It is a truly rare thing for me to side with the state of California on much of anything. So, this article makes me feel a little bit like I should take a shower. However, President Trump decided to threaten California with removing the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) from the state in order to somehow punish the state for not doing the federal government’s job. He released the following Tweet:
“The sanctuary city situation… The protection of these horrible criminals in California, that if we ever pulled our ICE out… in 2 months they’d be begging for us to come back. They would be begging. And you know what? I’m thinking about doing it.”
It isn’t always much of a punishment when you give people exactly what they want. In this case, the political left in Cali is probably cheering, and the political right, I’m certain, thinks the whole idea is a brilliant plan to show those Cali liberal lefty hippies just what’s wrong with illegal immigrants. So, is it really punishment when everyone is happy? Maybe Trump is hoping for some different end results.
There are a lot of problems presented with Trump’s threat, beyond just making everyone happy and giving his political enemies exactly what they want. With all the virtue signaling of enforcing “the rule of law” on the right and from Trump himself, does it really make sense for the federal government to stop enforcing its own laws if you are trying to argue that it should enforce its own laws? It’s a bit of a strange thing to do if your argument depends on saying anyone who breaks the law should be punished while refusing to do the enforcement.
What’s going to happen if this backfires and demonstrates that these immigrants are not all “horrible” criminals, as the President claims them to be? Granted, they are criminals in the sense that they broke the law in not going through legal channels to immigrate, but to say that is horrible is a bit of a stretch. Bad people make up a segment of any population of people. Immigrants are no different in that regard. However, (and it seems weird to have to say this) very few immigrants – legal or illegal – are committing acts of violence and crimes against victims. If you’re in a desperate situation to keep yourself and your family fed, you do whatever you have to do to make sure they survive. If that means crossing an arbitrary border for a chance at taking care of your family, it doesn’t make you a horrible person.
Overwhelmingly, illegal immigrants are working and contributing to the economy and society without hurting anyone in any way. Many fill jobs refused by Americans citizens that are convinced the jobs are beneath them. We could argue about usage of public services here, such as welfare, but that isn’t what Trump mentioned. And, usage of these public services in the immigrant population isn’t what’s wrong. The fact that they exist is what’s wrong.
All of this, though, has not addressed what is really at the heart of the issue. According to the US Constitution, immigration is a federal matter. The states are not in charge of immigration and, therefore, are not and should not be responsible for enforcing it. For all the talk on the political right of “states’ rights,” how have they missed their own argument that the Constitution defines what responsibilities the federal government has and the rest belongs to the states?
The right has a solid argument for states’ rights, because the Constitution is very clear when it comes to its purpose. That is to say it lists restrictions on the federal government and specifically states that everything else is the arena of states’ authority (with the exception of guaranteed rights for individuals). However, you can’t have it both ways.
If you rally around the idea that the federal government is overstepping its bounds when it forces unfunded mandates and federal programs onto the states, then the same logic extends to not being obligated to carry out the stated jurisdictions of federal law enforcement. If we are paying federal taxes, then those taxes should be used to carry out federal laws. We have state taxes to carry out state law. Why should state citizens be forced to pay twice to enforce the same laws? States are under no obligation to act on federal law enforcement’s behalf. If they choose to do so, then there is nothing preventing it, but if they choose not to, the states are within their rights to do so.
No, Mr. President, the people of California are not going to be begging for ICE to come back when they don’t really want them there. Should ICE be working to enforce the law in California? Of course. But, when people think enforcement of some laws is unjust, then don’t expect them to enforce it on their own. The same people who raise their fists against the idea that all laws should be strongly enforced on immigration are the same ones likely to refuse to surrender their firearms if gun bans are enacted. Which is it? Do the people of Cali have the right to refuse to enforce certain federal laws they deem them unjust or are you going to happily and willingly surrender your guns if the feds come knocking for them? Be careful how you make your arguments. If you argue for the rule of law, then you have to argue for the enforcement unjust laws, as well.
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