Fundamental Transformation, Part 1:
A Nation of Laws becomes a Nation of Selective Enforcement

By John D. Turner
1 Jan 2016

In 1974, Congress enacted the National Maximum Speed Law, as part of the Federal 1974 Emergency Highway Energy Conservation Act. This law, which prohibited highway speeds higher than 55 miles per hour, was written in response to the 1973 OPEC oil embargo, which caused serious supply and demand disruptions here in the United States. The 55 mph speed limit was seen as a way to conserve gasoline; expectations were that gasoline consumption would decline by 2.2% and thereby limit the effects on the economy.

The law was extremely unpopular, both with the driving public, and by most of the states. What might have been just fine in small, eastern states where traffic was fairly congested to begin with was far less than optimal in the wide-open western states. Believe me you haven’t lived until you have tried to cross the state of Texas on Interstate 10 at 55 mph. At 878.6 miles, it takes right at 16 hours to drive at 55 mph. That of course, assumes no traffic jams and no stops for gas, food, or other “necessary pit stops.”

But as unpopular as the law was, it was the law, and even after the oil crisis was well behind us, the 55 mph speed limit remained. The new rationale, so the government told us, was that “55 saves lives.” It wasn’t until 1995 that the law was finally repealed.

So how did the federal government manage to keep the states, which historically set their own speed limits, in line with the federal law that most of them didn’t like? They threatened them with cutting off their federal highway funding if they didn’t comply. The United States is a nation that follows the rule of law, right? And the 55 mph speed limit was a federal law.

On Tuesday, 20 October 2015, a bill that would have cracked down on what have been termed “sanctuary cities” was blocked in the Senate by Democrats who filibustered the measure. Republicans were unable to muster the needed 60 votes to advance the bill, and it failed on a 54-45 vote.

The bill would have “withheld certain federal funds” from some 340 cities and jurisdictions that are currently flouting federal immigration law by refusing to turn over illegal immigrants to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Of course, it wouldn’t have mattered even if it did somehow pass through the Senate; the President has already vowed to veto the bill if it ever crosses his desk. Immigration law, you see, is one of those laws that our current President has decided not to enforce.

And so it is that the United States, in 2015, is apparently no longer a nation of laws, but rather, a nation of selective enforcement. One wonders exactly how long a nation which can no longer enforce its immigration laws or control its borders can possibly expect to endure. One also wonders how long a nation of selective legal enforcement, dependent solely upon the whims of its chief executive, can continue to consider itself to be a free society.

Back in the day of the National Maximum Speed Law, states or jurisdictions wishing to ignore the law and to establish their own speed limits in excess of 55 mph were told, in no uncertain terms, that if they did so they would lose their federal highway funding. Today, 340 cities and jurisdictions have given the big middle finger to federal immigration law, and a bill to smack them down, using the same mechanism, can’t even get through the Senate, and would be vetoed by the President if it did.

The 55 mph speed limit was retained, as long as it was, on the premise that it “saved lives.” How quaint! As if lives matter anymore. (Well, except for black lives, that is). American “sanctuary cities” today are refusing to hand over criminals, rapists, and murderers. Obviously, American lives don’t matter.

The legislation that failed was driven in no small part by the 1 July murder of Kate Steinle, a 32-year old American citizen who was shot to death by a 45-year old Mexican national, illegally residing in the U.S., and previously deported five times for multiple felonies, who was released from a San Francisco County Jail without being turned over to federal immigration authorities. Democrats in the Senate were unmoved by this totally avoidable tragedy.

Senator Dick Durbil, D-Ill, argued that the bill would not have prevented Steinle’s death. Instead, what it does, according to Durbin, is to scapegoat an entire community because of the violent acts of a few, and is “dangerous and irresponsible.”

Harry Reid, D-NV, called the legislation “vile,” saying that “it might as well be called ‘The Donald Trump Act.’ Like the disgusting and outrageous language championed by Donald Trump, this legislation paints all immigrants as ‘criminals and rapists.’”

The legislation would also have created a mandatory minimum prison sentence of five years for anyone re-entering the United States illegally after having been convicted of a felony. This of course, was also roundly criticized. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) for example, weighed in on the issue with this sage piece of advice:

“It makes no sense to create new mandatory minimums for existing federal crimes that would inevitably require prison construction or illegal overcrowding in the current prison system.”

So we shouldn’t enact legislation (or, presumably, enforce current laws) if the result is that we have to build more prisons to house the criminals?

