Jewish World Review July 3, 2012/ 13 Tamuz, 5772
Still fighting the problem, or: The vacuum of leadership
By Paul Greenberg
It was left to the
Yes, there's been a lot of rhetoric about it all around, even a stopgap here and there when this chronic crisis becomes acute. But no clear, comprehensive solution or even much progress toward it.
Even the best-intentioned proposals never seem to gain much traction, and soon fade away in all the politics the subject invites. And the emotion it inspires.
Like so many problems allowed to fester, this one found its way to the courts. Which is the
Asked to judge
The high court, like so many Americans, is clearly divided on the issue. Every which way. But the justices recognized they had to do something to fill this vacuum of law and leadership on so central a question -- for any nation. Like who belongs in it.
How summarize this decision, or rather decisions?
Anchored by the swing vote of Associate Justice
There's a reason the phrase "naturalization and immigration" has become common in constitutional law. For there's no reason to doubt the federal government's overriding jurisdiction in all such matters.
This is, after all, one nation indivisible. Or is supposed to be. Even if Mr.
The great advantage of substituting rhetoric for reason is that it frees the jurist from having to think. He need only preen. Yes, there have been great justices who were adept at both rhetoric and reason. Names like
What got Brother Scalia exercised this time was the majority's letting the federal government be the federal government when it comes to enforcing immigration law, rather than leaving it to individual states like, in this case,
To quote Mr.
You might think such questions had been settled definitively at Appomattox, which ended what we in these Southern latitudes tactfully refer to as the late unpleasantness. But there are always those ready to plead states' rights in defense of states' wrongs. As those of us in
This time, thank goodness, the court was not called on to decide whether a sovereign state in a union of sovereign states can go its own way. Rather, the court was called on to decide at which point a state stops just cooperating with federal authority on questions of naturalization-and-immigration, which is not only proper under federal law and even required, and starts displacing federal authority with its own.
Writing for the majority, Mr.
The law in question has not yet gone into effect, but as
But why should a state like
There's nothing like a federal government unable or unwilling to enforce its own laws to encourage states to pass their own. Law, like nature, seems to abhor a vacuum, and laws like this one in
This isn't so much a failure of law as a failure of our lawmakers. For over the years the leaders of both parties have failed to come to grips with the nation's broken immigration system and, despite a valiant effort or two, failed to fix it. Abysmally.
The solution has always been there. It goes by the catch phrase, "comprehensive immigration reform," which is easier to say than achieve.
Putting off the problem has only made it worse, and much harder to solve.
For why solve a growing problem when it's so much easier to keep fighting it, courting the separate but equally fervid interests on all sides of the issue? Rather than molding public opinion, both these "leaders" seem mainly concerned about how to play the issue for their own political benefit.
What we have here is not just a failed immigration system but a failure of national leadership. A failure of political competence. And a lack of courage.
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