The politics surrounding the new immigration law in Arizona is heating up now that the Justice Department has filed suit against Arizona on the grounds of preemption. The lawsuit states that the U.S. Constitution grants the federal government the right to regulate certain matters that affect the country as a whole, including immigration.
Specifically, the lawsuit states, "In our constitutional system, the federal government has pre-eminent authority to regulate immigration matters. This authority derives from the United States Constitution and numerous acts of Congress. The nation's immigration laws reflect a careful and considered balance of national law enforcement, foreign relations, and humanitarian interests." In other words, in the end, federal rights trump state rights.
This works when the federal government keeps in mind that large issues affect individual states differently, and sometimes more dramatically, and can't be levied exactly the same with positive results. When states' rights are ignored, what we're left with is a benevolent dictatorship, regardless of how noble the reason. Legal American citizens can't be ignored out of hand by the federal government, in order to pursue other agendas, and that's what's been happening in Arizona. Citizens on both sides of the fence are frustrated and fed up because no one is listening.
Filing suit may not change their feelings. A better approach might be to practice the transparency and inclusion that was promised during the primaries and election. Rather than shutting out the voices that one side or the other doesn't agree with, we could invite them all to join in the process. I can guarantee that it will be noisy, angry and raucous from every angle, both conservative and liberal. At times, it will seem pointless, and as if we're getting nowhere. However, there is a lot of American history we can look back at and see that it was when we became willing to listen to each other and try that we also found solutions.
It's the way the country started. Jefferson and Adams, two brilliant minds, took turns alternately working things out and despising each other. It's true that any elected government officials who choose to join in the democratic process will probably get wounded by a few of the slings and arrows, and may even find that getting reelected is a tougher road. But if that's why they're holding back from letting every citizen even participate in decisions that affect them, then that boat has probably sailed already anyway.
So, this is a call to everyone who has an opinion on this matter to try a contrary action and invite everyone to the table. Include both Attorney General Eric Holder and Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer as well as those citizens who feel discriminated against for the lack of a law or because there's one that exists. Leave the pundits, who have become bullies whose existence is bound to just stirring up trouble, at home.
Imagine if we did this more often with the premise that we are there to listen as if our minds could be changed and we're willing to compromise even if it's going to hurt just a little. Somehow, we have become a nation who relies on politics more than policy-making and we seem to be in a permanent election cycle where rhetoric is more important than conversation. Conversation requires back and forth, some amount of respect for differing views and a baseline of honesty.
This isn't one-sided either. Elements of both conservative and liberal factions have turned to antics and it threatens to become our norm. However, this is where we can choose to change things and it starts by coming together. Don't wait for someone else to give you permission to have a meeting. Our right to congregate is protected as well. Invite all of the voices to be at the table and lean out a little further with the invitation to make sure they're represented. Trust that a compromise that benefits everyone without making one side or the other carry too much of the burden exists and talk it out with that idea in mind.
We are better in this country than the talking heads are making us out to be. Frankly, I got a lot of e-mails from readers this week after writing about the Arizona law. Most of it didn't agree with my stance that more legal residents are going to get stopped and asked for proof of citizenship. However, most everyone was looking for a discussion, and only one resorted to name-calling. That's progress.
Martha's column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc., newspaper syndicate. E-mail her at: Martha@caglecartoons.com.