Although open-border libertarians shelve both their tolerance and their free-market economics when it comes to immigration, it is well worth reminding these tinny ideologues that individuals attach different value to things in the marketplace. Over and above the joys of “cheap Tyson chicken and colorful cuisine,” most Americans prize the ability to send their kids to English-only schools and into streets and parks that aren’t drug and gang infested. They’d also like to stop the tax base from collapsing.
Consequently, across America, from San Bernardino, Calif., to Hazleton, Pa., small-town Americans and their representatives are struggling to salvage communities ravaged by unchecked immigration.
Unwilling to wait for Washington, Mayor Louis Barletta of Hazleton attempted to reclaim his town by passing local ordinances to crack down on those who employ or rent to illegals. When he failed, The New York Times celebrated the seismic setback. The editors—following the presiding U.S. district judge, James Munley—accused the mayor of usurping federal authority, as immigration is a federal responsibility. In the impaired minds of the editorialists and the jurist reducing the effects of the unstoppable influx amounted to undermining a duty the federal government has refused to assume. Go figure!
In legalese, Barletta’s Illegal Immigration Relief Act was found to conflict with the unenforced Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) of 1986, and, therefore, to be in violation of the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution. Mind you, the Supreme Court itself has conceded that not every “state enactment …which deals with aliens is a regulation of immigration.” Still, Judge Munley went as far as to accuse Mayor Barletta of not considering the “implication of his ordinances on foreign policy.” On the one hand the mayor is charged with interfering in federal affairs, on the other, with focusing too narrowly on local matters. A manifest absurdity.
Reasonable people can debate the constitutionality of Barletta’s Illegal Immigration Relief Act and other Ordinances; only sophists would depict these as a usurpation of federal authority. What next? Banning the neighborhood watch for busying itself with crime? Doesn’t that overlap with state police activities?
In his objection to Barletta’s Act and Ordinances, the judge appealed to the due process and equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment. But here’s the rub. Originally, American federalism aimed to secure the rights of the individual by imposing strict limits on the power of the central government via a Bill of Rights and a scheme that divided authority between autonomous states and a federal government. But the doctrine of limitation of powers was badly damaged when the federal government became the arbiter of individual rights.
This occurred when the 14th Amendment was ratified. Prior to the (illegal) ratification of the 14th Amendment, the federal government had no authority to enforce the Bill of Rights in the states. The Bill of Rights, very plainly, did not grant the federal government any powers, but placed limits on the federal government’s actions.
The 14th reversed this scheme by placing the power to enforce the Bill of Rights in federal hands, where it was never meant to be. As Felix Morley observed in Freedom and Federalism, the 14th nullified “the original purpose of the Bill of Rights, by vesting its enforcement in the national rather than in the state governments.” Consequently, the Ninth and 10th Amendments were sundered. As Barletta’s quixotic battle makes plain, the federal government has subsumed all powers previously retained by the people or the states.
Am I thrilled that to defend his town a mayor has been forced to circumscribe renting and hiring? Not at all. Still less am I enamored of the ACLU and the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund usurping a much-loved local leader, who is legitimately and faithfully representing his constituents—Barletta has won both the Republican and Democratic nominations and is a shoo-in for the November elections.
“The art of economics,” wrote Henry Hazlitt, “consists in looking not merely at the immediate but at the longer effects of any act or policy; it consists in tracing the consequences of that policy not merely for one group but for all groups.” Hazlitt was encapsulating Bastiat’s What-Is-Seen-and-What-Is-Not-Seen principle. While open-border libertines love Bastiat’s elegant argument, they seldom apply it to mass immigration, where these implacable enemies of America choose to see only benefits. Thus, for every mound of cheap strawberries, there are crops of criminals, failing schools, and folding hospitals. Having become aliens in their hometown, Hazleton residents imagined that the Constitution allowed them a measure of autonomy over how they lived their lives. How wrong they were.
Next on the “Treason Lobby’s” path of “Abuses and Usurpations” is your small town. Unless, like Louis Barletta, you heed the greatest Americans ever to have risen in response to a “Government … having in direct Object the Establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States…suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with Power to legislate for us in all Cases whatsoever.”
©2007 By Ilana Mercer