Judicial activism is pushing America to the breaking point. This week, a federal judge blocked key provisions of Arizona’s immigration law, thwarting the will of the people. The decision was ominous and will reverberate for years to come.
Judge Susan Bolton, appointed by former President Bill Clinton, is a liberal elitist who believes judicial imperialism trumps democracy. Her ruling states that local police cannot check the immigration status of people arrested or stopped for violations of the law. In her view, that would amount to an abuse of civil liberties and unduly burden the federal immigration system. She also stipulated that residents cannot be required to carry proof of legal status.
Her decision strikes at the very heart of the Arizona law, S.B. 1070. Supported by President Obama’s Justice Department and the American Civil Liberties Union, the ruling sets the stage for a protracted legal battle. Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer vows to appeal the ruling - all the way to the Supreme Court, if necessary. In the meantime, the people of Arizona - and America - will continue to endure the onslaught of illegal immigration.
Mr. Obama’s decision to sue Arizona is a betrayal of his constitutional oath to secure our porous border. The administration’s spin is that the “border has never been more secure.” It points to an influx of Border Patrol agents and more resources devoted to enforcement technology. Yet the reality remains: Aliens continue to cross every day. Arizona is home to more than a half-million illegal immigrants. Phoenix has become the kidnapping capital of America. Mexican drug lords order contract killings on Arizona sheriffs. Violent crime is pervasive. Instead of helping the people in need of protection, Mr. Obama is in effect siding with the lawbreakers.
Mr. Obama is playing racial politics with the Arizona law. He is deliberately inflaming ethnic tensions, falsely portraying the law as leading to a repressive police state for Hispanics. Yet the law deliberately bans racial profiling; a Hispanic could not be asked to show residency papers when having an ice cream with his kids, as the president falsely asserted. This is race-baiting and fear-mongering at its worst.
The administration and congressional Democrats are making a strategic calculation. They think the Arizona law may be popular in the short term, not just in the state but across the country, but they are convinced that in the long term, the law will backfire on Republicans - especially with the surging Hispanic voting bloc. Mr. Obama thinks he can aggressively court the Latino vote by demonizing Arizona. This is classic Saul Alinsky-style radicalism: the politics of divide and conquer, pitting races and classes against one another in the service of state power.
The ruling furthers Mr. Obama’s radical agenda. Judge Bolton’s decision essentially says America cannot protect its national sovereignty. This is tantamount to an open invitation for illegal immigrants to come at will and with impunity. America is thus no longer a real nation-state capable of defending its geographical boundaries, cultural identity and national interests. Instead, it is being reduced to a colony of the new world order - one marked by economic globalization, transnational corporatism, supranational bodies and the erosion of meaningful borders. The liberal ruling class wants to eradicate the nation-state in order to achieve its globalist-socialist utopia. This is why it despises America’s federal immigration laws and refuses to uphold them.
The ruling also prevents the state from defending itself; it is unilaterally disarming the people of Arizona in the face of a dangerous enemy. The federal government has shown repeatedly that it is unable and unwilling to secure the border. The Arizona law has the overwhelming support (70 percent) of Arizonans (as well as Americans). It is the collective expression of the people’s will to defend their homes, property and lives from criminals. It is the democratic embodiment of securing their God-given rights to life, liberty and self-government.
Yet Judge Bolton and the Obama administration are making a neo-aristocratic argument: Leftist judges - elitist activists in black robes - override democratic legitimacy. This is a form of soft authoritarianism.
In response to a controversial 1832 ruling by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall, President Andrew Jackson reputedly said: “John Marshall has made his decision, now let him enforce it.” Mrs. Brewer should take a page from Old Hickory’s playbook: Judge Bolton has made her decision, now let her enforce it.
The Arizona governor should stand on the bedrock principles of states’ rights and democratic self-government and insist that S.B. 1070 go into effect despite the federal ban. This would set up a constitutional showdown between Mrs. Brewer and Mr. Obama, Arizona and Washington. What would the Justice Department do: carry Mrs. Brewer off in handcuffs and throw her in prison? In other words, the people of Arizona should engage in peaceful civil disobedience.
For too long, liberals have successfully used the courts to impose radical social engineering upon a recalcitrant population. Abortion, homosexual marriage, pornography, racial quotas, affirmative action, a ban on public school prayer - all of these issues have been imposed by an imperial judiciary against the wishes of the majority. The Arizona law is the reassertion of democratic self-rule against the federal leviathan.
Arizona is where the old republic will stand or fall. It is showdown at high noon. Either America returns to its constitutional system based on real federalism, states’ rights, individual liberty and decentralized power, or it continues to slide toward the darkness of a socialist superstate. Washington - with its swollen bureaucracy, imperial arrogance, rampant corruption and dangerous detachment from ordinary citizens - is despised and distrusted by many Americans. A secession of the heart is taking place - a profound alienation from the liberal ruling class.
In the future, many states - including Arizona - may decide they have no other option but to break away from the union. The choice is becoming starkly apparent: devolution or dissolution.
Jeffrey T. Kuhner is a columnist at The Washington Times and president of the Edmund Burke Institute, a Washington think tank. He is the daily host of the “Kuhner Show” on WTNT 570-AM (www.talk570.com) from 5 to 7 p.m.