Showing posts with label CBP. Show all posts
Showing posts with label CBP. Show all posts

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Illegal Immigration is Declining Despite Trump's 'Humanitarian Crisis' Hysteria

Sources: Department of Homeland Security: Office of Immigration Statistics, Pew Research Center, Border Patrol: Total Illegal Alien Apprehensions By Fiscal Year, Employer Fined $96 million for hiring illegal aliens



What Trump was missing in this 8 minute rant was context. Illegal immigration has been declining over the past decade and is at a historic low, but you'd never know that listening to Trump's propaganda about it being a 'national emergency' and his millions of mindless followers. According to DHS, there are around 12 million illegal aliens residing in the U.S., which might seem like a lot and enough to declare a national emergency, but the vast majority of illegal aliens are not new arrivals. 80% of illegal aliens (about 9.6 million) have been here since at least the W. Bush admin when illegal immigration peaked at 470,000 people per year before rapidly dropping off during and after the recession. Not surprisingly, the Bush administration also had the highest number of illegal alien apprehensions in this millennium and was topped only by the Clinton administration in the 90's. There were 3.38 million illegal alien apprehensions between 2004 and 2006 alone. In 2001, the first year of the Bush admin, there were over 1.2 million illegal alien apprehensions. However, this pales in comparison to illegal alien apprehensions in the 1990's, under the Bush Sr. and Clinton administrations, when there were over a million apprehensions every year except 1994 when apprehensions briefly dipped to 979,000 before rising back to 1.27 million in 1995. Illegal alien apprehensions dropped under 500,000 during the Obama administration and has not come close to the 1990's and early 2000's numbers since then. In 2017, Trump's first year, there were about 300,000 illegal alien apprehensions. The number of illegal aliens in the labor force has similarly declined from a peak of 8.2 million or 5.4% of the labor force in 2007 to 7.8 million or 4.8% of the labor force since the end of the Obama Admin in 2016.

If Trump is so concerned about illegal immigration, why not remove the incentive to illegally immigrant here? If you'll notice, illegal immigration follows economic trends, rising during boom periods and falling during downturns. Illegal immigration is inextricably linked to the economy, so why not penalize employers who hire illegal aliens and make e-verify, or some other system for checking work authorization, mandatory for all employers? Illegal aliens are less than 5% of the work force, but constitute 24% of agricultural workers, 24% of maids or house cleaning workers and 15% of construction workers and contractors; that should give you a rough idea of where to look first. I'm sure landscaping and lawn care also have a disproportionate percentage of illegal aliens compared to the national average; any industry where people can work under the table is going to be ripe with illegal aliens. This approach would be far more effective than any border barriers. Businesses are much more receptive to laws than illegal aliens. The story of a tree-trimming company, Asplundh, being fined $96 million for hiring illegal aliens and having one their mid-level executives sentenced to prison illustrates the possible disincentives that could be introduced to ensure U.S. companies only hire U.S. citizens, lawful residents, or foreign nationals with work visas.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Build Border Wall Only On Federal and State Land

Source: CATO Institute, USA Today, Geography of Border Wall, Reuters, Business Insider, Texas Tribune, ProPublica

However much Trump and his supporters might want the border wall to be a continuous physical barrier their fantasy will inevitably run into logistical and constitutional problems that will make it a piece meal wall at best. A continuous border wall would be feasible if the entire stretch of the southern border was nothing but flat desert land but it's not. The southern border includes mountain ranges like the Jacumba Mountains, bluffs and canyons like the Rio Grande Canyons, lakes like Lake Amistad, and Peninsular U.S. cities like Los Ebanos, which is enveloped on three sides by the Rio Grande river, that would be cut off from the rest of the country by a continuous border wall and did I mention a certain river that would erode any border wall every time it floods its banks. Of course, geography isn't the only problem for a continuous border wall. Two-thirds of the land along the southern border, mostly in Texas,is owned by private landowners, Indian tribes, and state governments. If we assume the Army Core can easily obtain permission from states, especially Texas, that still leaves unwilling private landowners and tribal governments who are almost unanimous in their unwillingness to allow a border wall.

