The notion that Americans should trust their government is un-American. The very design of our constitution is premised on the idea that government cannot be trusted. The first Americans grudgingly ceded limited authority to a central government only as a means of carrying out the responsibilities that the states could not carry out individually.
As a condition of this grant of authority, however, these Americans insisted upon the separation of powers, a weak executive branch, and a bill of rights. And to remove any doubt about their intent, they punctuated the bill of rights with the Tenth Amendment which says, “The 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.”
The founders were all too familiar with the fragile nature of liberty, and they understood that government is its natural enemy. It would not surprise them that the government would monitor the communications of reporters, discriminate against the political opponents of those who are in power, or secretly gather information about virtually every phone call made by ordinary Americans. They would be dismayed, however, that Americans would tolerate this kind of abuse from their government.
Which brings us to the immigration reform bill now before Congress. The supporters of this bill have told us that if we just agree to legalize the 11 or 12 million people who are in this country illegally then we will finally have border security. Democrats have insisted, however, that amnesty come first. In other words, we will have to trust the government to implement the promised border security measures after amnesty has been granted.
The American solution to illegal immigration, though, should be based on distrust of government. The federal government has failed to secure our borders and to enforce our immigration laws for over forty years. Any “path to citizenship” for illegals should be conditioned upon full implementation of robust and effective security at our borders and upon giving state and local law enforcement concurrent jurisdiction to enforce federal immigration laws. And we should require that the same federal government that ignored the red flags sent up by the Tsarnaev brothers perform a meaningful background check on every person seeking citizenship.
It is a measure of how unaware we are of our own history that so many Americans are prepared to trust the federal government to enforce immigration laws, particularly when it has failed to do so for decades. We forget our distrustful heritage at our peril.