The media continually inform us that there’s a crisis at the U.S. southern border. However, little is being done about it. President Trump has his ideas and Congress appears completely unwilling to act. Parts of the wall are being built, but it can’t happen soon enough to quickly staunch the flow of illegal immigrants. Therefore, it’s time to take an approach that always works when it’s tried: Unleash the power of capitalism to solve this intractable problem. It’s time to privatize border enforcement.
In the country’s early history, law enforcement was largely a private affair. Bounty hunters and bail enforcement agents (BEAs) were a private solution to a public problem. Nearly 200 years of experience with bounty hunters and BEAs has shown them to be an extremely effective solution in apprehending a broad spectrum of criminals around the country. When an alleged criminal jumps bail or fails to appear for a court hearing, modern day BEAs, working at the behest of bail bondsmen, apprehend large numbers of criminals and ensure that justice is served. Today, most states, as witnessed by Dog the Bounty Hunter, still rely upon private individuals to ensure the swift apprehension of bail jumpers.
The practice was legitimized by the U.S. Supreme Court in the 1873 case of Taylor v. Taintor, which recognized that bail bondsmen have sweeping rights to protect their bond and thus apprehend and even temporarily imprison their charges. Bail enforcement agents have rights superior to public law enforcement officers. A person out on bail expressly waives many constitutional protections, including the right to refuse consent to search a dwelling and the entitlement of due process. Sometimes overzealous agents cause problems, including even injury or death, but the legal system has been effective in dealing with these issues.
Extending the bounty hunter concept to illegal border crossers, who attempt entry into the United States, would result in reduced crossings and substantial cost savings. There are presently about 20,000 U.S. Border Patrol Agents on the Mexican border. They secure nearly 2,000 miles of border, 365 days per year, 24/7. Taking into account agent vacations, sick leave, maternity leave, holidays, extremely poor management, and other factors, the actual number of agents on border patrol on any shift is often only in the hundreds.
And they are extremely costly. The Border Patrol is the United States’ largest law enforcement agency. There are 62,500 employees, including about 50,000 sworn agents. In 2016 the department’s budget was more than $16 billion. Including non-labor related expenses and overhead, it expends more than $200,000 per employee. Last year it apprehended over 400,000 illegal Mexico border crossers; the average cost per apprehension was $10,000.
Here’s where the private sector comes in. The Border Patrol could certify training courses that all Independent Border Patrol Agents (IBPAs) would complete in order to receive compensation for apprehending illegal immigrants. The U.S. would give $500-$1,000 rewards/bounties to certified IBPAs. Within weeks there would be tens of thousands of IBPAs continually patrolling our border. In addition, they could earn additional bonuses for apprehension of convicted felons or repeat crossers. A coyote escorting more than 10 people across could yield another $2,500. Once an apprehension is made, the bounty hunter would deliver the person(s) to a Border Patrol staging area where deportation or prosecution would take place. This would free up the U.S. Border Patrol to concentrate more resources on capturing terrorists, drug smugglers, and human traffickers, as well as creating more judges to deal with fraudulent asylum seekers and clearing up the huge backlog of pending cases.
Hundreds of thousands of illegals successfully cross the border each year, creating numerous problems throughout society. Even if the president and Congress doubled the number of Border Patrol Agents on the Mexican border to 40,000 tomorrow, there still wouldn’t be enough agents to stop the flow. Privatizing the apprehension of illegal border crossers would free up law enforcement to address more important threats and dramatically increase the number of apprehensions made and once again "Make America’s Border Enforcement Great Again!"
Kerry Lutz has been a student of Austrian Economics since 1977. While attending Pace University, he stumbled upon an extensive cache of Austrian Economic Literature in a dark, musty, abandoned section of the school’s library. After graduating from The New York Law School, he became an attorney and life long serial entrepreneur. His diverse career has included: running a legal printing company, practicing commercial law and litigation and founding a successful distressed asset investment company.
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