Since the government shutdown, Trump has contemplated declaring a national emergency so he could mobilize U.S. troops and use the DOD budget to build the border wall. He has even floated the insane idea of using executive power to take private land, which is on par with something a third world dictator would do, like Trump's friend Mohammed Bone Saw. In all seriousness, what Trump may be referring to is a declaration of taking, a legal tool established during the great depression to expedite public works projects. This allows the Army Corps or any other federal agency to take possession of private land on the same day that it files a declaration of taking without having to worry about negotiating a price with the private landowner.

During construction of border fencing authorized by the 2006 Secure Fence Act, about 360 private landowners refused to voluntarily sell their land to the federal government, resulting in hundreds of condemnation suits some of which took several years to settle. Many landowners were ripped off in the process receiving either no compensation or compensation that was less than the actual land value that was taken from them.

An investigation by ProPublica and the Texas Tribune shows that Homeland Security cut unfair real estate deals, secretly waived legal safeguards for property owners, and ultimately abused the government’s extraordinary power to take land from private citizens.

The major findings:
  • Homeland Security circumvented laws designed to help landowners receive fair compensation. The agency did not conduct formal appraisals of targeted parcels. Instead, it issued low-ball offers based on substandard estimates of property values.
  • Larger, wealthier property owners who could afford lawyers negotiated deals that, on average, tripled the opening bids from Homeland Security. Smaller and poorer landholders took whatever the government offered — or wrung out small increases in settlements.
  • The government conceded publicly that landowners without lawyers might wind up shortchanged, but did little to protect their interests.
  • The Justice Department bungled hundreds of condemnation cases. The agency took property without knowing the identity of the actual owners. It condemned land without researching facts as basic as property lines. Landholders spent tens of thousands of dollars to defend themselves from the government’s mistakes.
  • The government had to redo settlements with landowners after it realized it had failed to account for the valuable water rights associated with the properties, an oversight that added months to the compensation process.
  • On occasion, Homeland Security paid people for property they did not actually own. The agency did not attempt to recover the misdirected taxpayer funds, instead paying for land a second time once it determined the correct owners.
  • Nearly a decade later, scores of landowners remain tangled in lawsuits. The government has already taken their land and built the border fence. But it has not resolved claims for its value.

In theory the 5th amendment guarantees just compensation; in practice, just compensation is a function of how much money you have. As usual, landowners who could afford an attorney to litigate for years were able to get much higher offers for their land that reflected the actual selling price, while those who couldn't were ripped off and forced to settle for the first offer.

Retired teacher Juan Cavazos was offered $21,500 for a two-acre slice of his land. He settled for that, figuring he couldn’t afford to hire a lawyer.Rollins M. Koppel, a local attorney and banker, did not make the same mistake. A high-priced Texas law firm negotiated his offer from $233,000 to almost $5 million (21x the original offer) — the highest settlement in the Rio Grande Valley.

Of course, there are also landowners who have yet to be paid for their land, having to spend tens of thousands of dollars and several years in court to get a correct appraisal. This was the case for the Los Santos family, who almost had their land stolen outright when DHS paid their ranch hand instead of them.

The Loop family spent more than $100,000 to defend their farmland from repeated government mistakes about the size, shape and value of their property. The government built a fence across Robert De Los Santos’ family land but almost a decade later has yet to reach a settlement for it. Ranch hand Roberto Pedraza was accidentally paid $20,500 for land he did not even own.

It is also exceedingly difficult to a appraise land values when the government is the only possible buyer and there are very few sales to go by. DHS found a way to circumvent this problem by adding an exception to the Uniform Act, which was supposed to protect landowners from low ball offers, that allowed them to avoid conducting formal appraisals and price negotiations for land worthless than $50,000 before suing the owner.This allowed them to take 90% of the tracts they needed to build the Rio Grande Valley fence without formal appraisals. In place of formal appraisals, the Army Corps used, in some cases, non-certified appraisers, who were not required to abide by federal standards for pricing land, or find a legal description of the property, or determine the property lines or even find the legitimate owner, which in many cases resulted in payments to people who didn't own land. To make matters worse, the Army Core left gaps in the fencing, that are still there today, where they were supposed to install gates for farmers and ranchers to access the rest of their land, making the fence practically useless expect as a water barrier.




