Government by ‘gesture’ doesn’t work

Tom West, West Words
Tom West, West Words

Last week, the political world was rocked by the primary defeat of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va.

In spite of outspending his Tea Party opponent Dave Brat 40 times over, Cantor lost to the political newcomer.

The spin doctors said that the major issue in the race was immigration, and that Cantor was in favor of amnesty for illegal aliens.

Conservatives generally don’t like amnesty, believing that the rule of law should prevail. However, the fact is that the immigration laws have been at best poorly enforced for 35-40 years by Republican and Democratic administrations alike.

Current estimates are that approximately 12 million illegal immigrants are currently in the United States. This is five and a half times the size of the U.S. armed forces — including the reserves.

It is believed that approximately half of the illegals are here because of illegal entry, and the remainder have overstayed their visas.

Amnesty is considered an option because of the size of the problem. Unfortunately, our paralyzed federal government can’t make up its mind to do anything.

Before anything happens, amnesty or not, the first thing that has to happen is that the United States has to secure its southern border.

It is becoming increasingly clear that President Obama is unable to do even that. That puts him in the same category as Reagan, Clinton and the Bushes.

In recent weeks, more than 60,000 unattached children have been allowed into the nation, most of them from Central America. The allegation is that violent drug wars have made it dangerous to live there. However, there is little proof of that.

These children are allegedly being sent here by their parents, who pay human-trafficking “coyotes” who transport them through Mexico, which turns a blind eye.

That would come to a screeching halt if we had a secure border and turned away those without proper documentation at the outset.

Instead, we allow the children in, invite their parents to come get them, lose track of the parents, and the number of illegals continues to rise.

Today, the percentage of immigrants, both legal and illegal, in the nation is approximately 13 percent, the highest proportion in 90 years. This is understandable since the birth rate among native-born Americans has plummeted.

The difference between then and now, however, is that because of greater mobility, more people are able to get to our borders, and we no longer are able or willing to require citizenship for them to stay.

Increasingly, what we are seeing in our federal government is not a nation founded in law, but one founded in gestures.

Whether it is set in law or not, increasingly presidents simply act unilaterally, even if the Constitution or the U.S. Supreme Court offer them no authority.

The Affordable Care Act has had the implementation of many parts of it delayed, contrary to law. It has reached the point that people may be fined for not having health insurance out of sheer ignorance about which parts of the law are being enforced.

Mandating health insurance for all is a nice gesture, but increasingly it seems to be making for bad law.

In the same way, the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) mandated the definition of marriage, but Obama decided to ignore it. It was only a “gesture” from the time it was passed in 1996, until the Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional a year ago.

So now it is with citizenship. The geographically-based nation-state has been the fundamental way human beings have organized themselves for centuries. To be a citizen of a nation meant that that nation would protect the citizen from outside invaders in return for the citizen contributing something back to the state.

If we are now to think of humanity as one large, amorphous blob of 7 billion beings, and that citizenship gives one no privilege or protection over non-citizens, then the law will eventually break down into chaos.

But when we make gestures, like saying we are going to turn Iraq into a democratic republic, or that alcohol is bad for you so we are going to ban the sale of it, or that we should all drive a certain speed limit, but are unable or unwilling to enforce the laws as written, the weakening of the impact of law is apparent.

If enforcement is based on the whims of a president, governor or bureaucrat, it puts each of us at risk. We already have so many laws, that most of us break one before our first yawn in the morning.

The Tea Party may be feeling its oats over the demise of Cantor, and a chill wind may have blown through the Washington establishment, but the problem is much larger than amnesty for illegal aliens.

Government by gesture doesn’t work.

Tom West is the editor and general manager of the Record. Reach him at (320) 616-1932 or by email at [email protected].