot of politicians and the media are engaging in pure demagoguery of this issue because they know they can strike a nerve with a lot of voters. It’s working pretty well, too. But I think it’s one more case of politicians and media working for their own interests, not the interests of the country.