The sanctuary city movement, and all its baggage, terminates in one troublesome idea: that the USA should have open borders and that anyone from a foreign land who manages to get here by whatever means is home-free-all. The most recent Democratic nominee for president said just the other day that she dreamed of open borders. The much-abused word dream has been at the center of our discourse about immigration, a purposefully sentimental manipulation of language for a culture struggling to ascertain the boundaries of reality in an era of universal wishful thinking.
Anyone who listens to National Public Radio, for instance, may notice the care they take to keep the boundary as fuzzy as possible vis-à-vis the status of people here from other lands. “Undocumented” has been the favorite trope, a dodge that implies that the people in question are victims of a clerical error — someone over in the Document Division forgot to hand them the right paperwork.
Or else, all they are simply labeled “immigrants,” leaving out the question of whether they are in the country legally or not. Do not suppose it is mere sloppiness.
Lately, there is the matter of census-takers asking the people they interview — theoretically everybody who resides in the US — whether they are citizens or not. It would seem to be within the legitimate interests of demographic statisticians to ask that question, but it has ignited a firestorm of opposition. All manner of casuistry has been applied by that opposition to rationalize why we wouldn’t want to know whether people here are citizens or not. It all seems to come down to a cynical political calculation that the voter rolls can be eventually padded in favor of the Democratic Party (of which I remain an unhappy registered member, in order to vote in the New York state primary election).
The sanctuary city movement seems to me the most mendacious element of the story, a nakedly emotional appeal against the rule of law. The attorney general of California, Xavier Becerra, lately threatened to fine corporations there that share employee information with federal agents. There has not been such arrant flouting of federal law by state officials since Governor George Wallace stood in the doorway of the University of Alabama crying “segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever” in June, 1963 — and we all know how that ended.
I’m among those who would like to see the immigration laws honestly enforced. In fact, I would also like to see the 1965 immigration law reformed to admit far fewer people from any land into this country. We have economic and cultural interests to protect, and they would seem to be self-evident.
So why has there been no move by the federal authorities to impose sovereign federal law over figures like Mr. Becerra, or Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, who went through the barrio there Paul Revere style warning that the ICE agents were coming?
Well, one big reason is the marijuana situation. Nine states have legalized cannabis for recreational use (i.e. for getting high), and 29 have legalized it for medical purposes. This includes all of the states on the “Left Coast.” All of them are flouting federal law in doing that. But imagine the political uproar if the feds tried to step in at this point and quash the cannabis trade. In the early adapters, like Colorado, California, and Washington State, the trade has blossomed into multi-million dollar corporate enterprise, with significant tax revenue.
So, much as I object to the dishonest practices around immigration, I don’t see how the federal government can take principled action against them without first addressing its attitude to the marijuana situation.
Of course, that could be easily disposed of by congress adopting a simple law to the effect that the cultivation and sale of cannabis shall be regulated by the states. The craven members of congress apparently don’t even dare to raise the issue of resolving this conundrum, and the thought may have never even entered the mighty golden brain-pan of our president — not to mention The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN, Fox-News, or any of the other media organs of public debate. Well, maybe the time has come for that discussion.
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