Attorney General Jeff Sessions visited California last week and delivered a blistering reproach against the state for defiantly resisting the Trump administration’s vigorous efforts to find and deport all foreign nationals illegally residing in the United States.
Gov. Jerry Brown and the Legislature have not only declared the entire state to be a sanctuary for illegal immigrants but also have enacted legislation forbidding California’s law enforcement agencies and private businesses from cooperating with federal agencies to round up illegal immigrants.
Sessions has filed a lawsuit in federal court to nullify California’s sanctuary legislation as a violation of the federal supremacy clause of the U.S. Constitution.
Brown’s response to Sessions’ peevish scolding, blustering threats and lawsuit was defiantly confrontational, equally scathing and ultimately foolhardy.
With this episode of political brinkmanship, California becomes the hottest battlefield in America’s internecine ideological war. The Trump administration is squaring off against the State of California. The two adversaries are arguably the leading standard bearers of the right and left, respectively.
But, before the issue of illegal immigration gets clouded up in the fog of ideological war between these two camps of self-certain, self-righteous, limited thinkers of bipolar doctrines, let’s examine the issue objectively, without the macho politics or reference to ideological catechisms.
Examined objectively, the issue is a matter of law and logic.
As a matter of law, Sessions has the advantage. Under Article 6, Clause 2 of the Constitution, California must defer to federal law.
Federal immigration law, however, does not compel California’s law enforcement agencies to be conscripted into federal immigration enforcement efforts. The distinction between lawful noncooperation and obstruction of federal law is a key issue in this case.
The broader questions to consider are what is the purpose of federal immigration law, and is it unconstitutional, unreasonable or unnecessary?
A nation that does not maintain its borders jeopardizes its integrity as a nation. If any foreigner can reside here indefinitely without being vetted and approved under our immigration laws, then what is the value of American citizenship or the rule of law? What prevents hordes of the world’s economic and political refugees from coming here uninvited? How do we screen for criminals, enemy agents and disease carriers?
The real problem with immigration law is that it has not been enforced consistently. Aided by their purchased politicians in government, the forces of greed who benefit from low-paid immigrant labor have allowed illegal immigration to become a huge festering national problem. That problem could be greatly mitigated, even virtually eliminated, by the federal government requiring all employers to use the E-Verify system — enforced with heavy penalties for noncompliance — to ascertain the resident status of all employees or prospective employees.
As a matter of logic, California’s position on illegal immigration is untenable and mostly emotional.
Perhaps the most prevalent emotional argument is that illegal immigrants are just hardworking people trying to support their families. The fact that they break our laws to be here is routinely ignored, or somehow excused by their having families that they could not support in their native lands.
Furthermore, deportation is condemned as cruel when it breaks up families. Extending these rationalizations, we could forgive swindlers, burglars and tax cheats who have families to support — families that will likewise be broken up while the lawbreakers are in prison.
If the need to support a family earns one a free pass to America, then we had better be prepared for tidal waves of immigrants. The world has hundreds of millions of struggling, impoverished families.
Maybe the most overused and disingenuous pro-immigration argument is that we are a nation of immigrants — as if that worn-out cliché somehow justifies illegal immigration. Are we today a nation of immigrants? If so wouldn’t that mean that most Americans alive today were born in a country other than America, to parents who were not Americans?
Go back far enough into history and you will find that most every nation on earth could claim to be a nation of immigrants. America is a nation of citizens, under law.
California’s official policy on illegal immigration is at stark odds with its environmental, housing and water resource concerns. Quality of life is inevitably affected by resource limits. All the clever science, green-energy, crop engineering, housing mandates, water restrictions, etc. will eventually be overwhelmed by too many people in a finite place. California ignores this reality at its own peril.
Nearly all of the state’s population growth over the past several decades is directly attributable to foreign immigrants and their prolific rate of procreation. How does the state stabilize its population at sustainable levels without enforcing immigration restrictions? Every vessel has a carrying capacity that, if exceeded, sinks the vessel. California is not immune to the laws of physics.
California has for decades had a laissez-faire attitude toward illegal immigration that has resulted in the state having 10 million foreign residents, the largest foreign immigrant population in the nation, and an economy heavily dependent on that population. So, of course, California is concerned about actual enforcement of federal immigration law.
If California pulls a Fort Sumter over immigration law, it will likely lose the states’ rights war. Contesting the Trump administration’s resolve to enforce the federal supremacy clause regarding an issue central to President Donald Trump’s presidential campaign is Quixotic. Better to save the cannon fire for the legal marijuana issue.
Sessions, who views the world from a 14th-century perch, could, nevertheless, be commanded to grant a specific ceasefire in the war on drugs by his boss, who knows that there is massive multistate support for legalized marijuana.
But, this ceasefire is less likely if California challenges Trump over illegal immigration. When attacked, Trump’s lifelong tactic has been to hit back, harder.
— Randy Alcorn is a Santa Barbara political observer. Contact him at email@example.com, or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.