Editor’s note: South Carolina threatened to resist federal tariff acts of 1828 and 1832 and thereby “nullify” federal authority to pass national laws. President Andrew Jackson, a staunch state’s rights supporter and patron saint of the modern Democratic Party, nonetheless recognized such efforts would destroy the young nation and issued his Proclamation Regarding Nullification on Dec. 10, 1832. We wondered what his response would look like if amended slightly and edited down considerably to respond to the California declaration of being a sanctuary state along with dozens of other cities in the country recently.
The state of California has declared itself to be a Sanctuary State in contradiction of all federal law and authority.
The ordinance is founded on the strange position that any one state may not only declare an act of Congress null and void but prohibit its execution. California wants to assert that the true construction of the Constitution permits a state to retain its place in the union and be bound by none of its laws other than those it may choose to consider as constitutional.
It is evident that to give the right of resisting laws in such a manner, coupled with the uncontrolled right to decide what federal laws to follow, is to give each state the power to resist all federal laws.
If California considers federal immigration laws null and void, there would be a clear constitutional objection to enforcement in every state, and no immigration law could be enforced anywhere; for all federal law must be equally applied across the entire nation.
If this doctrine had been established at an earlier day, the union would have been dissolved in its infancy.
Article XIII of the Articles of Confederation states that “every State shall abide by the determinations of Congress on all questions which by that Confederation should be submitted to them.”
The most important objective in the Constitution was “to form a more perfect Union” than that which existed under the Confederation.
Is it possible that our Constitution, written and ratified to “form a more perfect Union,” could create a national government solely dependent for its existence on the local interest, the party spirit or a prevailing faction in a single state?
The power to annul a law of the United States, assumed by one state, incompatible with the existence of the union, contradicted expressly by the letter of the Constitution, unauthorized by its spirit, inconsistent with every principle on which It was founded, and destructive of the great object for which it was formed must be negated.
Our Constitution does not contain the absurdity of giving power to Congress to make laws and another power to the states to resist them.
The states ratified the Constitution knowing that a veto on the laws of the United States was not reserved to them to exercise by any application on federal law.
The Constitution gave the right of determining immigration law expressly to Congress, not each individual state. The states have no control over the exercise of this right other than changing congressional representatives through biannual elections.
The Constitution gave immigration policy power to the representatives of all the people, checked by the representatives of the states, and by the executive branch. California gives this power to the legislature, or the convention of a single state, where neither the people of the different states, nor the states in their separate capacity, nor the chief magistrate elected by all the people in the union, have any representation or say in the matter.
Whenever any law of the United States displeased any state, such as regarding abortion, taxation or environmental protection, and they acted to nullify it as California is doing now on federal immigration law, we would soon cease to be a nation.
The states have not retained their sovereignty. When they joined the union, they surrendered essential parts of their sovereignty such as the right to make treaties, declare war, levy taxes, exercise exclusive judicial and legislative powers, and make national immigration policy. The states are no longer sovereign.
The allegiance of their citizens was transferred to the government of the United States. They became American citizens first and owed primary obedience to the Constitution of the United States and to laws made in conformity with the powers vested in Congress.
Not the states.
The inclination of states such as California to declare themselves “Sanctuary States” and thereby nullify federal immigration law unilaterally must therefore be opposed and reversed.