June 15, 2006

"We try to save people from dying from dehydration."

Or: "This is simply aiding and abetting criminal activity." Which is it?

67 comments:

TWM said...

It's the latter, of course.

Jennifer said...

Well, it's both.

Sloanasaurus said...

Now that it has been publicized, I expect that all the watering cans will be vandalized. I suppose it depends on exactly whose property the water cans are on....

Jacques Cuze said...

Oh please, the question isn't even close. The headline is: Vandals drain desert water tanks intended for illegal immigrants

The tanks are put out to save the lives of anyone that needs water. The vandals and criminals AND MURDERERS are the people that drain the tanks.

In some cases, it is the government that puts out the tanks and IIRC provides a way for people in need to call for help.

Illegal immigration is a crime. But the punishment is not the death penalty.

It is undoubtedly true that there are some "robbers, rapists, murder[ers]" in the desert. It is not obviously not true that anyone that needs water is a robber, rapist, or murderer, EVEN if they are crossing the border illegally. The vast majority of people crossing the border illegally are not otherwise criminals -- they are simply people looking for work.

Every year, hundreds die in that desert crossing. To vandalize humanitarian efforts to help them is criminal. At the very least it is property damage -- I think it is a criminal activity akin to voluntary manslaughter.

MadisonMan said...

The former.

Does the presumption of innocence hold for illegal aliens?

Jennifer said...

MadisonMan - Why would a US constitutional right hold for non US citizens, not in the US?

Jacques Cuze said...

Jennifer said...

MadisonMan - Why would a US constitutional right hold for non US citizens, not in the US?


Like Duh!

Jacques Cuze said...

As usual, you will find that the Jews are responsible for this.

En route to Nogales, Rabbi William Berk of Temple Chai in Phoenix said that crossing the border and looking for water in the desert "resonates with the Jewish memory. It's all over the Torah. It's exactly what the Jewish people did when they left Egypt in a desperate situation." The 30-member group stopped in Green Valley at one of the 73 water stations maintained by Humane Borders, a faith-based Tucson organization started in 2000, which last year provided 25,000 gallons of water to migrants passing through.

CB said...

A interesting question--the closest analogy I can draw is to emergency room doctors saving the lives of overdosing drug addicts.

That said, I'm repulsed by the fact that people would go out of their way to hinder these efforts. "party of life," indeed.

Bissage said...

Well, we like illegal immigrants, don't we? What if we didn't like some of the potential recipients?

Nels said...

I agree with Jacques, in that while supplying water to illegal immigrants might break the law, it's a far greater crime to willfully destroy emergency water supplies on which lives depend.

I wonder though if the impersonality of the water tanks has an influence. What would be the response to volunteers manning stations out in the desert, handing out bottles of water - and possibly other necessities, like food and blankets - to illegal immigrants?

Balfegor said...

What would be the response to volunteers manning stations out in the desert, handing out bottles of water - and possibly other necessities, like food and blankets - to illegal immigrants?

Then they would be aiding and abetting violations of the law. And killing them would be murder. Much more direct in both cases. As it is, with the water-tanks, it's kind of remote for both. Although vandalising state property is certainly a crime.

Coco said...

Even a convicted murderer found guilty and sentenced to death is given food and drink until he's injected. Pouring out these tanks on the minor chance that one of the many people who might need it MIGHT harm someone in the future is pretty twisted. These folks have clearly lost their moral judgment in their zeal to prevent more illegals from crossing. One can agree with that goal but how one could begin to support this method is beyond me.

Jacques Cuze said...

Although vandalising state property is certainly a crime.

I fear I was wrong in saying that the government puts out the tanks. I could have sworn reading about that but I couldn't find anything about that with google. Most I could find were humanitarian groups saying that the border patrol doesn't accept their claims that their vans (etc) are a church sanctuary, but that the border patrol pretty much leaves them alone.

Elizabeth said...

Good God. Draining the water because it could keep some illegal immigrants alive crossing the border?

These kinds of questions aren't about law, but about morality: As you do to the least of these, so you do unto me.

Those folks will have to answer for this someday.

Pogo said...

