Unexpectedly Intriguing!
14 October 2008

Coyote No, we haven't put a contract out on Warren Meyer. Not yet, anyway. Instead, we're going to suggest what may be a more practical approach to dealing with the issue of illegal immigration. Namely, the criminal element engaged in human trafficking, known to both law enforcement and the people they smuggle into the United States as "coyotes."

Foreign-born citizens of other countries, primarily Mexico, seek out and pay these coyotes, or polleros, for the purpose of getting them across the U.S. border undetected by border enforcement officials. In addition to engaging in this kind of human trafficking, the coyotes also often transport goods across the border for the purpose of evading customs duties or other laws. These goods often include narcotics and weapons, which feed criminal activity in jurisdictions across the United States.

Consequently, Americans have a vital interest in establishing effective border controls. And to date, the programs that have been established to deal with the issue have only had limited, if any, success. Virtual fences were an absolute bust. Stationing U.S. National Guard or Reserve forces near the border to provide administrative assistance for the Border Patrol has only had, at best, a limited effect upon border infiltration rates as their presence was not sustained. Increasing the number of Border Patrol enforcement agents has been somewhat effective, but is limited by high personnel turnover rates and associated costs.

Physical fencing, on the other hand, works but is costly and at present, is too limited to make a significant dent in infiltration rates. While not perfect, it has succeeded in pushing infiltrations away from where it has been established to areas where physical fencing has not been built, which increases the cost of illegally crossing the border. We should recognize that outcome as being the primary purpose of the fence.

Illegal Border Crossing Warning Sign Faced with those higher costs, the coyotes have increased the amount they charge those seeking to cross the border undetected, which provides the means to strike directly at their human trafficking business.

What the U.S. might consider is to establish a program where prospective entrants into the U.S. have to pay an entry bond. The amount of what they pay should be less than the "market" rate of what the coyotes charge to move people across the border illegally, but high enough to cover the costs of criminal background checks, registration to work in the U.S. legally, as well as a down payment to cover the cost of public services that the entrants might consume, such as emergency medical care and public schooling.

Upon exit, in the case of temporary workers, the entrants would be entitled to a refund of their entry bond, less fees and the costs of other services they may have consumed. A significant portion of the entry bond fee should be held for the purpose of paying for the public services consumed by those who entered the U.S. illegally, which will help create a positive incentive to minimize the number of illegal entrants among the legal-entrant community - they will lose a lot less money if the number of illegal-entrants is reduced.

In a way, this entry bond program would be similar to the "grubstake" that Canada established during the days of the Klondike Gold Rush. Here, before anyone would be allowed to enter Canada to go up into the remote areas of the Yukon territory where gold had been discovered, they would have to demonstrate that they had adequate provisions to reach their destination and survive for one year.

Establishing this requirement saved a lot of resources that would otherwise have been expended in rescuing those who were underequipped to survive the journey from starvation.

The key to making this suggestion work is to continue making it more and more expensive for the coyotes to move people across the border illegally. The United States has the opportunity to take better control of its borders and to regulate the entry of foreign-born citizens of other countries into the United States. It can do so by continuing to expand physical fencing of the border, which will further increase the costs to the coyotes of engaging in human smuggling, while simultaneously undercutting what the coyotes charge to bring people across the border and giving legal entrants a greater stake in minimizing illegal entry.

And the best part of this idea? You don't have to have a build a perfect, or impenetrable fence - you just have to build enough of a barrier and combine it with enough enforcement to make it too costly to cross the border illegally!

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