Unlike private citizens, tribal members are protected from these same thuggish tactics by their sovereign dependent status. For starters, Indian trust land cannot be taken through eminent domain. Trump would need a bill from congress with super majority approval in the Senate and the House, which given the Democratic majority in one and the slim Republican majority in the other, would take an act of God. Many tribes that live along the border such as the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo and the Tohono O’odham, whose ancestral lands occupy 62 miles of the southern border and extend into Mexico, have been vocal in their opposition to the border wall for the potential environmental and cultural damage it could cause. The Tohono O’odham tribe have the most to lose. A border wall would split their homeland in two and separate them from fellow tribal members in Mexico. They currently have low lying vehicle barriers with a gate in a middle that allows them access to their land on the other side of the border. The tribe also maintains watchtowers and helps CBP apprehend human smugglers and drug traffickers that attempt to cross their land. Given their isolation from any urban centers, a 30' wall would be completely pointless because its physically impossible for migrants to get their on foot; most would end up dying of dehydration or exposure in the desert.


Saturday, October 28, 2017

Federal Agents Are The Modern Highwaymen

'The highwayman takes solely upon himself the responsibility, danger, and crime of his own act. He does not pretend that he has any rightful claim to your money, or that he intends to use it for your own benefit. He does not pretend to be anything but a robber.....The proceedings of those robbers and murderers, who call themselves the government, are directly the opposite of these of the single highwayman.'

-Lysander Spooner, No Treason: The Constitution of No Authority VI


Sources: Forbes, Government Accountability Office, FOX40.COM

The cases I presented of law enforcment stealing from law abiding citizens in Police Use Civil Forfeiture To Rob Small Businesses and my earliest post on the subject, Civil Asset Forfeiture, Anti-Structuring Laws And Other Spawns of The War on Drugs, are not isolated incidents of officers making honest mistakes; rather, they are symptomatic of the law enforcement environment in this country. Civil forfeiture itself has created the perverse incentive to chase after property instead of solving and prosecuting crimes, which takes more effort and is more difficult. Humans have a natural tendency to try and get the most gratification out of the least amount of effort. Government officials are no different in this regard.

As previously reported in Civil Asset Forfeiture Is Theft Most of The Time: the DEA has seized a total of $4.15B in cash through civil asset forfeiture, in the past decade. 81% of that cash, or about $3.2B, was taken without charging anyone with a crime or allowing any judicial oversight. The DEA could not verify whether they had advanced a criminal investigation in more than half of these interdiction seizures, which they conducted without a warrant, that the DOJ sampled.

A similar report released by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration revealed that the IRS also seized assets mostly from innocent people in their criminal investigations of structuring violations. In a sample of 278 criminal investigations where the source of forfeiture funds could be determined, 91% of the investigations were conducted on businesses and people who obtained their money legally. They had their property taken solely for making multiple deposits under $10,000, violating a statute in the Bank Secrecy Act that few people know about. From 2012 to 2014, the IRS stole $17M from hundreds of small business owners solely because they made frequent deposits and withdrawals under $10,000.

But the DEA and the IRS aren't the only culprits in this mass robbery. According to a GAO report from 2014, DHS agencies such as ICE and CBP took $3.6B in property and cash, through civil forfeiture, from 2003 to 2013. This was the majority of the $7B taken by all federal law enforcement agencies during the decade. ICE contributed the majority of assets from DHS to the Treasury Forfeiture Fund by far. In the final year (2013), DHS took $1.1B in assets. Out of this total, ICE contributed $1B, which is about 91% of DHS forfeiture funds, the Secret Service contributed $52M and CBP contributed $51M.

Overall, civil forfeiture seizures have decreased a bit since 2014, but with Trump in the oval office we will likely see a resurgence in the practice under the pretext of 'law and order.' Not surprisingly, the very people who claim to advocate 'limited government' are the biggest champions of totalitarianism (when the government pushes their agenda) and the greatest enemies of property rights.