The ethical approach is unclear. Religious and humanitarian groups have in the past committed a fundamental error when addressing such problems, and it occurs again by this group, "Humane Borders."

This group appears to believe the only concern they need to address is the "question of providing humanitarian assistance to people perishing in the desert." That is, providing charity to those in need, or more simply, the economic problem of maldistribution.

But the problem is far more complex than that. There are unintended consequences to making an illegal activity easier to accomplish. For example, isn't it quite possible that their efforts to give water might increase the number of those who attempt it, or permit them to take even greater risk in doing so? What about the deaths that occur from attracting more border crossings than you can attend to? Whose fault are those deaths?

This effort completely misses the economic problem underpinning illegal immigration. Mexico needs to become wealthy, but lacks the political, police, and civic structure to permit their own people to stay home. Giving them water is counterproductive, in my view, and ignores helping in a sustainable fashion.

As I said, it's not so simple as declaring those who would refuse water to a man dying of thirst to be evil. The wise person would ask: why don't we address the origin of the problem. Neglecting the disease while attending to the symptoms is not humane.

Pogo said...

P.S. But damaging the tanks is no answer either. That act, but not failing to provide water, is clearly wrong.

Marghlar said...

The former.

You know, if you want to build a huge freaking wall, go ahead. I think it's bad policy, and bad for our economy, but whatever.

But emptying tanks that may save someone's life is vicious and disgusting. I could see it forming the basis of a homicide charge. Foreseeably taking action to cause someone's death, and whatnot.

However opposed you may be to illegal immigration, wanting them to die is just unconscionable.

MadisonMan said...

Jennifer, are all foreigners guilty, then?

Marghlar said...

Pogo: Agreed on both counts. I'd much rather see attentnion given to developing Mexico's economy. And there are always problems of unintended consequences with this sort of stuff. But it is possible that the best response involves both near term solutions and long term efforts. If it takes a hundred years to heal Mexico's economy, and we can also alleviate some suffering now, it seems reasonable to say that we should be doing both, to the best of our ability.

But emptying the tanks crosses into murderous territory. Especially once people know the tanks are there, and enter the desert relying upon them.

Balfegor said...

Pouring out these tanks on the minor chance that one of the many people who might need it MIGHT harm someone in the future is pretty twisted.

I don't think you're all engaging with the reasoning behind the actions (or the reasoning I would read in, at least, since I have no idea who is doing this or why -- maybe they do just want to see dead Mexicans in the desert). Signalling to potential illegal immigrants that there are going to be reserves of water set aside to help them penetrate the border zone reduces the natural disincentives to attempting such penetration -- viz. that you run the risk of dehydration and death -- and correspondingly raises the rate of illegal immigration. Destroying the water tanks restores that disincentive, and pushes that rate back down.

As I see it, considering destroying water tanks as murder relies on a faulty (and dehumanising) assumption that potential illegal immigrants can't alter their behaviour in response to changed incentives -- implicitly that whether the water is there or not, they will come, like a zombie horde, so we may as well prevent as many of them from dying as we can. On the contrary, whether the water tanks are there or not, the ultimate choice rests with the illegal immigrant. He decides whether he wishes to risk his life to sneak into the United States. He's not an animal or a child; he's a rational human being, and responsible for his own actions.

To consider what I consider a parallel example, suppose we have a landowner who has an attractive nuisance on his property. An attractive nuisance for adults. I don't know -- like a money tree or something. And there is a rope bridge over a rushing river with rocks and rapids and such to get to it. Now, we knows that no matter what he or anyone does, people are going come onto his property to try to reach the money tree, because people love money. And that if the bridge isn't there, some number of them will try and reach the money tree by river instead, and a certain proportion of them will then dash themselves to death on the rocks. Now, suppose an intermeddler comes by and cuts the ropes to the bridge. Is the intermeddler a murderer? I don't think he is. He's a vandal (it's not his property), but not a murderer. Not unless there's someone on the rope bridge at the time he cuts it, and they fall, consequently, to their death.

I think it's the same way with the water tanks. There are circumstances in which it could be considered murder -- e.g. the dehydrated man is right there and you pour out the tank and he dies -- but usually it's just vandalism in my book.

