Childish Behavior at the Upper Echelons of Government

by JOHN ARMOR May 28, 2010
There are a number of recent events concerning the new Arizona law on illegal immigrants in that state. First, the state passes a law which exactly tracks federal law on who is, or is not, an illegal immigrant. Then, several Obama administration officials condemn the law without bothering to read it.
The most common claim against the law is that it authorizes any law enforcement personnel to go up to any person anywhere in Arizona and "demand their papers." Anyone who bothers to read the law knows this statement is a lie. In an interesting development, it turns out that California law has the same provision that Arizona has just established – once any policeman has made a legitimate stop for any reason, questions can be asked about citizenship.
There are apparently only two major differences between Arizona and California. California has no intention of enforcing its own laws. And, California politicians have a much higher tolerance for hypocrisy and dishonesty than those in Arizona.
Then Mexico’s President Calderon visits the United States, speaks to a Joint Session of Congress and condemns the Arizona law as "discriminatory." Slightly more than half of the Congressmen present stand and cheer this statement. Apparently they have not read either the Arizona law or the Mexican immigration laws which makes the state and federal laws in the United States look like a walk in the park.
But the cherry on the top of this concoction of ignorance was the announcement, less than a week ago, that the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement would "not necessarily" accept Arizona’s illegals for processing. This announcement came from John Morton, who is in charge of that agency.
Let’s stop and review for a moment. If any major official in the federal government made such a major policy announcement without clearing it with the White House, he would be fired before he could get back to his office and pack up his family photos and house plants.
Morton has to be speaking for the White House. And that should make everyone nervous.
Under existing federal law, it is the business of ICE to pick up any apparent illegal alien who is arrested by any state, hold them securely and deport them promptly if legally required. Just recently, an illegal alien drug dealer in New York got a court-ordered "civil rights" payday of about $124,000 because ICE was a month late in picking him up, as required by federal law.
Of what does Morton’s statement that ICE may deliberately violate federal law – not state law, but federal law – remind you? Think of the scraggly-faced kid with the squeaky voice who says if he doesn’t get his way, he’ll take his bat and ball and go home. That’s a self-defeating and arrogant attitude which is common among adolescent males, and appears occasionally among adolescent females.
But, when we grow up, we are supposed to know better how to act around others. When I was a child, I thought as a child. Casual, ill-considered words from occupants of the White House can cause dips or disasters in markets, riots or revolutions in international relationships.
We cannot afford childishness in the White House. And, on the subject of the legitimacy and value of the Arizona law against illegal immigrations, that is all that the White House, the Attorney General, the head of ICE, and the Secretary of Homeland Security have to offer.
We need better. We deserve more. And we need it fast. Contributing Editor John Armor practiced law in the Supreme Court for 33 years. His latest book about Thomas Paine is available at Contact him at

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