The linked article, originally from the Los Angeles Times, challenges the authority of Governor Greg Abbott of Texas to return illegal immigrants back to Mexico. Governor Abbott is reportedly developing a plan to do this in anticipation of the Biden administration revoking Title 42, which is a Covid-era rule established to limit immigration.
The linked article makes the argument that immigration and border security are responsibilities delegated to the Federal Government by the Constitution, and therefore the individual states are preempted from usurping that responsibility.
That is nominally true, but it reveals an interesting aspect of States’ Rights. Normally, the principle of States’ Rights is invoked when the Federal Government oversteps its constitutionally constrained authority. But what should happen when the Federal Government fails to execute the responsibilities it has been delegated, especially when the failure creates enormous hardship for a particular state?
Common sense suggests that the state impacted by the failure of the Federal Government to execute its responsibilities has a moral and political duty to protect the interests of its own citizens, even if it means acting in place of the derelict federal authorities.
It is clear to any reasonable observer of the border crisis that the Federal Government has lost control of the situation. Hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants are pouring across the border, including fentanyl drug runners, convicted criminals, and international thugs registered in the Terrorist Screening Database. To make matters worse, the Biden administration is on the verge of reversing Title 42, the consequence of which will be an even bigger tidal wave of illegal immigration.
What is happening on our southern border can fairly be described as an invasion, an invasion that the Federal Government has failed to resolve and is about to make worse. One of the fundamental roles assigned to the Federal Government in our federalist political structure is to secure our borders to protect our states and our people from foreign assault. Washington hasn’t just failed in this responsibility; Washington has simply abdicated it.
In such a situation, Governor Abbott has the clear right, and the clear responsibility, to step into the void and protect the citizens of his state. The Federal Government may indignantly claim that this violates the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution, but that claim rings hollow when the root cause of the crisis is their failure to perform their own constitutional duties. Someone must protect the states and citizens of this country from foreign assault. It is comforting to know that some governors are taking ownership of this responsibility and have the courage to step up to the plate. We need more of them.