Marghlar said...

U.S. Const. Amend. V:

No person shall ... be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.

Doesn't say "citizen", it says "person." Now, you can reasonably suggest that in some cases foreigner's might be due less process than citizens...but a presumption of guilt seems beyond any reasonable definition of due process.

Marghlar said...

Balfegor: the problem with your analysis seems to be the failure to take into account people who will be embarking on a journey before they could learn of the now non-existent water tanks.

It's one thing to put an alligator-infested moat around my property, well marked with signs and whatnot, to keep out trespassers. It's a whole different thing to build the moat when I know that in a week, a man is going to enter my property blindfolded. The first is a reasonable deterrent to crime; the second verges on reckless homicide.

At least, that's how I see it.

Balfegor said...

No person shall ... be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.

Marghlar's point is a fair one. But this Constitutional concern strikes me as irrelevant, since to my knowledge, this provision has no application to private behaviour. That is, it doesn't outlaw murder. Just state execution without due process.

On an unrelated note, I do have a feeling like it should have been applicable somehow to prevent lynchings, but to my knowledge, it never was.

Jacques Cuze said...

The attractive nuisance are the jobs from the employers that hire illegals and the Republicans that give those employers a wink and a nod in the name of destroying labor costs for all Americans.

Art said...

My guess is that most of the folks who argue draining the tanks are supporters of the party that considers itself "pro-life".

Discuss.

Balfegor said...

Balfegor: the problem with your analysis seems to be the failure to take into account people who will be embarking on a journey before they could learn of the now non-existent water tanks.

It's one thing to put an alligator-infested moat around my property, well marked with signs and whatnot, to keep out trespassers. It's a whole different thing to build the moat when I know that in a week, a man is going to enter my property blindfolded. The first is a reasonable deterrent to crime; the second verges on reckless homicide.

At least, that's how I see it.


This would be the man on the bridge while the bridge is being cut, then. But I don't think the situation is nearly so clear-cut, because the desert is large, people get lost, and people die anyhow. If you wanted to prove murder in a specific instance, I think you'd need some way to demonstrate that the dead illegal immigrant would have reached the tank but for the tank getting emptied out. Among other things. No?

Furthermore, now that this has been reported, diligent potential illegal immigrants starting out from now on are (or should be) on notice that tanks may have water or may not have water. There was a brief period in which people were genuinely analogous to the blindfolded man you reference, but they're not anymore. Does the outrage change, with respect to which population of illegal immigrants we are talking about?

The attractive nuisance are the jobs from the employers that hire illegals and the Republicans that give those employers a wink and a nod in the name of destroying labor costs for all Americans.

Yes, and we should come down on them like the fist of an angry god. Is that what you wanted to hear?

Actually, I think heavy penalties are entirely appropriate.

Simon said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Balfegor said...

I would think that reducing the threat of dying from dehydration could potentially constitute inducement.

For pretty much the same reasons I don't think emptying the tanks is murder, I don't think putting the tanks up is inducement either. The connection is too tenuous.

Simon said...

Does 8 U.S.C. §1324(a) ("[a]ny person who . . . encourages or induces an alien to come to, enter, or reside in the United States, knowing or in reckless disregard of the fact that such coming to, entry, or residence is or will be in violation of law . . . [shall] be fined under title 18, imprisoned not more than 5 years, or both") apply? I would think that reducing the threat of dying from dehydration could potentially constitute inducement. Or would we be talking about a simple §1327 violation ("[a]ny person who knowingly aids or assists any alien . . . to enter the United States [other than as provided by law], or who connives or conspires with any person or persons to allow, procure, or permit any such alien to enter the United States, shall be fined under title 18, or imprisoned not more than 10 years, or both")?

Marghlar said...

This would be the man on the bridge while the bridge is being cut, then. But I don't think the situation is nearly so clear-cut, because the desert is large, people get lost, and people die anyhow. If you wanted to prove murder in a specific instance, I think you'd need some way to demonstrate that the dead illegal immigrant would have reached the tank but for the tank getting emptied out. Among other things. No?

Agreed. You'd need to show that the act caused a death. However, even in the absence of such a showing, the behavior is still arguably criminal -- e.g., reckless endangerment, or some such.

