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ICE ICE Baby
Leave it to Bend to wait until I’m out of town to make the biggest national news it’s made since that dude got pregnant. On Wednesday, agents from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (aka, ICE) detained two men, apparently immigrants, in Bend. Word got around and when internet access, parenting and RV utility management allowed, I noticed a lot of people posting on social media about a big immigration raid and roundup going on in Bend. Elected officials and others posted things like “this can’t happen in my town.” Someone stood in front of the white buses being used by the feds and a crowd gathered around the buses, keeping them from leaving.
Well, it turns out that ICE detained a grand total of two (2) men in Bend on Wednesday, and ICE says it had warrants for both arrests, and the men had a history of violent crime, including assault. I haven’t seen the warrants and I don’t, at this writing, know the identities of the men. But for our purposes, let’s assume that at the very least these men were in the country illegally, even if there were no other crimes at issue. If that were the case, then ICE would be doing the job it exists to perform – to enforce federal immigration laws – by detaining these men.
I have to be honest with you that I dislike immigration politics. It’s not an issue I care particularly deeply about, on either side, and it seems to bring out the worst in people. But I do think that Congress is empowered and also has the responsibility to set the criteria upon which someone can lawfully be in the U.S. And if Congress passes a bill and it’s signed by the President, then that’s a law and the laws should be enforced, whether I think they’re good or bad laws. The branch of the federal government that enforces laws is the executive branch, and ICE is a part of the executive branch that enforces immigration laws.
And Congress has indeed seen fit to regulate immigration, more or less for the entirety of American history. And executive branches under all presidents have enforced those laws. Barack Obama’s administration deported more than 2.5 million immigrants, the most ever, and more than the cumulative total of all deportations in the 20th century.
There appears to be little interest in Congress to allow anyone who wants in to come in. Even the Democrat-controlled U.S. House has not passed any meaningful reform legislation that would materially open the doors to more immigration. There appears to be a tacit consensus in D.C. to leave things more or less the way they are, at least for now.
What the Bend protesters ought to be doing, if they believe that immigration laws should not be enforced in Bend, is to petition their members of Congress to grant amnesty to anyone who is here now, and to eliminate barriers to lawful immigration going forward. This would eliminate the need for ICE and their sensibilities would not be offended by the sight of federal agents enforcing federal law.
The alternative, to rebel against the enforcement of those laws, invites the executive branch (at present headed by Donald Trump, likely not a protester favorite) to pick and choose the laws it enforces. This massively increases the power of the executive branch vis a vis Congress, the branch that is most directly tied to the will of the people. Imagine if President Trump caved to the will of right-wing protesters and ceased enforcing the Affordable Care Act in, say, Twin Falls, Idaho. As much as I think the ACA stinks as health policy, this would be a really bad outcome for our country.
That those who oppose the detention of individuals allegedly in the country illegally have not prevailed in changing the law is a reasonable indication that a lot of Americans, perhaps most Americans, disagree with them. Until they prevail in changing the law, we will and should continue to see the law enforced, even occasionally in Bend.
Oregon’s a big state
As you read this, the Eager family is driving an RV from Wallowa Lake, Oregon back home to Bend. This past Sunday, we drove that RV from Lincoln City to Wallowa Lake, a distance of some 420 miles, all driven within the state of Oregon. If you drove approximately that same distance from Washington, D.C., you could arrive at your choice of Boston, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina or Columbus, Ohio. You’d travel between well-defined regions (mid-Atlantic to New England, the South or the Midwest). In Oregon, you just go from the coast to eastern Oregon via Portland and the Columbia River Gorge, sub-regions out here that would be entire cultural regions (encompassing innumerable states) back East. Eastern Oregon itself is so huge and diverse that it really makes no sense as a cohesive geographic area, except as the eastern two-thirds of the area contained within the arbitrary political boundaries of a state called Oregon.
At the founding, sub-regional political communities along the eastern seaboard were divided into states, each with a large degree of autonomy from, and representation within, the new federal government. By the time Oregon became a state, some 75 years later, America was more interested in bringing states with huge land areas but small populations into the fold. As a result, we have places as different as D.C., Boston, Myrtle Beach and Columbus all thrown into the same state. The awkwardness of that arrangement is on full display now, as the State of Oregon seeks to supplant its own judgment for that of highly disparate communities with regard to the response to COVID-19.
The disease has impacted different parts of Oregon very differently, and local governments across the state have responded differently, to the degree they are allowed. Before the Governor announced that schools can’t open until certain thresholds have been met, Bend-La Pine School District (with its own elected board of directors) had determined it was safe to open for in-person instruction for grade schools kids, and hybrid instruction for older kids. Not anymore, and Bend-La Pine is hardly alone. The decisions of local governments around this big ol’ state have been routinely supplanted by Governor Brown’s own opinions since this pandemic began. Oregon law requires each county to have public health and infectious disease experts, yet these experts have been overridden or just plain ignored time and time again by state decisions. Why have local elected officials and require local public health experts if their wishes are to be supplanted by distant decision-makers when stuff really counts? Why tie reopening of schools in Deschutes County to statewide, rather than just local, infection rates?
States aren’t bound to the same federal structure the United States is – local governments are organs of the state government, whereas the federal government is an amalgamation of states that in some cases predated the Constitution. However, on Covid and other issues, the State of Oregon would be much better off if it left more decisions to local decision-makers, who are more immediately politically accountable to voters and who are more in-tune to the situation in their communities. One of the reasons Americans feel increasingly disenchanted with government is that in many cases, the government making decisions is increasingly remote and detached from their communities. One of the reasons we see serial recall attempts against the Governor is that people in far-flung places in our state feel that their wishes are ignored, and their plight at best poorly understood and at worst regarded as an unfortunate, retrograde appendage to the bold sociopolitical experiment that is Portland.
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EagerLaw PC – A business and real property law firm in Bend, Oregon.
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