If you’re looking for an issue that illuminates how severely divided the American polity is, you need look no further than to sanctuary cities and states.
Just last week, Attorney General William Barr announced that the Justice Department will take multiple actions against local and state governments that are actively disobeying and thwarting national immigration laws.
It only took a few days for a group of 2,000 former DOJ employees to call for Barr’s resignation on an unrelated issue.
You may think the timing is coincidental, but in “the swamp” of D.C. politics, there are very few coincidences. Progressives are rallying to the defense of their comrades.
Liability and Discrimination
Whether state and local units of government have the right to overrule the federal government’s stance on immigration is a major constitutional question. At the root of our federal system, each state has surrendered some degree of sovereignty to Washington. That is particularly true in the establishment of policies toward foreign countries.
Although the Constitution doesn’t explicitly mention immigration, Article I, Section 10, Clause 1 makes it plain that U.S. foreign policy is a single, coherent policy set by Washington. The founders understood that it would be chaotic and totally impractical for 50 separate state governments each to craft its own foreign policies.
Apparently, though, progressives disrespect the American system of federalism and the Constitution that is supposed to govern us.
Sadly, progressives are also failing to faithfully perform the first function and responsibility of every unit of government in the U.S. system: to protect the lives of citizens. Instead, they flout federal laws designed to vet immigrants in order to cull those with criminal records, contagious diseases, or involved in anti-American causes.
I emphatically agree with progressives that most immigrants aren’t a threat, but that provides no justification for state or local officials to thwart the efforts of the federal government to screen out such individuals. But I just as emphatically reject the progressive desire for open borders.
Progressives seem to believe that every human being is born with the right to come to the United States any time they want. Such a notion disrespects every American citizen—native-born or foreign-born—who appreciates what a privilege it is to be an American. Progressives don’t respect U.S. citizenship.
President Donald Trump, in his State of the Union address, expressed support for attaching legal liability to officials who shelter and hide undocumented aliens. Why is this not a law already? Why should U.S. officials enjoy immunity and impunity for helping non-Americans break immigration laws who then go out and commit crimes?
Look: If a private citizen gave refuge to someone who had already broken a law and was hiding from being arrested, and that law breaker then attacked or robbed someone, wouldn’t such a citizen be charged as an “accessory” or with “aiding and abetting” a criminal? There’s no way, in a free republic built on equality before the law, that government officials should be exempt from the laws that apply to the rest of us.
Apparently, progressives believe they’re better than the rest of us and don’t respect the American republic. But it gets worse: One of the specific practices that Attorney General Barr has targeted in his sanctuary cities investigation is legal discrimination in favor of illegal immigrants.
Barr decried “the actions of certain district attorneys who have adopted policies of charging foreign nationals with lesser offenses for the express purpose of avoiding the federal immigration consequences of those nationals’ criminal conduct.”
In practice, this often means treating a noncitizen less harshly than a citizen for the same crime. Besides mutilating the principle of equal justice, it adds the insult of making U.S. citizenship a disadvantage while illegal immigrants receive special treatment. (We see the same dynamic in play when progressives advocate providing free comprehensive health care to undocumented immigrants—health care that the already heavily indebted American taxpayer is expected to pay for.)
Progressives have preached for generations that discrimination is wrong. Then why discriminate against U.S. citizens?
Progressives have forgotten the fundamental purpose of U.S. government—namely, to make life better for Americans, not for non-Americans (for whom we may wish for the best, but which we have no duty to supply). We supposedly have a system of representative government; if so, that system is in a state of disrepair when elected officials don’t prioritize the interests of those they nominally represent.
It gives me zero pleasure to say this—indeed, it grieves me—but I have come to the conclusion that progressives love neither America nor Americans. This was evident throughout President Trump’s SOTU address, but never more starkly and horrifyingly than at the end.
The president’s closing statements were inspiring: “We look at tomorrow and see unlimited frontiers. … Our most thrilling stories are not yet told. Our grandest journeys are not yet made. The American Age, the American Epic, the American adventure has only just begun. … Our spirit is still young, the sun is still rising, God’s grace is still shining, and, my fellow Americans, the best is yet to come.”
Any person who loves the United States should have enthusiastically cheered that sentiment, even if they believe that their strategies and policies would be more effective than Trump’s at achieving those aspirations. Yet all the progressives in Congress could do was to glower sullenly.
They may try to rationalize their churlish conduct by claiming that it was their antipathy for Trump that kept them from cheering the prospect of a bright future for America and Americans, but sorry, people: If your dislike for one man outweighs your love of country, then yours is a feeble love indeed.
Frankly, I don’t think progressives do share Trump’s positive, optimistic view of America. Instead, they want to obliterate our borders, dismantle our Constitution, devalue U.S. citizenship, bankrupt our treasury, and strip away our liberties in the name of some fantastic ideal global, socialist utopia. They’re the contemporary iteration of the Vietnam-era anti-American left. They don’t simply disagree with current policy; they have been seduced by an illogical non-sequitur: that because we aren’t perfect, America is on the wrong side of history and therefore worthy of condemnation.
The short-sighted, self-destructive rejection of America parallels the short-sighted, self-destructive rejection of capitalism. Just as capitalism can be faulted for not being perfect, but shouldn’t be condemned, but rather respected as (by far) the best of imperfect alternatives, so a more balanced, rational appraisal is that the United States, while clearly not perfect, has done more to uplift, prosper, and bless more people than any other country on Earth.
Tragically, though, progressives want to penalize us and take Americans down a few notches—to punish us, as it were, for our prosperity and achievements—in the name of some wacky theory of global “social justice.”
Like Karl Marx, who presented himself as a friend of “the people” but in practice made clear his contempt for most human beings, so today’s progressives claim to be the champions of the people, yet espouse policies (whether Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s dozens of plans or AOC’s one grand central plan, the abominable Green New Deal) that will bring impoverishment, despair, and servitude to millions.
If you don’t think there’s much at stake in this year’s election, think again. This election is of existential significance; it will be for all the marbles. It will provide a stark choice between two competing visions—one that is pro-Americans and pro-America and one that disrespects U.S. citizens and disdains the America that most of us love.
Mark Hendrickson, an economist, recently retired from the faculty of Grove City College, where he remains a fellow for economic and social policy at the Institute for Faith and Freedom.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.