And yes, the notice moderates the gravity of this over time -- but there is still a hell of a risk in the near term, and not, I think, a fair one. I'd want to know that this information was effectively reaching potential illegal immigrants before I felt comfortable letting people spill out the tanks to discourage migration.

Balfegor said...

the behavior is still arguably criminal -- e.g., reckless endangerment, or some such.

Oh, I'm certain it's criminal. Vandalism and criminal trespass, no? Reckless endangerment on top of that is possible, though arguable.

John said...

But emptying the tanks crosses into murderous territory. Especially once people know the tanks are there, and enter the desert relying upon them.

Doesn't that suggest a relationship approaching aiding & abetting?

Jennifer said...

MadisonMan - Jennifer, are all foreigners guilty, then?

That's a ridiculous alternative. Because non US citizens aren't granted rights by the US Constitution, the opposite of said rights must hold true for them? That doesn't even make sense.

I think its despicable that people would empty these water containers. I also think its a little silly to suggest that these containers are drawing illegal aliens. But its downright ridiculous to claim a presumption of innocence for people trying to use these water containers - both because they have no claim to US constitutional rights and because its a ridiculous assertion that they might just be wandering the no mans land near the US border for the heck of it.

Balfegor said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Pogo said...

Re: "Doesn't that suggest a relationship approaching aiding & abetting?"

May be a bit of a stretch to call it abetting in any real legal and punishable way, but it does demonstrate how a charitable act, once it becomes relied on, can be a destructive force.

Simple charity runs the risk of making the recipients passive, and, lacking agency, thereby strips them of their dignity. Maimonides emphasized that the purpose of all aid should be to create the conditions whereby the recipient "will not have to ask other human beings for aid."

In trying to do the right thing, Humane Borders engenders more problems, and doesn't move towards any sort of solution at all. That is why I believe it to be, in an ultimate sense, inhumane.

Simon said...

Pogo:
"May be a bit of a stretch to call it abetting in any real legal and punishable way"

"Abetting" includes approving of, encouraging, and supporting an action. Insofar as they are providing material support to persons breaking the law, but in any event, since the Immigration Act does not internally define "aid" (See 8 U.S.C. §1101), and we therefore rely on the plain or common meaning of the term "aid", this behavior is most certainly "aiding" ("to provide with what is useful or necessary in achieving an end"; "[t]he act or result of helping; assistance") for §1327's purposes.

Jacques Cuze said...

Plutonium-Q36, You are an idiot.

Ann, I don't see anyone here feeling guilty about what they write, even the ones that should.

Anytime anyone writes anything like, "lefties living in Berkeley", or Madison, or "all those lefties", we know where that comes from. More importantly the folks that will come here from google to understand Ann Althouse knows where that comes from. It's the bigotry of small minds of people that cannot formulate an argument. It is bullying. It is the kind of crap I once thought we had left behind after WWII.

Jennifer said...

Did you mean to post that on the other thread, quxxo?

John said...

In trying to do the right thing, Humane Borders engenders more problems, and doesn't move towards any sort of solution at all. That is why I believe it to be, in an ultimate sense, inhumane.

Thanks to Pogo and Simon for clearly defining the parameters of aiding and abetting. As Pogo suggests and Marghlar specifically cited, the Law of Unintended Consequences can have far more damaging effects than the original situation presents. It relates to an earlier post by Prof Althouse on inspirational movies: George Bailey was able to see the, albeit fictional, unintended consequences of his not being born. What if we had the ability to see the other side of all our decisions?

John said...

Would the ability to see the consequences of our decisions change our decisions - or the consequences,?

Jacques Cuze said...

Yes, in fact I did. Thank you.

buck turgidson said...

The only people "aiding and abetting criminal activity" are the ones destroying the water tanks and removing the blue flags.

I find it ironic that the loudest mouths in the immigration debate tends to be the bunch that would otherwise describe themselves as "anti-Communists". Yet, the methods they advocate--down to the construction of a wall--come straight from the Soviet playbook of border control. Of course, the Berlin Wall was meant to keep people in. But, the parallel is not ephemeral--the new wall would keep people in Mexico in exactly the same manner that the Berlin Wall kept them in East Germany. And these idiots also want to shoot the ones that get across, that matches the East German methodology pretty well too. Now they want to take away the humanitarian aid as well... Great! When will we start running the GuLags?!

