This appeared in Sunday’s Washington Post:
An early test of President Donald Trump administration’s capacity for malice, or for constructive compassion, is its stance on “dreamers”—undocumented young immigrants who were brought to the United States as children and who were granted a temporary reprieve from the threat of deportation by President Barack Obama. On that score, in his earliest days in office, Trump is tilting, maybe, toward compassion.
Having spent most of the presidential campaign vowing to revoke what he called an unconstitutional “amnesty” (which it isn’t, since dreamers have been granted what amounts to a stay, not legal status), Trump switched gears after the election, saying he would “work something out” that would “make people happy and proud.” Now his spokesman, Sean Spicer, says the new president’s priority for deportation is “people who have done harm to our country,” not dreamers, whom Trump would approach “in a very humane way.” In other words, the focus will be on undocumented criminals, the same sub-group of illegal immigrants targeted by Obama’s deportation policy.
Deporting 750,000 dreamers who registered with the government and received Social Security numbers and two-year work permits would not just be cruel; it would be economically self-defeating and politically foolish. After all, this is a population that grew up and attended school in this country; they are as promising, hopeful and culturally American as their neighbors.
It is encouraging that the administration is edging toward acknowledging this. Ending talk of deportation is a good start. But that alone will not bring a sense of security to dreamers and an estimated 1 million others eligible for the same status—those who arrived in the United States by 2007 and before their 16th birthday and are now no older than 35. Trump’s promise to “work something out” would have to include renewing their two-year work permits and registering others who meet the criteria. Removing those protections, or allowing them to lapse, would force some 1.7 million people back into limbo, with no confidence they could continue to work, study or travel.
The best path forward remains an overhaul of the immigration system that would provide long-term protections not only for dreamers but also for most of the 11 million undocumented immigrants, the majority of whom have been in this country for more than 15 years. Without offering details, Reince Priebus, Trump’s White House chief of staff, allowed that he would also welcome what he called “a long-term solution” worked out with Congress.
That sounds like something very different from threats of mass deportation, with which Trump whipped up his campaign rallies. It holds out a glimmer of hope that the new president’s election-year hyperbole on immigration, at least as it pertained to dreamers, may yield to something more resembling pragmatism.
Has anything like this ever occurred with a newly elected president? Less than two weeks after Donald Trump’s inauguration, the Council of Bishops of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, “the first protestant denomination formed on American soil,” has called upon its more than 1 million members in 39 countries, including the United States, to do all they can to see that a host of decisions and actions by the Trump administration, described by the bishops as “clearly demonic acts,” “do not last.” The bishops are calling for concerted grass-roots action, including bringing pressure on Congress.
In a Jan. 31 Episcopal Statement, the bishops said that they didn’t come to their decision quickly. They watched with dismay, they said, as presidential candidate Trump showed insensitivity and callous disregard for the rights and well-being of countless Americans. They were troubled to see him go around the country expressing views and policy positions that threatened to divide and polarize the nation.
The bishops said they had hoped that Trump’s campaign stances would be altered during the transition and after he had a chance to gain the wisdom of more experienced heads in government.
That, they said, has not been the case.
Citing his election-night promise to unify the nation, the bishops told their AME congregations: “President Trump has demonstrated that his word is not to be trusted.”
And they pointed to a list of actions that have caused bitter divisions and outright fear. Among them:
The appointment of Stephen K. Bannon (he “has spoken and written racist rants against minorities and Jews) — they call for his removal; the nomination for attorney general of Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions (R) — “a history of racial indifference ... and a controversial record as it related to decisions regarding racial matters” — they call for his rejection by the Senate.
I don’t understand how Rep. Steve Miller could vote for a huge tax cut for the wealthy and businesses when Idaho ranks 48th or 49th out of all states on education performance. Idaho still has no public preschool and the teacher salaries are so low that we are losing in the competition to attract the best teachers.
Miller’s vote to cut taxes jeopardizes the state’s ability to make needed investments in Idaho’s educational programs as proposed by the governor, business and education leaders.
There is nothing more important than the education of our children. We must have an educated citizenry to attract new businesses to the state and raise the standard of living for all.
It may come as a shock to Idaho (and many other state) legislators, but their purview is limited to the borders carved out at statehood. They have a great deal of authority inside, and very little out.
You can pick up the nature of some of these limits, and the narrow ways they can be expanded, in two new House bills, 59 and 65.
HB 65, from Rep. Paul Shepherd, R-Riggins, got the bigger headline splash, because its reach would be so broad if it passes (wouldn’t bet against it) and survives a legal challenge (extremely unlikely).
Here’s the key language: “The Idaho Legislature hereby declares that the state of Idaho, on behalf of its citizens, is the final arbiter of whether an act of Congress, a federal regulation or a court decision is unconstitutional and may declare that the federal laws, regulations or court decisions are not authorized by the Constitution of the United States and violate its meaning and intent, and further, are null, void and of no effect regarding any Idaho citizen residing within the borders of the state of Idaho.”
The shorthand for this is “nullification” — a unilateral declaration by the state that if we here (well, actually, if the Legislature here) don’t like it, it doesn’t apply to us. That’s just a half-step away from secession from the Union, a question pretty much resolved a century and a half ago.
A brand new legislator, Rep. Randy Armstrong, R-Inkom, inquired in the meeting where the bill was presented: “Do we have that right as legislators or as citizens, to be able to declare something unconstitutional? Isn’t that the area judges are supposed to rule on? How do we earn the position to declare something constitutional or unconstitutional?” Well, there you are. We do have courts whose job it is to rule on constitutionality; that’s a court function, not legislative. The courts also get to parse when federal rulings apply to the states (mostly, but not always). A legislature can declare it has super-powers, but they won’t last long in a real challenge.
Is the Legislature completely confined to state boundaries in its impact? Not necessarily.
House Bill 59, proposed by Reps. Ilana Rubel and John McCrostie, both D-Boise, would have Idaho join an interstate compact in which — if all 50 joined — each state would commit that their electoral college representatives would vote for whoever won the national popular vote. Such a proposal coming in this season after last year’s presidential carries a partisan tinge, but the idea has been around for many years, has been adopted by some states and others are considering it this year. (You can see more about it at http://www.nationalpopularvote.com/). Both red and blue states have entered into it.
The odds for passage in Idaho are not good, and we can’t completely be sure what a court will make of the idea. But there’s a good case for why it may be upheld. The federal Constitution (in Article II) says “Each state shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof shall direct, a number of Electors,” and generally leaves the process in the hands of the legislatures. It would effect a change in an area where states seem to have full discretion to act.
For both bills, as a movie start once suggested, it’s a matter of knowing your limits.