I also find it interesting that there is no problem using the word “illegal” when associating it with the word “overcrowding”, with reference to prisons, but associating the word “illegal” with the word “immigration” seems to be something that is beyond the capability of our elected officials to comprehend. Witness the fact that time after time, when discussing this piece of legislation, Democrats elected to the Senate insist on using the word “immigration” without the qualifier “illegal”, even though the legislation has to do with illegal immigration and not immigration in general. What possible benefit would a “sanctuary city” provide to a legal immigrant to America?

Senator Robert Menendez, D-NJ, called the bill a “stubborn, relentless and shameful assault against immigrants,” adding that “this is nothing more than an offensive, anti-immigrant bill.” Nancy Pelosi, D-CA, chimed in with “this bill isn’t intended to solve the problem but rather to demonize immigrants and appease the angry, anti-immigrant, Donald Trump-Steve King wing of the Republican Party.” Harry Reid, D-NV, as previously noted, claimed that “this legislation paints all immigrants as criminals and rapists.”

The White House, in its threat to veto the bill should it pass, stated “the bill would essentially turn the state and local law enforcement into federal immigration law enforcement officials in certain circumstances.” So, what the President seems to be saying is that local law enforcement officials should not be required to enforce laws passed by the federal government – at least, not immigration laws anyway.

By that logic (or lack thereof), I guess that with regard to the national 55 mph speed limit then, local cops should have just let speeders go. It should have been up to the federal police to enforce the national 55 mph speed limit. Likewise, states should not have to enforce the federal drug statutes either; that should be up to the DEA. Ditto all other federal legislation.

But then again, federal law enforcement is declining to enforce federal law in this case, so go figure. What is the point of passing a law anyway, if the executive branch refuses to enforce?

When I was a kid, my parents told me that what was important wasn’t what I said I was going to do, but in fact, what I actually did. And what I see today with a dismayingly large percentage of our elected officials is that, the oath of office seems to be merely a historical formality, required to be mouthed, but meaningless in its application.

They swear to uphold and defend the Constitution – but then claim that the Constitution is a “living, breathing document” that means whatever they want it to mean at any particular time. They claim they uphold and defend the document – except for the parts that they disagree with or feel are “out dated” in society today. They are firm believers in the parts that agree with their ideology, or that further their cause, but not so much with the other parts.

For example, they are champions of “free speech” when it comes to speech supporting them or their beliefs, but not so much when it comes to opposing views. They believe firmly in freedom of religion – as long as you check those beliefs at the door when leaving your house of worship. They are staunch supporters of the freedom to keep and bear arms – for their body guards and the gendarmerie, not for you the private citizen.

As far as the ninth and tenth amendments are concerned, I don’t think most of them have ever heard of those, except as numbers. Certainly many think they were OBE after the War Between the States. Most seem to think that the “general welfare clause” or the “interstate commerce clause” grant them the power to pretty much do anything they like.

We have presidents, like George W. Bush, who sign legislation into law, believing it to be unconstitutional, but relying on the Supreme Court to “clean up the mess” after the fact, with disastrous results. I refer in this case to “campaign finance reform”. Then we have presidents who simply don’t care if it is constitutional or not, and Supreme Court justices who have the opportunity to make the right decision – the constitutional decision that they have taken an oath to make, but who decide instead to be too clever by half. I refer in this instance to President Obama, Obamacare and Chief Justice Roberts.

Then there are those who have delegated (illegally) their power of lawmaking to faceless bureaucrats who write regulations that have the force of law by regulatory agencies under the executive branch, effectively granting the executive branch the power to make and enforce “laws”, which is clearly a violation of the separation of powers, but to which everyone turns a blind eye.

What is the difference between Congress passing a law that says you can’t do something with your property and specifying a fine and jail term if you do, and the EPA writing a regulation that says you can’t do something with your property and specifying a fine and jail term if you do? Both carry equal weight. Both affect you in exactly the same way. Just because you call one a “law” and one a “regulation” doesn’t make them any different. In fact, the regulation is even more pernicious. The law is enacted by elected officials who can be replaced at the voting booth. The regulation just happens – with no recourse.

If it walks like an alligator, and acts like an alligator, and looks like an alligator, then for all practical intents and purposes, it is an alligator – even if it just so happens to actually be a crocodile; the end results to the victim are exactly the same.

Steinle, and others like her, such as Josh Wilkerson, who was beaten, strangled, and burned to death by a man who was brought here illegally as a child by his illegal parents, are just collateral damage in a much broader strategy being orchestrated by progressives on both sides; people who are willingly misrepresenting the facts in order to carry out their own private agendas.

Get used to it. This is what happens when a nation of laws becomes a nation of selective enforcement.