John said...

Buck. I don't think anyone here is advocating building a wall. The discussion seems to be whether or not providing water in the desert is an inducement with consequences.

Personally, I think we need more pressure on Mexico to develop their economy. Pogo referenced this earlier. We have the same 'open border' with Canada, but not the problem. This isn't because Canadiens aren't Mexicans (sorry J Cuze - no racism here), it's because Canada has an economy that sustains it's population supported by it's government.

Jacques Cuze said...

I would think that reducing the threat of dying from dehydration could potentially constitute inducement.

Jebus, you're a lawyer?

Don't be simple, Simon. Are you saying that people illegally cross a border and made a dangerous trek across the desert to obtain a mouthful of water?

Try using your inducement theory against Wal*Mart and Dole.

The jobs are the inducement Mr. Prosecutor. You'll make a fine defender of civic values when you take the interfaith group to court for providing water and pointedly ignore the Wal*Mart (Always Low Wages!) that borders the court parking lot.

jeff said...

I think that the water tanks should be ICE hangouts... come to the water - and get deported.

The Drill SGT said...

Any country that can't control its borders isn't going to be a country for long.

I for one, think we need to build a wall, if that is what it takes to stop the next 30 million illegals. We can't be the recipient of the poorest billion people from around the world, which is the logical extension of an open borders policy.

As for the water issue, I find it hard to Not to provide water to those dying of thirst.

On the other hand, aid of that type does aid and abet the flow across the border. I guess I'd have the CBP run water points and round up the folks who straggle in for deportation after we render assistance.

Internet Ronin said...

I agree with you, quxxo, jobs are the inducement for illegal immigrants. And I agree that, if we really want to solve the problem, that stiff penalties need to be consistently applied for those who knowingly employ illegal aliens. The problem is proving that someone knowingly employed an illegal worker. Our current laws severely restrict the ability of a genuinely conscientious employer to find out if an applicant is or is not illegal.

Before the Reagan Administration amnesty program passed, and checking bona fides was easier, one employer I knew well thought that none of his 150 member workforce was illegal. Once amnesty passed, eight stepped forward and asked that their paychecks now be issued in their real names. As he'd done the due diligence permitted by law, I think it would be difficult to convict him of a crime, don't you?

PatCA said...

First of all, there's no proof who, if anyone, is draining the water stations. Could be the water just dried up, or illegals used up the water, or the activists want a dramatic story.

It's enabling, just like calling in sick for your hung over husband is enabling.

Mexico's economy is actually not that bad. People who can make a lot more money by simply crossing a border will do it, and we are admitting such people from all over the world en masse. Given the high school dropout rates here, I question the aspirations of upward mobility illegal apologists assert. I think we are creating a third world economy--a rich class and a lower class of their serfs.

Pogo said...

The economist Bastiat in 1850 wrote about That Which is Seen, and That Which is Not Seen.

The difference between a good and a bad economic decision is based whether or not one anticipates and accounts for the unintended consequences of that choice.

Most people tend to take into account only the immediate, visible, and desired effect of an action. Here, a man is thirsty, and I give him water. I have fulfilled my Christian/humanist duty.

But Bastiat maintains that the wiser man also takes into account both "the effects which are seen, and also of those which it is necessary to foresee." That is, a better choice is made when one considers common human behavior, and anticipates what people would likely do as a consequence of my policy. In this case, aiding the illegal traffic increases its volume, increasing resistance by locals, and thereby increases its risks.

He adds, "Now this difference is enormous, for it almost always happens that when the immediate consequence is favourable, the ultimate consequences are fatal, and the converse. Hence it follows that the bad economist pursues a small present good, which will be followed by a great evil to come, while the true economist pursues a great good to come, - at the risk of a small present evil."

Balfegor said...

I think we are creating a third world economy--a rich class and a lower class of their serfs.

