A Constitutional Approach to the Border Crisis

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The crisis at the nation’s southern border has grown exponentially.  Some states are beginning to take an approach to this crisis that would appear to be more in line with the Founding Fathers’ vision of America than what America has evolved (or devolved, depending on one’s perspective) into.

Instead of waiting on the federal government to act, states are taking matters into their own hands.  Texas is transferring $250 million from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice to a disaster fund to build its own wall along the border with Mexico.  While technically this is the federal government’s responsibility, if the federal government is unwilling or unable to act, the Founding Fathers would have been more than enthusiastic to see local governments taking this duty up for themselves.  The Founders greatly distrusted a strong centralized government, as evidenced by the weak Articles of Confederation that they wrote to organize the country.

Florida announced that it will send law enforcement to Texas and Arizona to assist along the border.  Nebraska announced that it would do the same.  Have some states found a way around bumbling federal policies?  It seems so. 

The Founders did not envision the country being ruled by a centralized ruling class.  The vision for this country was one of decentralized power, where citizens would take time off from their respective trades, serve in office for a short time — not for a lifetime — and then return to their lives. 

The country has changed from what the Founders imagined and intended.  The rugged individualist, the Gary Cooper, strong, silent type that Tony Soprano loved to reference, has disappeared.  That spirit has been replaced by an attitude that Big Brother will care for all…er, older non–birthing person sibling will care for all.  The Founders foresaw this, which is why the Constitution, especially the Bill of Rights, is a litany of what the government cannot do instead of what the government’s responsibilities should be. 

The vision for this country was truly one of self-reliance, not one of a government providing for the people.  The Founders were heavily influenced by John Locke’s Second Treatise of Government, which clearly states that “the great and chief purpose of men’s uniting under government is the preservation of their property.”  This sentence explains it all.  Government is supposed to preserve our property, not provide us with property.  The Founders were all too familiar with government seizing property and wealth, hence the Constitution’s Third Amendment barring the confiscation of property to quarter soldiers without the consent of the owner.

Somewhere between the founding of this republic and now, government has pushed the limits of what it is constitutionally supposed to and allowed to do.  Clearly, Lord Acton was correct: “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely” and “Limitation is essential to authority.  A government is legitimate only if it is effectively limited.”  Apparently, some in power have decided that it was more convenient to neglect the duties of securing the border and protecting the property of the citizens in this country because it was far more important to keep power by ensuring votes for themselves.  Locke and the Founders believed that people organize themselves through a government to set rules to govern their behavior in order to settle disputes and to secure their property.  What happens when government, specifically the federal government, refuses to secure the property of the people? 

It appears the answer is that the states themselves will step up and begin to cooperate and assist each other independently of the federal government, as Florida, Nebraska, and Iowa are doing.  Unfortunately, the republic’s systems of checks and balances has broken down.  The biggest offender is the Supreme Court.  Tasked with determining the constitutionality of laws, the court has taken on power by ruling on issues that are not mentioned in the Constitution.

Amendment X clearly states, “Powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”  Simply put, anything the Constitution does not grant the federal government the power to do (for instance, determining when the appropriate age is for children to operate a motor vehicle) each state has the right to decide for itself.  The Supreme Court has, over the years, taken to “legislating from the bench,” meaning creating law by interpreting what should be law based upon legal, linguistic gymnastics by way of reinterpreting the Constitution, rather than taking it at face value.  Such real-world decisions made by the Court that practically codified issues not mentioned in the Constitution include, but are not limited to, Roe v. Wade, Lockett v. Ohio (concerns sentencing guidelines), and Roper v. Simmons (deals with age of the offender in capital punishment).

The power overreach does not end with the Supreme Court.  The other two branches are just as guilty and often work together to accomplish the amassing of power.  FDR and Congress at the time oversaw the largest growth of the federal government at any time in American history through laws passed by Congress and executive orders written by the president.

Once individuals, or branches of government, gain power, they are reticent to relinquish those powers.  The answer to the federal government being derelict in its duties to protect our border and property can be found in Amendment X, in that the Constitution does not prohibit the states from doing protecting borders or property and thus allows the states to come to the aid of one another to do so. 

Imagine what else could be accomplished by cutting out the heavy-handed red tape of the federal government and the states taking care of issues themselves.  This may be the way to restore our country and our freedoms.

Image via Pixy.

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