My Turn — John O’Rourke: No common misconceptions about sanctuary communities here


Tuesday, May 08, 2018

The “Safe (Sanctuary) Community” article on the warrant of the Town of Conway Special Town Meeting on Oct. 30, 2017, may not have been debated at that meeting but has sparked some lively and interesting debate since then.

One of those contributions was by Ms. Dolores Root in her My Turn: “Common Misconceptions About Safe Communities” in the December 16, 2017, Recorder. I can assure Ms. Root that I am not under any misperceptions about the illegal alien issue.

The reference by Ms. Root to the anti-commandeering doctrine established by the Printz v. United States majority decision written by Justice Scalia is misused in this context. While the Court decided that this doctrine bars Congress from “imposing duties on state and local government officials” (“commandeering”), Justice Stevens, in writing the minority decision, points out that there is no language in the Constitution that “a local police officer can ignore a command contained in a statute enacted by Congress.” Local government and law enforcement officials, through their oaths of office to support and defend the Constitution, have a moral, ethical and legal duty to enforce, or cooperate in the enforcement of all laws, including federal immigration laws.

Let us put aside the supposed opposing crime statistics about illegal aliens; the emotional and irrational arguments for aliens illegally entering or in the United States; the serious distortions of the liberal narrative on this issue; and address the basics.

There are two basic classes of violations of our immigration laws: (1) An alien who has illegally entered the United States by crossing the border at other than an authorized port of entry has violated the law by “improper entry” or “entry without inspection (EWI).” This is a criminal offense, initially a misdemeanor, the penalty for which is a fine, up to 6 months incarceration and deportation or removal for the first offense and, if repeated, a felony, the penalty for which is a fine, up to two years incarceration and deportation or removal. (2) An alien who has legally entered the United States through the temporary, non-immigrant visa program for a designated purpose (travel, work, student, etc.) for a specific time and overstays his/her temporary, non-immigrant visa has violated the law and the offense is “unlawful presence.” This is a civil offense the penalty for which is deportation or removal.

The Rule of Law

The U.S. Constitution embodies the concept of the “rule of law,” a primary reason and fundamental principle for the status of the United States as the most successful society in the history of the world. The Massachusetts Constitution of 1780 drafted by John Adams and predating the U.S. Constitution of 1787 is based on “government of laws and not of men” and is the foundation of the “rule of law” in the United States.

Closely aligned to the principle of the “rule of law” is the principle of the law of contracts. The strict practice of honoring moral and legal contractual obligations is another important foundation of a successful society. When the United States issues a temporary, non-immigrant visa it is a contract between an alien and the citizens of the United States that he/she has been granted the privilege of being in our country for a designated purpose for a specific time. Overstaying that temporary, non-immigrant visa is a violation of that contract. American citizens operate under and honor many contracts on a daily basis. For example, many of us have a contract with our bank involving our home that is called a mortgage. If one fails to meet the obligation under that contract, no matter how good or well-intentioned one is, the eventual consequence would be eviction from the property; a civil remedy. It makes no sense to permit aliens to dishonor their temporary, non-immigrant visa contracts without consequence.

The Kingdom of Conway

We do not live in the Kingdom of Conway, totally autonomous and independent; we exist in an integrated system of federal, Commonwealth and local laws and operate under the principle of the rule of law. The idea that the citizens of the Town of Conway would vote for a bylaw that sends a message to illegal aliens who have improperly entered our country or who are temporary, non-immigrant residents who have overstayed their temporary, nonimmigrant visas that it is not only alright to violate our laws and dishonor their contractual obligations but that we would also actively protect them from the enforcement of those laws and contractual obligations enacted by the duly elected representatives of our constitutional republic, whether the penalty is criminal or civil, is seriously misguided; ridiculous on its face; contrary to the rule of law; in violation of Article VI of the US Constitution, the Supremacy Clause; and, I would go so far as to say, seditious.

I am a United States Marine. I served as an infantry officer in Fleet Marine Force (FMF) ground combat units that were ready at a moment’s notice to deploy anywhere in the world to protect the national interests of the United States. Consequently, I take national and local security very seriously and, considering the high level of criminal and terrorist threats to our country, strongly support the strict enforcement of immigration laws at every level of government.

I would like to see all the enthusiasm, efforts and money being spent to shield illegal aliens from the law in sanctuary communities being spent to help our veterans, the men and women who have stepped up to defend our country, our laws and our citizens, especially those severely wounded, those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), the estimated 50,000 that are homeless, and the families of those who have died for us.

John P. O’Rourke is the chairman of the Board of Selectmen for the Town of Conway; the Chair of the Council of the Franklin Regional Council of Governments, on the Board of Directors of the Massachusetts Municipal Association and appointed by Gov. Baker as one of eight selectmen to serve on the Local Government Advisory Commission.