I'm not sure that's the relevant descriptor for a third world economy. The existence of reliable legal institutions for contract and property enforcement has a lot more to do with it than the existence of a massive wealth gap. Just as an example, Japan was, for most of the second half of the 20th century, much more egalitarian, economically, than the US, but that didn't make the US economy more third world than Japan's. As further support for the idea that the "first world" economic outcomes are directly tied to the legal milieu in which economic activity proceeds, I'd also point to the success of immigrants from third world economies -- my recollection is that Indian immigrants outperform US natives, on average. I think it's all to do with the enforcement environment in the place they're doing business.

To the extent, then, that we retain a strong structure of legal enforcement, with reasonable controls on corruption, I don't see much reason to fear that we'll fall down into a third world economy, no matter how many men go about their plantations beating their coolies. We might find it inegalitarian and distasteful to see little middle class children going about commanding their immigrant servants to do this and that, like little Britishers in the Raj, but it's probably not going to destroy our economy any more than staggering inequality has destroyed the economy of Hong Kong.

The only way in which I could see that first-world economic structure being corrupted is if the newcomers showed a strong disposition both to introduce laws reducing property rights and enforcements and to increase the general corruption of legal institutions, e.g. by bribing judges, policemen, etc. -- and not bribing them to do their job, mind, but bribing them not to do their job.

Given the corruption in Mexico, I suppose we might have some fears on that second point. But for the time being, and for the foreseeable future, the natives have the upper hand, and will be able to suppress any tendency towards corruption among the immigrants, who are, after all, dirt-poor.

Coco said...

I think we're gtting a little simplistic here on the enablement issue. People are already risking their lives by crossing regardless of the water tanks. They're putting their hands in the lives of strangers who may do nothing more than rob and kill them, they are crossing an extremely remote and dangerous terrain where they might simply get lost and die of thirst, exhaustion, or the sun, there are people who may shoot at them, etc., etc. etc. All of this has been true for decades...and yet they keep coming and coming. And even if there were water tanks, how is a person who is crossing supposed to KNOW that this is the case and that they will actually get to them. They have no idea and they probably don't care. They only know that regardless of the risks, they are going to try to cross. The enablement discussions assume full-information rational decision-making...which is not what's really going on here.

Pogo said...

Coco:
Re: "how is a person who is crossing supposed to KNOW that this is the case and that they will actually get to them. They have no idea and they probably don't care."

The Humane Borders website posts the locations of the water tanks. I suspect the folks who are paid to transport illegals are quite aware of this, and know exactly where to find them (as evidenced by the fact that the images were cropped due to bandwidth cost problems from downloading the older larger pictures ... by whom, I wonder?).

Full information isn't required in taking this risk. Most Mexicans are aware that huge numbers get across every year. That's sufficient information.

The Drill SGT said...

Pogo,

as are the color map flyers with water point marked

"These posters are distributed widely in churches, shelters, shops and other locations on the south side of the U.S.-Mexican border. "

Steven said...

Coco, you asked:

how is a person who is crossing supposed to KNOW that this is the case and that they will actually get to them.

Well, the Humane Borders people are the ones assuming that they know where the tanks are -- to quote Humane Borders Volunteer Frank Saavedra, "If they're planning on getting their water at that location and they get there and there's no water, then the next time they could get water could be not before they die."

Which means a Humane Borders volunteer says these tanks are intended to facilitate preplanned illegal border crossings by serving as a planned stopping point.

Given that, I can see no doubt that they accordingly are deliberately and intentionally aiding and abetting criminal activity, instead of engaging in humanitarian efforts.

The vandals are still criminals. But the "Humane Borders" people are criminal conspirators, too.

PatCA said...

Balfegor,
You are correct. "To the extent, then, that we retain a strong structure of legal enforcement, with reasonable controls on corruption..."
But I would submit that in California at least we no longer have strong enforcement or faith in our institutions to withstand corruption, or public denunciations of racism, to maintain that structure.

Jacques Cuze said...

But the "Humane Borders" people are criminal conspirators, too.

It was illegal to runaway if you were a slave. Thankfully, the criminal conspirators of the Underground Railroad was there to help some survive the journey they had already chosen to undertake.

