Fox News reports that the U.S. Department of Justice is looking into whether Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf should be charged for warning illegal migrants on Saturday, 24 February that ICE was about to start an area sweep for the priority offenders the agency focuses on.
The acting director of ICE, Thomas Homan, told Fox & Friends on Wednesday morning that although the subsequent sweep had picked up 150 priority offenders, more than 800 remained at large in the San Francisco Bay area. He likened Schaaf’s warning to that of a gang lookout on the watch for police.
Homan in a statement said that 864 illegal immigrants and public safety threats “remain at large in the community” and blamed Schaaf’s warning for their ability to dodge arrest.
“What she did is no better than a gang lookout yelling ‘police’ when a police cruiser comes in the neighborhood, except she did it to a whole community,” Homan told “Fox & Friends.” “There’s over 800 significant public safety threat criminals … that we are unable to locate because of that warning, so that community’s a lot less safe than it would’ve been.”
Now, perhaps the warning from Schaaf accounts for only some of the 864 public safety threats being unlocatable during the ICE sweep. That’s a really superficial (in fact, a meaningless) point, but let’s concede it and move on.
The real point I want to get to is how actions like this, on the part of public officials, transform the matrix of what we as a society can consider “shared expectations,” or “common beliefs.”
Libby Schaaf went on to say afterward that she was justified in what she did:
The mayor stood by her controversial warning, with a follow-up tweet Tuesday stating that “It is Oakland’s legal right to be a sanctuary city and we have not broken any laws. We believe our community is safer when families stay together.”
Yet it is not Oakland’s “legal right” to be a sanctuary city. It is, at most, an extreme interpretation of discretion by local authorities which has not been comprehensively ruled on, per se, by the federal courts.
In the meantime, it flies in the face of “settled law” that the federal government has unchallenged authority to set and enforce policies for border control, border security, immigration to the United States from foreign countries, and naturalization.
There are questions about the extent to which the federal government may require active support from state and local agencies in that enforcement.
But that is emphatically not the same thing as saying that local authorities are free to actively obstruct federal law enforcement. There is no question whose rules supersede whose, in terms of what shall be enforced. There is also no question that if Libby Schaaf were a private citizen, she could be charged under federal law for her action.
This last point leads to the one that’s important here. Schaaf clearly wants to behave in a way that would be a chargeable crime if you or I did it.
That point has import for more than the issue of equality before the law. Equality before the law is a bedrock concern, but equally profound is the concern that Schaaf basically just wants to contravene the letter and intent of the law because she feels like it. She proclaims a supposedly higher moral reason for that, but she doesn’t acknowledge the gravity of what she’s doing; i.e., that she’s throwing the rule of law out the window. Instead, she seems to adopt a posture that laws are meant to be actively thwarted, if she doesn’t like them.
While driving on errands this week, I heard Rush Limbaugh make a passing point on his radio show that struck me as exceptionally important. Why should we believe someone like Libby Schaaf shares our values on any other question of political philosophy or the “social contract,” if she doesn’t share that one?
How are we to place any faith in her intent to certify a lawful vote, for example? What is the basis for trusting her?
How can we trust her to faithfully enforce provisions of law she doesn’t like, in any realm? If she’d really rather expose other people’s children to material their parents oppose, could we trust her to adhere to the rules the state legislature has imposed for parental notification? The point is not whether that would come up in the course of her duties, as mayor of Oakland, but whether other officials for whom it does come up, and who share her progressive-left views, can be trusted to live under the law like the rest of us.
In more and more cases, we’ve been finding that public officials can’t be trusted in this regard. While I will readily agree that there are instances of public corruption involving money and crony favoritism on both sides of the political aisle, the insistence on ignoring the law for ideological policy purposes, or even actively thwarting its operation, is with very few exceptions a phenomenon of the progressive left.
Notice, for example, that the flamboyant and unspeakable (as his critics would have it) Donald Trump has made it his highest priority to adhere to the rule of law in his months-long effort to simply exercise his executive discretion over immigration regulation. What he has proposed to do with both temporary immigration restrictions and DACA is at least as lawful and within his proper powers as anything Obama (or other presidents) did by executive action. Legal experts from both sides of the political spectrum (e.g., here and here) have agreed on that, and agreed that judges ruling against him are overstepping their bounds and falling into error.
Trump has nevertheless patiently sought to make legal processes work, instead of proclaiming his own, ineffable moral intent to be the priority, and ignoring arbitrary judicial restraints that constitutional requirements don’t even impose on him. He has made the spirit of the rule of law his guide, rather than pushing the boundaries of what he can get away with.
Libby Schaaf is just one of a number of progressive local officials around America who refuse to do that. This is one of the biggest reasons it is increasingly impossible for the “poles” of the American polity to come together.
It’s about individual policy issues, yes. But it’s just as much about the fact that more and more political leaders on the progressive left evidently don’t share the most basic values of Americans, starting with the rule of law. Agreeing to be bound by the rule of law is about as basic as it gets.
You don’t sit down and try to compromise with someone you can’t trust to honor a bargain. Moreover, you don’t commit to be held to a bargain yourself, when doing so keeps putting you more at risk from people who don’t hold themselves to the same standard. That latter category includes both illegal migrants, and those who purport to advocate for them by flouting the laws of the United States.
That’s where we are in today’s America. It’s why more and more Americans refuse to agree that they need to compromise. Without being able to trust the people they’d be compromising with, there is no basis for making concessions. Libby Schaaf, hollering “Police!” on behalf of illegal migrants – some of whom, besides being convicted criminals, are literally members of vicious gangs – has proven in neon lights that the trust issue is valid.