President Trump appears to have thrown his support behind asset forfeiture, even as the issue has begun reaching critical mass in the mainstream media. (It’s been thoroughly covered by more libertarian publications like Reason for years.) In addition to not being able to “see anything wrong with it,” Trump jokingly suggested he’d ruin the careers of politicians mounting reform efforts.
His recent executive orders appear to back this “gloves off” approach to criminal justice. In addition to singling out immigrants as troublemakers, the orders ask law enforcement officials to take a look around and see if they’re being constrained by any state or federal laws. Presumably, any recent forfeiture reform legislation would fall under this heading as it prevents law enforcement agencies from acting in the way they’ve become accustomed: seize first, convict later… if at all.
With Jeff Sessions in place as attorney general, asset forfeiture appears to be headed for the wrong kind of renaissance. Sessions is a firm believer in the general rightness of taking aways citizens’ property and due process simultaneously because, as he sees it, the process only affects people who’ve “done nothing but deal dope their whole lives.”
Now, there’s this: Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner is offering up another bill with a clumsily reverse-engineered acronym — one that could further pervert the incentives of asset forfeiture. (via Watchdog.org)
Today, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner introduced the Build Up Illegal Line Defenses With Assets Lawfully Lifted (BUILD WALL) Act of 2017 in the House of Representatives.
This legislation would require the U.S. Attorney General to provide a detailed report on the amount of annual profits brought into the United States by Mexican drug cartels, as well as a study of how the Department of Justice can increase assets seized from such cartels.
Additionally, the BUILD WALL Act would use money forfeited from drug traffickers to fund increased border security on the U.S./ Mexican border. This defense could include a wall, another type of physical barrier, and/or a technology-supported solution. The use of this funding would ease the financial burdens on taxpayers and help build stronger relations between the United States and Mexico while fighting back against drug trafficking in both countries.
While Sensenbrenner’s statements mention Mexican drug cartels, the reality is that the billions the cartels make from drug sales are safely back in Mexico and (mostly) out of reach of US law enforcement. That leaves everyone on this side of the border, who can now be viewed as unwilling donors to the cause. If Trump’s ever going to be able to, uh, BUILD WALL, he’s going to need several billion more dollars than was stated in his original estimate. That’s where Mr. and Mrs. Interstate Traveler come into play. A few hundred dollars here and there, and eventually it adds up to real wall-building money.
This means the federal government would be looking to take a larger share of any revenue generated from asset forfeiture in partnerships with local law enforcement. This may not make the local boys happy, but considering many of them use these partnerships to route around local forfeiture restrictions, they can’t complain too much about the slightly-smaller cut of the proceeds, when the alternative might be nothing at all.
Lawmakers who support DJT’s Folly are casting about in hopes of landing a few billion in wall funding. Mexico has only extended a middle finger in response to the Wall Plan, so it’s up to us Americans to make a billionaire’s dreams come true. If that means having our cash, cars, and houses seized without accompanying criminal allegations, much less convictions, so be it. The security of our nation depends on our unwilling sacrifice. This wall must be built to ensure our nation is only susceptible to the thieves already in our midst.