Congratulations, you argue well for a slave owner. Stand tall. Be proud!

The Underground Railroad, a vast network of people who helped fugitive slaves escape to the North and to Canada, was not run by any single organization or person. Rather, it consisted of many individuals -- many whites but predominently black -- who knew only of the local efforts to aid fugitives and not of the overall operation. Still, it effectively moved hundreds of slaves northward each year -- according to one estimate, the South lost 100,000 slaves between 1810 and 1850.

An organized system to assist runaway slaves seems to have begun towards the end of the 18th century. In 1786 George Washington complained about how one of his runaway slaves was helped by a "society of Quakers, formed for such purposes." The system grew, and around 1831 it was dubbed "The Underground Railroad," after the then emerging steam railroads. The system even used terms used in railroading: the homes and businesses where fugitives would rest and eat were called "stations" and "depots" and were run by "stationmasters," those who contributed money or goods were "stockholders," and the "conductor" was responsible for moving fugitives from one station to the next.

For the slave, running away to the North was anything but easy. The first step was to escape from the slaveholder. For many slaves, this meant relying on his or her own resources. Sometimes a "conductor," posing as a slave, would enter a plantation and then guide the runaways northward. The fugitives would move at night. They would generally travel between 10 and 20 miles to the next station, where they would rest and eat, hiding in barns and other out-of-the-way places. While they waited, a message would be sent to the next station to alert its stationmaster.

...

Vigilance committees sprang up in the larger towns and cities of the North, most prominently in New York, Philadelphia, and Boston. In addition to soliciting money, the organizations provided food, lodging and money, and helped the fugitives settle into a community by helping them find jobs and providing letters of recommendation.

luagha said...

I read an interesting story once (and I'm probably mangling it) about how the Germans would raid the British across the desert in Africa in WW2. There was a series of strung-out, hidden oases and wells that, if you knew them and got your bearings exactly right, you could make a lightning raid across the desert carrying no water and thus being able to carry a large amount of ordnance, etc, etc. (If you got your bearings wrong and missed the well, you'd probably die of thirst.)

After a while, the British got a little tired of this. And the next time the Germans tried it, they found a sign at the well in english and german reading, "Warning! This well has been poisoned!" Skull and crossbones and everything. And the Germans did not dare drink from the wells.

After the war, the Germans complained. "You poisoned those wells? That's against all the conventions of war, to destroy a needed water-source like that with an illegal poison! You should be prosecuted for war crimes!"

And the British smiled and said? "Poison wells? We'd never do such a thing. Now, we DID put up a few signs..."

Clearly, we need to put up some signs around these water stations. In Spanish, of course - most illegal immigrants wouldn't take the time to learn the English.

Pogo said...

Comparing Americans who thwart immigration law to anti-slavery participants in the Underground Railroad fails in numerous respects.

As a logical argument, it is fallacious, for one could just as easily say that helping a family member hide the kidnapping of a child is similar to the Underground Railroad, because it too uses the same mechanism avoiding discovery by the police.

It also falters in that the "inhumanity" being "escaped" in Mexico is simply living in Mexico, an ostensibly free nation. Does Mexico = Slavery? No. That cheapens the debate.

Balfegor said...

But I would submit that in California at least we no longer have strong enforcement or faith in our institutions to withstand corruption, or public denunciations of racism, to maintain that structure.

I think that's going a bit far. I am concerned with our commercial enforcement institutions -- whether contracts are enforced in a rational and predictable matter. Whether seizures of private property are in the offing. Whether judges and policemen can be bribed to decide a case in favour of a party who has not really got the law on his side, or to look the other way when a crime is in progress. California's local governments, like local governments everywhere in the United States, tend towards corruption and incompetence. And laziness to boot. But by and large, they muddle through, as they have done for years. They remain effective in permitting commercial development, and I do not yet see any reason to expect that their commercial function is in real danger of being undermined by progressive activism, or by mass immigration of uneducated poor.

Now, California is not generally considered highly business-friendly. But that's a somewhat different matter, and distinct, I think, from the corruption of legal institutions that I'm concerned with.

altoids1306 said...

Why are we so sure the the tanks are being destroyed by beer-gut-swinging, shotgun-toting, vigilante Americans?

