Immigration Reform Might be Unconstitutional

Immigration Reform Might be Unconstitutional

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An old adage says that the more laws you pass, the more criminals you make. That certainly pertains to immigration. “Reform” after “reform” has turned people pursuing a freer life into criminals. So will the measures President Barack Obama and others now advocate.

Those bad laws deserve to be broken, as another adage advises. But many Americans seem to have forgotten both proverbs, given their animus against those who dare set foot in the United States without a bureaucrat’s permission. “Illegals” break the law just by being here, these citizens contend.

They might be surprised to learn that the policies controlling our movements are relatively recent. They date only to the 1870’s. The concerns that prompted them are the same as today’s, even if the immigrants “stealing” the jobs then were Asian rather than Hispanic. 

Laws labeling some people legal and others illegal aren't merely divisive--they're arguably unconstitutional. Cases challenging the new legislation wound up before the Supreme Court. Its justices scrambled to manufacture a constitutionally justifiable “interest” for the federal government in managing migration to our shores because the U.S. Constitution never authorizes them to do so.

That’s right: The highest law of the land cedes absolutely no power to the federal government over immigrants. Visas, passports, green cards, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the myriad other agencies dedicated to making newcomers’ lives miserable are unconstitutional – and tyrannical.

In fact, the closest the Constitution approaches to the subject is that it allows the central government to set the rules for “naturalization,” the process by which wannabe Americans become actual ones. But establishing a mere format differs vastly from trying to drown Cuban refugees with water cannon or chasing desperate families through Texas’ tumbleweeds.

Such cruelty no doubt explains why the founding fathers refused to empower politicians and bureaucrats over immigrants. Then, too, the colonies and early Republic eagerly welcomed strangers: A wild, wooded continent lay beyond the Appalachians without machines to help tame it. Only a suicidal nut would have suggested that some guy with a badge should decree whether other guys could hire the labor they needed.

That’s obviously no longer the situation. Instead, newcomers supposedly swipe jobs that belong to Americans – although employers consistently report they cannot find U.S. citizens willing to work at dirty tasks for low wages. (Let’s ask those who protest, “Then they oughta pay more!” how much they’re paying their babysitter or the kid who mows their lawn and whether they want to buy apples for $6.99 per pound.)

Proponents of controlling our movements also fail to consider the flip side: that along with their hunger for work, immigrants also bring empty bellies, bodies to clothe and shelter, children who clamor for bicycles and computers. Indeed, “real” Americans suffer when raids on employers of “illegal” immigrants heartlessly destroy not only the company but its community as well.

Other, smaller businesses fold, rental properties sit vacant, and church memberships dwindle. Thanks to its bail-out of Wall Street, the government has succeeded in smashing our economy. Should we let it smash the hopes and dreams of millions as well?

Meanwhile, foes of immigrants ought to be careful what they wish for: The measures so many Americans insist they want rulers to enforce against immigrants will hurt everyone, not just newcomers. E-Verify forces employers to check the “immigration status” of all potential workers. It will delay Lowe’s from hiring Joes for as long as it does the Joses.

What about the inevitable mistakes? Think “no-fly list” but apply it to employment: We’ve all heard about the four-year-old boys the Feds’ blacklist keep off airplanes. What if it isn’t a flight the Feds deny us but a job? And all because bureaucrats can’t distinguish “Americans” from “illegals” any more than they can toddlers from terrorists.

Ditto for identity cards. If the anti-immigrant forces win out, all Americans, not just immigrants, would have to produce them on demand, just as checkpoints at airports search all passengers, not just Muslims.

Think about the subservience you see in those lines, with taxpayers who foot screeners’ salaries afraid to question them or protest abuse lest they miss their plane. Yet cops wield much more authority than screeners; for starters, they’re armed. Do we really want a country in which police can stop us and ask about our “status” during a simple trip to the supermarket?

America's founders were right to deny government power over our movements. But very few Americans know, let alone understand, this crucial truth. So it’s up to immigrants, their friends and families to insist that the government abide by the Constitution. Perhaps in time Americans who say they want newcomers to obey the law will demand that the Feds do so as well.

Politicians are pros at taxing and spending; bureaucrats push papers with remarkable lassitude. Why does this entitle them to dictate who our friends, neighbors and employees will be?

An expert on the American Revolution, Becky Akers writes frequently about issues related to security and privacy.