Ben Carson’s Idea for Controlling the Border: Military Drone Attacks
Policy + Politics

Ben Carson’s Idea for Controlling the Border: Military Drone Attacks

© Carlos Barria / Reuters

For a while this week, Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson sounded like the voice of reason.

While a few of the other GOP contenders aligned themselves with Donald Trump’s startling immigration proposals to build a wall along the 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexican border and then round up and deport more than 11 million illegal immigrants, Carson said that was crazy.

Related: Carson Faces Increased Scrutiny as He Rises in the Polls

“I have heard people say, yeah, round them all up and send them back,” the celebrated former neurosurgeon told Chuck Todd on NBC’s Meet the Press program last Sunday. “They have no idea what they’re talking about, how much that costs and how impractical that is. And many of the [immigrants] don’t know any other place . . . so where are you going to send them back to in that situation?”

Carson, who is running second only to Trump in the latest NBC/ORC national poll of Republicans, hedged a bit in his criticism of the real estate magnate. He said he agreed with Trump that the courts should disregard the 14th Amendment and revoke birthright citizenship for the children of illegal immigrants who are born in this country — an idea that some legal scholars believe borders on lunacy.

But then Carson seemingly went around the bend on Wednesday by suggesting during a helicopter tour of the Arizona desert bordering on Mexico that the military be ordered to launch drone air strikes on U.S. soil against drug cartel smugglers and lookouts. If Carson had his way, the U.S. military not only would be launching drone strikes against ISIS in Syria and Iraq but would be wiping out emplacements for Mexican drug smugglers and other nefarious characters on American soil.

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In a conversation with Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu about the challenges of weeding out the drug smugglers, Carson said, “If that requires getting rid of some of their hideouts, I’ll get rid of some of their hideouts,” according to a report by ABC15 news in Arizona.

Although the sheriff had made it clear he considered the idea of drone strikes in his jurisdiction a bad one, Carson persisted in an interview with an ABC15 news team: “Well here’s the bottom line,” he said. “You guys don’t seem to understand this. I suggest we use all the things that are available to us, but we use the military expertise.”

This apparently wasn’t the first time Carson raised the subject of using drone technology to help secure and safeguard the southern border with Mexico, according to media reports. Nor was it the first time he’s startled some people with views he has shared during his steady climb in the polls — he has also said that homosexuality is a “choice,” that Obamacare is the worst thing since slavery and that it is “condescending” not to tax poor people.

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Carson, a native Detroiter and the only African-American in the race, boasts a compelling personal narrative and success story has generated considerable interest among Republicans with his free-market economic views and strong conservative views on abortion, gay rights and foreign policy. But by proposing the unprecedented use of military drones to seek out and destroy caves and other havens for drug smugglers and lookouts within the U.S. border, Carson is further fueling an anything-goes debate over immigration policy that began with Trump’s attacks on illegal immigrants as “rapists” and criminals.

Carson’s suggestion also comes at a time when U.S. regulators and authorities are struggling with a mushrooming of unmanned aerial vehicles that are posing mid-air threats to commercial airliners and hazards to public safety. A new study by the Brookings Institution has dubbed it the “Wild West of Regulatory Experimentation.” And several states, including Nevada and Wisconsin, have approved legislation to block the weaponization of drones, according to the report.