Isn't it equally plausible that they're being destroyed by the snakeheads who are leading the illegals across the border? Any outside assistance for illegal immigrants means less demand for the smugglers.

Also, if they were truly diabolical, they could plant thousands of false flags with empty tanks leading illegals deeper and deeper into the desert.

altoids1306 said...

And as to whether this humanitarian group saves lives, I wouldn't be so sure. Like most humanitiarian groups, they never look at the total effect. Provide caches of water will encourage less-fit people (children, elderly) to attempt crossing the border. Coming to the US is worth taking a certain amount of risk, and reducing the risk doesn't mean that lives will be saved, it just means that those for whom the risk was originally unacceptably high will now try to cross as well.

Put another way, what if we setup a border where all people trying to cross would be shot on sight? Would more or less people die at this border then the current one? Well, we have an example of that, the DMZ between the two Koreas. Many few people have died at that border than die at the US-Mexico border.

If the risk of crossing the border increases, that doesn't mean more people die, it means less people try to cross. Similarly, if the rish of crossing the border is decreased, it doesn't mean less people die, it just means more people try to cross.

Thus, let there be no romanticising the apparently generous gesture by these people. They are just increasing the amount of people crossing the border, and there is no reason to believe less people are dying as they try to cross. The only difference is that now they are bringing their kids and elderly with them.

Internet Ronin said...

Why are we so sure the the tanks are being destroyed by beer-gut-swinging, shotgun-toting, vigilante Americans?

The magic question arises. And the answer is: Because, in 21st century America, it's ok to jump the gun and grant assumptions into evidence as fact because "everybody knows its true," or at least probably true, or would be if they had tought of it or had the opportunity so let's get it over with now and lynch 'em from the nearest tree (the 21st century version of lynching being round the clock broadcast and publication of rumor and innuendo passing as fact.) No one ever waits for the facts to be known - that is so late 20th century - and besides, one can't make a career out of it (see esp. Cooper, Anderson & Katrina, hurricane coverage).

Internet Ronin said...

P.S. I'm not saying it wasn't opponents of the assistance that emptied the tanks. They appear to be the "most likely suspects." Unlike some people, I'd prefer to see some actual proof, however, before condemning their supposed actions.

PatCA said...

Balfegor,
I don't want to argue with you--it's one of those things that's a matter of degree. Even our state tax board says there is widespread tax evasion due to the cash ecnomy. This is largely driven by immigrant enclaves, so no politician will touch it; however, if we collected, we would wipe out the deficit. http://www.ftb.ca.gov/amnesty/taxgap/index.html

On the neighborhood level, the police do ignore crime that they have taught is racial or "harmless" like stealing shopping carts, creating boarding houses contrary to zoning laws, or panhandling. So IMO it's at the tipping point. It makes me realize that much of law enforcement is really just a shared voluntary understanding between people with similar values. When people violate laws in huge numbers, the law doesn't know what to do.

PatCA said...

Balfegor,
I don't want to argue with you--it's one of those things that's a matter of degree. Even our state tax board says there is widespread tax evasion due to the cash ecnomy. This is largely driven by immigrant enclaves, so no politician will touch it; however, if we collected, we would wipe out the deficit. http://www.ftb.ca.gov/amnesty/taxgap/index.html

On the neighborhood level, the police do ignore crime that they have taught is racial or "harmless" like stealing shopping carts, creating boarding houses contrary to zoning laws, or panhandling. So IMO it's at the tipping point. It makes me realize that much of law enforcement is really just a shared voluntary understanding between people with similar values. When people violate laws in huge numbers, the law doesn't know what to do.

Simon said...

altoids1306 said...
"And as to whether this humanitarian group saves lives, I wouldn't be so sure. Like most humanitiarian groups, they never look at the total effect. Provide caches of water will encourage less-fit people (children, elderly) to attempt crossing the border. Coming to the US is worth taking a certain amount of risk, and reducing the risk doesn't mean that lives will be saved, it just means that those for whom the risk was originally unacceptably high will now try to cross as well."

Well-put. This is precisely what I had in mind when suggesting the inducement charge above.