Wednesday, April 26, 2017


Voces de la Frontera is urging a gigantic repeat of massive solidarity for its May 1 Milwaukee march

By Dominique Paul Noth

The White House continued its careen out of control by adding sanctuary attacks to its judicial failures – and then criticizing the appeals court that has yet to hear the case.

It was a San Francisco court that initiated a nationwide blockade -- along lines that conservatives usually applaud.  The White House and Jeff Sessions can now add San Francisco to the derision laid on “an island in the Pacific” for opposing the travel ban.

On April 25, federal district judge William H. Orrick temporarily stopped nationwide the effort to threaten “sanctuary cities” with loss of federal money in a case that next will be heard by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals that Trump and the White House have already condemned.

If that doesn’t start your laughter juices flowing, consider that the Frisco judge scolded the government for the revealing words employed despite its court arguments -– remarks by Trump, Sessions and press secretary Sean Spicer -- pointing out, as Jennifer Rubin wrote for the Washington Post, that “as in the legal fight over the travel ban, the government employed what can only be described as a ridiculous defense.”

The government argued that this sanctuary executive order didn’t accomplish anything – again! – except threaten.  Orrick ruled that the complaining counties were likely to succeed “that the Executive Order is unconstitutional because it seeks to wield powers that belong exclusively to Congress, the spending powers.” 

This was also the basis for a 2012 decision that drew the wrath of liberals in 2012 when SCOTUS gave states the option to turn down Medicaid expansion under Obamacare, saying states had a right to decide in use of the money.  It was, of course, unbelievably stupid that any state did turn down the willing federal expenditure, but those states under GOP control rushed to hurt Obamacare and their constituents by opting out, as did Wisconsin where the negative effect is still being felt.

In clear terms, Trump is trying to penalize cities for broad uses of money that Congress and federal agencies had long validated.  The ruling left alone Department of Justice grants but these also have wider use than immigration and are likely to spawn separate legal action.

This suggests an interesting lesson that Trump has still to be taught -- about what rights states should seek and what rights the federal government should affirm.

State rights remain a lively issue at the courts, but Trump is helping determine which state rights are worth keeping – such as states deciding how best to keep their citizens safe by open community engagement vs.   policies better suited to universal federal standards, such as health care.

It is notable that Trump on April 26 got the Freedom Caucus behind his previously doomed attack on Obamacare by using “state rights” as a goad. But look at what they agreed to – that states to save money could weaken medical protections at the local level as a way to get conservative votes. Who would want their financially strapped state making that life and death decision?

That same date, Trump tried to argue that the Antiquities Act, which presidents have used for a century  with congressional authority to protect the scenic heritage from exploitation, had been egregiously misapplied to land he admitted was beautiful but wants dug up by rapacious privateers

By ordering an antiquities review, Trump is probably again misreading his executive authority, but he was also hypocritically pretending he was concerned about the land when the whole idea was to open up Utah and other protected areas to fossil fuel exploration. But he is specifically targeting use of the 1906 law by Presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama, unaware that he may one day want to use the law himself and that protection of national resources is best left to the nation

Now on sanctuary cities, the federal government is trying to oppose what local police and local courts have determined are better ways to handle their own communities.

Trump is failing in court, but he may be making points in public opinion, given the way national media tends to mischaracterize the issue – by suggesting that sanctuary cities are not cooperating with the federal government.  Which is untrue – they are not cooperating with the extremism demonstrated by AG Sessions and President Trump, who basically want to turn local police and courts into ICE agents inspecting every offender, be it traffic court or pot smoking, for their legal papers – and then reporting any discrepancy to immigration for deportation.

Let it be noted that the term “sanctuary city” exists in Trump’s brain but not in any clear legal definition.  The term “sanctuary city” – experts tell me -- is used to refer to those localities that place limits on their assistance to federal immigration authorities seeking to apprehend and remove those who got into this country but lack current papers.  The majority of so-called illegal immigrants actually entered legally but overstayed their visas, again demonstrating that Trump wants to waste billions on a border wall that does virtually nothing.

The word “sanctuary” has migrated from a religious and social term for protecting the persecuted into a welcome by communities that on a local level differentiate between valuable residents and the “bad hombres” of Trump’s imagination, thereby creating a trust between the law and the community that has worked to the advantage of society.

Even when Trump refers to MS-13 gangs, an international criminal scourge that started in Los Angeles four decades ago, he fails to recognize that these tattooed terrors hardly represent the millions in America whose only crime has been how they got in or stayed in. An LA paper has offered a fascinating history that corrects Trump’s tweets.

It’s doubtful that a border wall would stop even one gang member. Yet Sessions has openly warned that entry without papers alone is enough to get people deported without process. No wonder there are communities that slam this approach, including Milwaukee.  No wonder the courts shut down the excess he thinks are presidential powers.

And sadly, no wonder local legislatures keep stepping in to pretend to support federal powers while actually signaling gigantic mistrust of local police and mayors to determine what is best for their residents.

It’s happening right now in the Wisconsin Assembly with two bills, AB 127 and AB 190.

The first is what I call the squealers bill, or maybe the Quisling bill or maybe McCarthyism returned and unleashed.  It protects anyone who calls into question someone else’s immigration status, a worry that almost has to be based on hearing someone speak Spanish or having a neighbor whose color or language style you don’t like.

AB 190 spreads the idea to communities that try to write any law of protection connected to immigration, penalizing the local governments that try to go further than what their Madison masters allow. This is similar to laws imposed on local communities to prevent broader paid sick days or minimum wage than the state allows.

It’s interesting how those who pretend to be against government getting too large are always using legislation to impose their government on the rest of us. 

Trump, so determined to prove success within 100 days, is doing the same thing, with continuing bluster and failure.   He’s demonstrating how destructive such overreach is to the image of the federal government at home and overseas.  And he shows no signs of growing up.

About the author: Noth has been  a professional journalist since the 1960s, first as national, international and local news copy editor at The Milwaukee Journal, then as one of the editors for its original Green Sheet, also  for almost two decades the paper’s film and drama critic. He became the newspaper’s senior feature editor, then was tapped by the publishers of the combining Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for special projects and as first online news producer before voluntarily departing in the mid-1990s to run online news seminars and write on public affairs and consumer news. From 2002 to 2013 he ran the Milwaukee Labor Press as editor. It served as the Midwest’s largest home-delivered labor newspaper, with archives at  In that role he won top awards yearly until the paper stopped publishing in 2013. His investigative pieces and extensive commentaries are now published by several news outlets as well as at his culture and politics outlets known as Dom's Domain.  He also reviews theater for 

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