Don't look for reason in immigration suit or anti-smoking campaigns
The film "Platoon" was narrated by a fictional young infantryman named Chris. Charlie Sheen played the role back when he was merely a talented actor, rather than the walking self-parody he’s become. At one point, Chris comments on the madness of warfare by observing that “hell is the impossibility of reason.” He didn’t know the half of it.
The United States is suing the state of Arizona in a case currently before the Supreme Court. Oddly enough, the government’s complaint is that Arizona authorities are attempting to compel people within the state’s borders to obey federal law. You might think the Justice Department would be pleased to learn that people are trying to comply with the statutes it is charged with enforcing, but you’d be wrong.
The law in question empowers state and local officers to check an individual’s immigration status when reasonable suspicion exists and mandates that officers confirm such status when taking people into custody for criminal offenses. Violators would be turned over to federal authorities.
The government’s position seems to be either that foreign nationals have a constitutional right to be left alone while breaking the law or that in the interest of fair play, they are at least entitled to haphazard enforcement of the statutes that would deport them. Regardless of which argument is advanced, supporters of the Arizona law might counter by noting that the laissez-faire approach to immigration didn’t work out terribly well for the American Indian.
But the substantive debate of how best to handle illegal immigration isn’t the issue here. The more pressing concern by far is that the Justice Department exists to enforce the law, not write it.
The present federal immigration act was written by Congress in the '80s and duly signed into law by then-President Ronald Reagan. It provided functional amnesty for most people already here and instituted measures intended to prevent a recurrence of the problem.
Citizens in Arizona, through their elected representatives in the state legislature, have decided that better enforcement of existing federal law was in their best interests. Toward that end, the state passed legislation intended to enlist the resources of local law enforcement in the struggle. Nothing in the Arizona statute conflicts with federal guidelines, so the argument that the state is trying to usurp federal authority to set immigration policy appears specious at best.
While the government sues to prevent people from following federal law, St. Louis County continues to dispense funds from the $7.6 million anti-smoking grant it received from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That money came from a $372.8 million grant the CDCP received from federal stimulus funds intended to spur employment in the wake of the Great Recession.
How quitting smoking will create jobs is anybody’s guess, but judging by the recent onslaught of radio spots extolling the virtues of smoking bans in county restaurants and bars, it seems reasonable to assume that an ad agency somewhere got a check out of the deal.
The second-hand smoke commercials feature happy business owners reporting on all the new customers they’ve gained because of the county ordinance that outlawed smoking in their establishments. In fact, business is so good that they now want the law expanded to eliminate all exemptions to the ban.
Let me get this straight: a business owner enjoys the putative advantage of a smoke-free environment. Because the air in his place is fresh and clear, patrons are queuing up to dine there. Now he wants to outlaw smoking everywhere so his competitors can cut into his business? Really? Don’t businesses usually act to maximize their own profits?
You may also wonder where a government that is flat broke and borrowing money to pay its bills came up with $372.8 million to campaign against freedom of choice.
Wouldn’t that money be better spent subsidizing, say, opinion writers for online newspapers?
After all, OSHA already has statutory authority to eliminate preventable workplace hazards. Q: If valid scientific evidence actually existed to prove that second-hand smoke was dangerous, couldn’t the agency respond as it did with asbestos and simply ban workplace smoking nationwide by administrative fiat? A: It would if the underlying research could withstand scrutiny in a court of law.
Christ proclaimed the Eight Beatitudes during the Sermon on the Mount. Given the seeming impossibility of reason in modern public life, I will suggest a ninth:
Blessed are those who yearn for rational governance, for they shall be disappointed.