Lawlessness

After reading vague but menacing warnings about civil disobedience or even violence in reaction to the president’s executive action on immigration, Josh Marshall asked TPM readers for suggestions of what that might look like. He got an instant winner from a reader in Arizona:

My suggestion for what civil disobedience should look like is to move to Phoenix, trade their imitation Army rifles for shovels, and do a protest march through the residential subdivisions, pulling weeds as they go.

They should march into restaurant kitchens, offering to wash dishes for free. Or volunteer to man the drive through at any of a hundred fast food joints. Maybe ask a California cabbage farmer if they have anything needs harvesting. Those are the jobs illegal immigrants might be taking away.

This is not only funny and apt, but it also offers a reminder that the people shrieking about Obama’s “tyranny” really don’t have a lot of standing to complain. The people Obama provided temporary relief to last night about aren’t going to be receiving additional government benefits, but will more surely pay taxes. They aren’t taking away “American jobs,” and could now actually help boost wages for everybody.

As for the supposed offense to the Majesty of the Law that some opponents are shouting about, let’s don’t be fooled: it’s the status quo that is lawless, and not just because, as Obama emphasized last night, people who cannot be prosecuted effectively already enjoy “amnesty.” More fundamentally, a system with a 10.6 million-person gap between the number of undocumented and the number that can be deported is one in which the exercise of arbitrary power and regular injustices are guaranteed. Unless they are willing to bite the bullet and set up a regime designed to deport all these people, then it’s lawlessness they are endorsing–even and perhaps particularly if it’s designed to terrorize people into “self-deportation.”

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.