Terrified children in cages. Black-clad ICE agents coldly patrolling the perimeter of the yard like medieval footmen guarding a castle. Parents weeping in fear for the safety of their flesh and blood, a sweat-drenched lot that awaits word of their ultimate fate here in the Land of the Free. Legions of tempest-tossed tired and poor, huddled in fear regarding the fate of themselves and their children while caged away in the Home of the Brave.
The pictures are inescapable. So too the commentary, with some pointing out the vast and inexcusable injustice being done to those who pose no threat and to whom the basic necessities of due process have been callously denied. They labor in restoring the humanity to a debate that sees precious little of it. However, the reasoned response of the humane finds itself being drown out on social media by the Law and Order crowd, demanding that the violent separation of children from their parents is the inevitable result of violating The Law, and that nobody, but nobody, should expect to escape the judgment of The Law, as The Law is immutable, sacrosanct, and final, the final moral judge of We the People, amen.
Try as I might, I can’t dredge up a more morally bankrupt and factually incorrect stance. Every business day in this country, in pillar-fronted government buildings in almost every state in the Union, The Law is removed from its place, examined, plucked apart, taped together, reapplied, misapplied, twisted, bent, and shaped in an almost infinite number of ways. From day to day, The Law changes in sometimes minute, sometimes large ways, shifting and rearranging from one moment to the next like waves on the ocean. Some changes are well-meaning, meant to right a wrong or end an injustice, while others are done to meet baser ends, but every change is subject to state-appointed or elected gatekeepers to who is given the awesome responsibility of applying morality and finding justice.
Gatekeepers like Robert Frederick Collins. Appointed by Jimmy Carter in 1978, Judge Collins served on the bench of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana for over a dozen years until 1990, when he split a $100,000 bribe to lessen the sentence of a convicted smuggler. Himself weighed down by a five-year sentence in federal prison, Collins’s moral compass wasn’t repaired while in the state’s custody, as it took the threat of imminent impeachment to loosen the judgeship (and the $120,000 annual taxpayer-funded salary) from his grip more than two full years later. Clearly, only Collins knows for sure, but the prospect of continuing to bilk the American taxpayer out of six figures while getting three hots and a cot in Club Fed at the same time may have been what prompted his Cheshire Cat grin during his sentencing.
These gatekeepers can only deal with the laws before them, as they are to a great extent hemmed in by precedent and statute. The task of drafting, weighing, and approving statutes rest with the legislature, a body that, at least on the national level, enjoys a near-total disapproval rating but is staffed by people with positions that are theirs generally for as long as they wish to have them.
People like Louisiana Congressman William J. Jefferson. Seated in the Senate just as Collins was being sentenced in 1991, Jefferson triggered suspicion in 2005 when the FBI videotaped him accepting bags full of Benjamins for influencing the United States Army to test products made by iGate, his illicit benefactor. The FBI says that Jefferson also acted as a middleman between iGate and high-ups in the governments of Cameroon, Ghana, and Nigeria, where he was paid to convince them to test iGate’s products as well. Ultimately the FBI says Jefferson may have accepted up to $1 million in payment for using his elected position in the Senate for the naked influence of a commercial endeavor.
Of course, these two are just a few of a legion of examples of men and women who declare and define The Law. This space is entirely too limited to detail the cases of all those whose moral and ethical failings have been documented, and that rogues gallery is likely dwarfed by the legions of those whose moral lapses have never been documented and never will be.
But the inescapable point is that there is absolutely nothing sacrosanct about The Law. Citing The Law as the foundation of one’s morality is adopting the ethics and values of those who have all too often proven to have absolutely no qualms with cheating, lying, and stealing, and who have all too often legitimized such actions in The Law itself.
Further, as has been done so many times since this debate began, using The Law as a final redoubt to retreat to when all other rational, moral, and logical arguments are destroyed is the act of moral bankruptcy that has kicked off atrocities too numerous to name in human history. The Law has been wielded like a club by tyrants of all ages as a thought-terminating bludgeon to smash freedom with force gilded in legitimacy. Even if founded in the purest of motives, the morality of The Law is almost always ripped away from the body early on, leaving it standing naked and bold in its tyranny.
If there is any morality in law, it is only by the purest accident of coincidence, and no such happy accident is anywhere to be found in the regime of the United States immigration law. Defending the consequences of violating The Law as somehow morally permissible or justified is a dangerous and deadly undertaking, brazen and proud in its moral bankruptcy. Defending the caging of peaceful people and the sequestration of children from their non-violent parents with the crumpled fig leaf of The Law is an act of total moral divorce that free people must always condemn should they ever hope to see the buds of liberty blossom.