A congresswoman recently brought the public’s attention back to migrant camps on the southern border by calling them concentration camps. While Merriam-Webster would agree with her definition, it read like hyperbole. Everything seems to be hyperbole in 2019, so it is hard to know what matters anymore. Like every other issue in the news, we’ve descended into unproductive, and often untrue, debates about these camps.
A year ago, We Are Libertarians spent dozens of hours researching this issue from every angle. We listed every source we could find, and we tried to present a fair and honest look at what is happening. Almost all of this information is still relevant. Judging by the website hits and reactions, your friends WANT to hear this show. Please listen for yourself, and if you find it informative, please share it. This issue really matters. Here is the link with the show prep.
While the episode is a year old, the fundamental facts have not changed, but the conditions have.
Six children have died due to poor conditions. Infants and children aren’t allowed to bathe, toilet facilities aren’t working, necessary items like soap and toothbrushes aren’t provided, and dangerous overcrowding is taking place. Diseases are rampant, but health care is minimal. Fear not, the guards have adequate face masks to protect themselves from the unhealthy air. They’re also punishing kids for losing their lice combs. Thousands of children were sexually abused. The government has argued that all of this is acceptable.
If an individual perpetrated this, it would be an episode of an SVU. Morality doesn’t change when something is done in the name of the collective. Morality doesn’t change because they are immigrants, either. As believers in natural rights, all prisoners should be treated with dignity. I find it hard to understand how Republicans will continuously advocate for the rights and dignity of the unborn but have little empathy for immigrants being neglected in American prisons.
Maybe the left was right in the mid-2000s when they warned that indefinite detentions and inhumane treatment at places like GITMO would lead to moral rot. Public opinion, and then government policy, usually cut its teeth on the people that provoke no sympathy in the minds of a population. We must be careful, or prisoners in a country with ever-expanding laws will begin allowing our people to be tortured by government bureaucrats ending in death.
Why is this happening?
Whenever laws are passed, executives have multiple ways they can execute the laws. Trump has chosen to interpret immigration laws rigorously and is changing the way legal immigration (asylum) is handled. This has pushed detention centers far beyond their capacity, and Democrats in Congress see this as a winner politically, so they aren’t increasing funding. In the meantime, children are being tortured so that politicians can win elections. Over the past few weeks, there has been an enormous influx over the borders because of Trump’s standoff with Mexico. People are concerned they won’t be able to get it. Three children and one woman died yesterday. I’ll also direct your attention to a petition asking Congress to allow private donations to be made to those in custody.
But Obama did it! This is true, but it also wasn’t at this magnitude. Secondly, this argument nods to the fact that this is morally repugnant, but it should be allowed because the other President did bad stuff too. If conservatives feel this is disgusting, then why not lead instead of blaming the other party? Why aren’t Democrats calling on their leadership to fix the problem?
Conservatives fail to understand that border controls are like taxes. Labor is a resource in a market, and interfering with the free flow of labor has unintended consequences in the same way that aggressive (or any) taxation stalls an economy. Liberals fail to see that bureaucracy will always lead to failed outcomes (AKA people dying) because of bad incentives, slow change, and limited resources.
I’ve found this story to be very difficult, personally. It is hard to think that people are just ok with the conditions of these children. While I may lean more open-borders than closed borders, I can see the need to follow our laws as written. The rule of law is an important principle is a society founded on laws. I can see why a person could say, “I don’t want immigrants to enter my country for X reasons.” What I don’t understand is a nonchalant shrug, or worse, a sociopathic defense of what amounts to torture for the most vulnerable humans on the planet. Often, people want to turn away from the human costs that result from using government force to avoid feeling guilt or shame. We outsource hard questions to the government, and politics inevitably leads to a lack of empathy for our fellow humans. This sad episode in American life illustrates the moral cost of such a choice.