Ben Carson told reporters he wouldn't be against the idea.
Ben Carson speaking at the 2015 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland. Photo: Gage Skidmore/Flick
GOP presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson, one of the party's current frontrunners, wouldn't be opposed to using drone strikes to protect the US border, he told reporters Wednesday.
"I'm not saying that I would [order drone strikes]. I'm saying I would use all the possibilities that we have and let this become a military issue instead of a bureaucrat issue," Carson said in an interview broadcast on Phoenix, Arizona's CBS 5 news. "The point being that you can use everything. You know, you look at some of these caves and things that are out there. One drone strike and poof, they're gone."
Because the 14th Amendment at least superficially guarantees the right of foreign citizens to due process, such targeted killing on US soil would likely require that Carson define illegal immigrants as enemy combatants. In essence, if Carson were to greenlight drone attacks on our own borderlands, he'd first need to declare war on Mexico, the nations of Central America, and any other countries whose citizens try to enter the US from the south.
Carson's campaign team did not immediately respond to requests for further comment. We'll update this story if we hear back from them.
US Customs and Border Protection already uses drones for surveillance along the border, but not for attacks. The program was criticized earlier this year by the Inspector General for the Department of Homeland Security as being an ineffective tool and a waste of money.
Carson was in Pinal County, Arizona, Wednesday to get a security briefing and helicopter tour of the border from local Sheriff Paul Babeu. The night before, Carson's rally in Phoenix attracted thousands of supporters—so many that the event had to be moved to a larger venue at the last minute. A recent Fox News poll pegs the former neurosurgeon in second place with 12 percent among primary voters (up five percentage points since the GOP debate). He's only behind Donald Trump, who still leads the race with 25 percent.
Touting a strong Christian faith and socially Republican values, Carson has been slowly gaining momentum in the race, though his sometimes opaque views on issues such as abortion (he says he's against it, but stands by decisions to refer patients to abortion specialists in his past medical career) and lack of political experience have drawn early criticism.
But with Trump's brash, aggressive style becoming increasingly divisive (that same Fox poll showed he dropped in support, especially among women), it would be a mistake to underestimate Carson or brush aside comments like the ones he made Wednesday. Carson is a contender for the GOP bid, and he's serious about militarizing our border.
"Bureaucrats don't know what they're doing," Carson said. "And that's why we're having this trouble."