“Go west, young man.”
Horace Greeley’s words effectively captured the ethos of westward expansion in nineteenth century America. They also contributed to our national fascination with California as a land of opportunity. From the gold rush to the birth of Hollywood to the rise of Silicon Valley, California was the place where ambition, entrepreneurship and big dreams could yield spectacular rewards.
Today, people are rejecting Greeley’s advice. Not only are few Americans moving to California, but residents are fleeing the state en masse. Why? Maybe because decades of mismanagement by state leaders has increased the cost of living, caused taxes to skyrocket and made people feel less safe. A driving force for this malaise has been California’s myopic decision to become a sanctuary for illegal aliens, and all the negative consequences that come with it. The result is that California is no longer the American Dream, but effectively a separate country altogether. On its current trajectory, California will soon resemble a Third World nation: cash-strapped, terrorized by rampant crime, and with a balkanized population lacking any connective societal tissue.
How bad has the problem of illegal immigration become in California? Gov. Jerry Brown recently vetoed two bills, one that would have allowed illegal aliens to sit on state boards and commissions, and another that would have prohibited immigration officers from making arrests inside courthouses. Even for Brown—the champion of California’s pro-sanctuary laws and dubbed “Governor Moonbeam” by critics for his extremism—the radical immigration agenda of his state assembly was a bridge too far.
California’s laws protecting illegal aliens are more than just leftist virtue-signaling, they are a rejection of the federalist system that has served our republic well since its founding. By virtue of the Supremacy Clause of the constitution, immigration falls under the jurisdiction of the federal government, and states yield to that authority. California has thumbed its nose at that precedent, enacting laws that prevent state law enforcement employees from cooperating with federal immigration officers. This has resulted in U.S. v. California, a lawsuit filed by the Department of Justice challenging the state’s three sanctuary laws.
The Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI) recently filed two friend-of-the-court briefs that raise important issues in the case. One brief, filed on behalf of two law enforcement officers’ associations and a group advocating for victims of illegal alien crime, argues that California’s violation of the Supremacy Clause invites armed confrontations between state and federal officers whenever federal officers attempt to take custody of criminal aliens held by the state. The other brief was filed on behalf of a coalition of California municipalities and elected officials opposed to the state’s sanctuary laws. Among its objections, the brief explains how the local leaders have serious concerns that the state laws violate the First Amendment rights of law enforcement officers to cooperate with the federal government. The federal law prohibiting the restriction of inter-governmental communication regarding immigration status, the brief also says, is a “necessary and proper” exercise of congressional authority in enforcing the prohibition against shielding illegal aliens. If partisan political beliefs are removed, the case should be a slam dunk in favor of the Justice Department.
In its zeal to proclaim itself a safe zone for those who have illegally entered the country, California’s political leaders have ignored not only the arguments in the IRLI briefs, but their basic responsibility to safeguard the state’s residents. While not all illegal aliens are violent criminals, those who are have shed the blood of too many innocent Americans. News reports of illegal aliens causing deaths in America have now become so frequent they rarely stand out. Most recently we learned that Joel Valera, an illegal alien who had been deported for child sex crimes, was sentenced to 50 years in prison for murdering Arthur Gomez Jr., 40, a popular youth football coach in Parlier, Calif. State lawmakers mouth the boilerplate words of sympathy for the victims of these crimes, yet advocate for policies that assure more people will meet the same fate.
California has gone to great lengths to create an alternate America, complete with its own set of laws that run counter to the beliefs of most Americans. The question then is, with its high crime, declining quality of life and culture of lawlessness, why would anyone really want to live in it?
Brian Lonergan is director of communications at the Immigration Reform Law Institute, a public interest law firm working to defend the rights and interests of the American people from the negative effects of mass migration.
Also published at: Brian Lonergan, California morphing into a separate country over immigration, Daily Caller, October 9, 2018.