SAN DIEGO – California has gone rogue. More specifically, Democrats in the Golden State have turned renegade against the federal government. Like spoiled children upset that they didn’t get their way, they insist they will not follow any order from Washington that they disagree with.
As a Generation X’er who majored in American history in college, I always wanted to live in the 1960s. Now I’m there. The New West has become the Old South. With a new president threatening to get tough on illegal immigration, California Democrats are blocking the jailhouse door.
The day after the election, state Senate leader Kevin de León and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon vowed to fight Donald Trump at every turn.
“We are not going to allow one election to reverse generations of progress,” they said in a joint statement.
Yes, you must be careful with the unpleasantness of democracy.
Other lawmakers have announced bills that would provide publicly funded attorneys to defend illegal immigrants, refuse to help the federal government compile a registry of Muslim immigrants, and prohibit cities and counties from contracting with private companies to detain immigrants.
How do you like that? If Democrats from the Left Coast wanted to act like a president, they should have put in for the job. All they had to do was challenge Hillary Clinton for the party’s nomination, and endure the underhanded dirty tricks that torpedoed Bernie Sanders.
Still, there is a palpable fear in immigrant communities in California and around the country that the Trump administration will attack them, divide them, pick on them, turn them into scapegoats – all because of politics.
But where have these folks been? Those communities have been ravaged for the last eight years by President Obama who – in order to please blue-collar workers who hate competing with immigrants for jobs – broke his promise to deliver immigration reform, deported nearly 3 million people, and broke up hundreds of thousands of families. For an encore, Obama indefinitely locked up Central American refugees – mostly women and children – in detention facilities without access to legal counsel.
As this horror was unfolding, most liberals said … nothing.
At least one of those refugee camps was in California, and I remember when a group of state legislators was given a tour. One Latina lawmaker told a reporter how disturbing it was. Yet given that Obama was essentially the landlord of those properties, she wasn’t disturbed enough to publicly condemn the leader of her own party.
But when Trump was elected president, everything changed. This being the home of Hollywood, Democrats are casting themselves as the saviors of immigrants and acting like they care about people they’ve never cared about. California is ready for its close-up. It wants to be the un-Trump, the anti-Trump, the counterweight to anything that even hints of Trump.
Take Trump’s promise to build a “big beautiful wall” along the U.S.-Mexico border – albeit one with what right-wingers will likely consider a construction defect, namely a door to allow legal entry to some of those who are deported, as well as some first-time crossers.
Immigration restrictionists don’t see the point in removing illegal immigrants only to bring them back with the proper paperwork. That’s no way to achieve the real goal: stopping the Latinization of America.
The president-elect has also scaled down his vision for the barrier itself, acknowledging now that it won’t cover the entire length of the border (nearly 2,000 miles) and that it’ll probably be a wall-fence hybrid. In other words, those Trump voters who are counting on concrete and barbed-wire to make America white again should brace themselves for what they’ll probably get: “Wall Lite.”
Even still, California Democrats aren’t about to let pass the opportunity to make political points of their own – with Latinos, immigration reformers, liberals, Trump haters – by drawing a line in the sand over the wall.
So they’ve proposed a bill that would prevent the federal government from building a wall along the California portion of the U.S.-Mexico border without the approval of California voters.
The idea is loony – and a little late. At that portion of the border, you already see triple-fencing and other barriers that were installed by Democratic presidents – Obama and Bill Clinton – with no objection from California Democrats.
Thanks to the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution, Americans know how this movie ends. When state officials tangle with the federal government, they tend to lose. For those of us who believe in federalism, that’s a good thing.
Ruben Navarrette’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.