I grew up hearing conservatives insist that their opposition to integration was not about racism. It was about states’ rights. They argued that the federal government had no business telling states how to manage themselves. They routinely claimed the 10thAmendment barred the federal government from requiring states to enforce federal mandates. Operation of schools and other public facilities were the purview of the states.
When marriage equality became the law of the land, conservatives made similar arguments. Here in North Carolina, in a move to snub their noses at federal overreach, conservatives in the legislature passed a law that allowed magistrates to opt out of marrying gay couples. It’s not about homophobia, they claimed, its about federal overreach and violations of states’ rights and religious freedom.
Then, this week, the conservatives in the North Carolina legislature passed a law that literally made state constitutional officers subservient to a federal agency. The bill would force sheriffs to do the work of Immigration and Customs Enforcement by holding people who have ICE detainers on them. Illegal entry or immigration is a federal misdemeanor and not subject to state law. If the bill is not about race or scoring political points, those conservatives should be requiring sheriffs to detain people who cheat on their taxes. That’s at least a felony.
The bill pulls the sheet off the whole states’ rights argument. It was never about the constitution or the 10thAmendment. It was about appealing to race and bigotry. It’s federal overreach if laws protect the rights of minorities. It’s about protecting communities if the laws target immigrants. It’s little more than shameless hypocrisy.
Fortunately, Roy Cooper vetoed the bill. He’ll almost certainly face political blowback for doing so. He shows far more political courage than the GOP in the legislature who’ve embraced political opportunism and divisiveness.
The response to his veto was swift. Just minutes after the veto, US Senator Thom Tillis (R-Shill) tweeted, “Gov. Cooper has vetoed a commonsense bill that protects communities from violent criminals who are here illegally. We cannot allow NC to be turned into a de-facto sanctuary state, which is why I’ve introduced the Justice For The Victims of Sanctuary Cities Act.” The bill he’s touting also runs roughshod over states’ rights. Shouting about states’ rights was all a scam.
The GOP under Trump has shown no core values other than fealty to tax cuts, deregulation and winning. And so much winning. After years of complaining that Obama and Democrats wouldn’t deal with the debt, the GOP tax cuts have more than tripled the deficit to $1 trillion and given us a debt of more than $22 trillion. After evangelizing about the necessity for free trade, they’ve embrace tariffs that are devastating parts of the economy and may have us heading for recession. And now, after 50 years of telling us it’s not about race but states’ rights, the GOP is inviting the federal government to usurp the power of our sheriffs to appeal to their anti-immigrant base. What a disgrace.
Thomas Mills is the founder and publisher of PoliticsNC.com. Before beginning PoliticsNC, Thomas spent twenty years as a political and public affairs consultant. Learn more >