GOLDHABER: The unequal justice of immigration law

FILE - Migrants waiting to cross into the United States wait for news at the border crossing Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2021, in Tijuana, Mexico. A federal appellate court refused late Thursday, Aug. 19 to delay implementation of a judge’s order reinstating a Trump administration policy forcing thousands to wait in Mexico while seeking asylum in the U.S. President Joe Biden had suspended former President Donald Trump’s “Remain in Mexico” policy on his first day in office and the Department of Homeland Security said it was permanently terminating the program in June, according to the court record. (AP Photo/Elliot Spagat)

In days of old, the law was suborned to the wishes of kings and nobility — regular people would petition for redress or favors, and if they liked you, you might get something like justice. 

The unfairness inherent in such a system was part of what spurred the American Revolution — one of the key beliefs of our founding fathers was that our nation should be ruled by law, not the arbitrary whims of powerful men. It was a revolutionary idea that is now common sense; everyone should have equal protections under impartial and fair laws. 

Sadly, this is looking more and more like an antiquated notion. In 2022 America, your rights and protections often depend on your ability to petition elites. This disparity between the connected and everyone else has been thrown into stark relief with the recent immigration battles, as Govs. Greg Abbott of Texas and Ron DeSantis of Florida transported illegal immigrants who had crossed the border directly to liberal cities, causing a hysterical reaction from media and elites. 

In Martha’s Vineyard, a place where the residents voted to declare themselves a sanctuary city, and thus by their own stated belief no laws were broken, in under 24 hours the National Guard was deployed by the governor to move all of the illegal immigrants to a Cape Cod Joint Base.  

Contrast this with the Greensboro school that the DHS has purchased and is turning into a center for unaccompanied immigrant children: The federal government ignored requests for information from the duly-elected representatives of the state to provide information on how the facility would be managed. 

They arguably misled these very same officials by stating that they had no plans to open a facility, a little over a year before they announced they would actually settle people in Greensboro, as Rep. Rocahrd Hudson and others pointed out in an open letter: “The decision to now resettle … in Greensboro directly contradicts what you said previously and comes as a complete surprise to us and our constituencies.”   

They failed to inform local officials of pertinent details, whether that be the cost, how the center will be securely and safely operated, etc. As a Guilford County spokesperson remarked, “Since it’s all federally run, our knowledge is fairly limited here in the County Manager’s Office.” 

The problem is the ideology underpinning big government liberalism. By outsourcing crucial decisions to appointed officials and career bureaucrats, virtue value-laden political judgments are inevitably made by people. Extremely fallible people who are susceptible to lobbying and special petitions by their friends, political allies or, often, donors. Having the right connections and access to the right levers of power is the biggest factor in determining whether the government goes out of its way to engage with your concerns, or whether it’s ignored in favor of its own plans.  

In the case of immigration policy, for far too long the real policy of the federal government has been to ignore concerns from border towns and states, call them closet racists for being concerned about the thousands of deaths happening with illegal border crossings, and implicitly keeping immigrants far away from the towns and lives of the rich politicos.  

That’s not equal treatment under the law. 

A just immigration ethos looks like one where every city and county is treated equally, whether they are on the border or not, and whether or not they are known for being a retreat for the rich and famous.  

This type of common-sense federal immigration policy that admits immigrants based on merit, coupled with actual enforcement of our existing immigration laws across the board, would go a long way to reestablishing the principle that, as John Adams said, we have a government of laws, not men. 

Ben Goldhaber is a North Carolinian entrepreneur and small business owner.