When it suits their purposes, mainstream media pundits are fond of pointing out that the United States is a nation founded on “the rule of law.” The comment is usually offered up in support of some overly broad argument in favor of legislation contracting a fundamental liberty. However, very few talking heads seem to have any idea what a commitment to the rule of law really means.
In a nutshell: The rule of law is the principle that everyone in the United States should be held accountable to a uniform body of laws that is fairly applied and enforced. But the rule of law is under assault in the United States. Certain segments of the American population – specifically political, media and academic elites – have come to believe that they are free to disregard immigration law as they see fit.
Witness the editorial called “Proud to be a Sanctuary City” that recently appeared in the opinion pages of the New York Times. The piece claims that, if the Trump administration attempts to enforce immigration law, the “proper” response is for state and local governments to implement sanctuary policies in defiance of federal law. In other words, the Times is arguing that American political leaders should just disregard the very roots of American order – constitutionalism, federalism, and the rule of law. That sounds more like the Venezuelan approach than the American way.
But the message the Times is sending stands in stark contrast to the views held by most regular folks in the United States. The American people know that a commitment to observing the rule of law creates the conditions required for harmony and prosperity. They also understand that one can’t begin selectively discarding whatever body of laws one might happen to dislike. When that happens, the entire legal framework collapses like a house of cards.
Immigration was one of the key issues in this year’s presidential election specifically because Americans value the rule of law. Donald Trump recognized that average Americans are beyond frustrated with the failure to secure our nation’s borders and the image of lawlessness that failure presents to the rest of the world. As such, the recent election was as much a referendum on the rule of law as it was a plebiscite on immigration.
Matt O'Brien writes for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, from where this article is adapted.