“On the other hand, when the citizens are all more or less equal, it becomes difficult to defend their freedom from the encroachments of power. No one among them being any longer strong enough to struggle alone with success, only the combination of the forces of all is able to guarantee liberty. But such a combination is not always forthcoming.” (Tocqueville, “Democracy in America,” Part I, Chapter 3)
Sometimes clear and simple observations offer the key to understanding complex and gravely important crises. So it is with Alexis de Tocqueville’s observation about the inverse relationship between the equality of citizens in a free republic and their ability to keep liberty from being destroyed by abuses of government power. Many Americans have begun to realize that the liberty we have taken for granted in the United States is now being assaulted by a range of powerful political, economic and social forces. Some have also realized that these forces can no longer be exclusively identified with one or the other of the two abusively entrenched political parties. Both parties appear to be dominated at that national level by elitist forces aiming to replace the sovereignty of the American people with an oligarchic form of government that uses the outward appearance of election by the people to legitimize outcomes predetermined by a coalition of elites. These elite forces are deceptively diverse in outward appearance, but they are actually united in their contemptuous distaste for (and impatience with) democratic republican liberty.
Nowhere is the ironic unity of these elites more apparent than when dealing with the issue of illegal immigration. Acting from a common-sense instinct for self-preservation, the decisive majority of the American people oppose the elite, bipartisan policy that has willfully neglected the security of America’s borders; purposefully refused to enforce laws against illegal immigration; and persistently sought or implemented measures (amnesty, a shortened path to citizenship, lax supervision of the voters’ rolls, etc.) that may carelessly dump millions of new so-called citizens into the electorate with no regard for the parlous state of their allegiance to or identification with the democratic, federal republic established by the Constitution of the United States.
As a case in point, consider the reaction of the supposedly competing major parties to Arizona’s effort to respect and cooperate with federal laws against illegal immigration. The Obama faction deploys its now commonplace arsenal of race-baiting verbal terrorism, along with menaces of U.S. government action against any state that dares to heed and obey federal laws they mean to disobey and defy. At the same time, well-known or rising GOP figures join in the irrational and unwarranted chorus of criticism.
All appear to believe that state law enforcement officials have no right to recognize and apprehend those suspected of federal crimes. They decry the idea that state legislatures may pass laws that subject suspects to arrest and turn them over to federal authorities. Let’s ignore the fact that, as a general rule, this would wreak havoc in other areas of concurrent state and federal jurisdiction (with respect to criminal acts like murder, bank robbery or extortion, for example). Do they mean to say that the forces of local law enforcement should henceforth do nothing to interfere with people who have violated federal laws? Or is it only federal immigration laws that they wish them to disregard? Do they want state legislatures to remove from the books any state statutes that make criminals liable to prosecution at the state level for acts also made criminal by federal law? This will come as a great relief to people growing marijuana and/or making and distributing other forms of intoxicants as part of the deadly international drug trade.
Common sense rebels against this idiocy, which is why the framers of the U.S. Constitution allowed for areas of concurrent jurisdiction by the states and the federal government. Where the federal government is actively seeking to enforce federal law in such matters, it makes sense to recognize the primacy of its jurisdiction. But it is evident insanity to insist that, when federal officials unlawfully refuse to investigate, apprehend and prosecute criminal acts that directly damage the people of a state, this unlawful dereliction is constitutionally enjoined upon the state’s government. It has been rightly suggested that the U.S. Constitution is not a suicide pact (Kennedy v. Mendoza-Martinez, 1963). Though in any given instance it may establish the U.S. government’s claim to primacy when exercising its constitutionally delegated powers, this in no way vitiates the duty of the state governments to exercise the powers reserved to them. They can and must protect their citizens from direct harm when the U.S. government unlawfully refuses to do so.
In this respect, the influx of illegal immigrants is in the nature of an actual foreign invasion. Even when it comes to engaging in war, the Constitution forbids the states to act without federal authorization “unless actually invaded, or in such imminent danger as will not admit of delay” (Article I, Section 10). Surely, if the a state may, without federal authorization, go to war to protect its citizens from the imminent danger arising from foreign invasion of one type, it may, authorized by the letter and spirit of existing federal law, act to protect its citizens from the actual damage being inflicted upon them by an ongoing foreign invasion of another type.
When federal dereliction and abuse leave American citizens prey to destruction, the state governments exist to provide the focus of strong action and leadership that partially remedies the deficiency of strength Tocqueville pointed out. Arizona’s recent initiative to curtail the damaging effects of illegal immigration is precisely the exercise of a state’s residual sovereignty the U.S. Constitution provides for to protect the persons, property and sovereignty of the American people. It’s important as well to keep in mind a thought that some states are already acting upon as they respond to the unlawful mandates contained in the Obama faction’s health-takeover legislation. What the Constitution allows to remedy destructive dereliction in the use of federal powers it also leaves standing as a bulwark against their abuse.