We’ve progressed beyond the cross roads.
I feel as if we’re emulating the future H.G. Wells described in “The Time Machine.” Humanity seems to be dividing itself into two distinct groups, bound for ever-diverging paths. I’m having some trouble fully articulating just what is fueling this divide. We’ve certainly done a great deal of describing what it has resulted in over the last several months. Yet, my instincts tell me there is something seemingly small and simple at the heart of it all.
Recently, a repeated phrase caught my attention and made me consider that what is happening may be a divide in how we perceive individual power and who should have the most of it.
We’ve seen two of the president’s proposed travel bans blocked by judges so far. The response from the White House staff was not a particularly happy one, especially the second time around. You may recall U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ words regarding the opinions of Honolulu District Court Judge Derrick K. Watson and Federal Judge Theodore D. Chuang of Maryland.
“I really am amazed that a judge sitting on an island in the Pacific can issue an order that stops the president of the United States from what appears to be clearly his statutory and constitutional power,” Sessions said.
First, I don’t see why it matters where the judge is. He didn’t refer to Chuang as, “some judge within 40 miles of our nation’s capital,” so, apparently, distance is a factor in determining constitutionality. Second, he said the judge blocked what appeared to be Trump’s constitutional power; emphasis on the appears. That would suggest the legality of the situation isn’t clear, which is why the judges were put in place.
Anyway, this week, Trump tried to executive order his way into withholding Federal funds from so-called sanctuary cities. For the record, the government is arguing that sanctuary cities have yet to be defined. I’m not sure how they expected that to fly when they hadn’t defined the cities in question beforehand, but hey that’s just me. So, U.S. District Judge Willaim Orrick issued a preliminary injunction against the executive order, in light of two lawsuits that were filed — one of them by the city of San Francisco, California. Shocking, I know.
The White House Press Secretary, not to be mistaken for Melissa McCarthy, released a statement in response to the injunction.
“Once again, a single district judge -- this time in San Francisco -- has ignored Federal immigration law to set a new immigration policy for the entire country,” the statement said.
Frankly, I don’t know if you can set a new immigration policy by blocking a proposed one. That would make Trump’s policy the new one. It seems to me the judges are just asking the government to defend its proposal. Shouldn’t be too hard, I should think.
“This case is yet one more example of egregious overreach by a single, unelected district judge,” the statement added.
That’s when it occurred to me that the seemingly small and simple concept at the heart of this all could be how we view individual power. The White House and Sessions are building this image of a lone judge standing in the way — a judge sitting on an island and a single, unelected district judge. But judges are not lone wolves with gavels. They are part of the Judicial Branch of the government just as Trump is part of the Executive Branch.
The individual issuing executive orders from the oval office is not more powerful than the individuals issuing injunctions from the bench. We have three branches of government. We have checks and balances for a reason. No one said passing a law was supposed to be easy. In fact, I don’t think it should be. I think laws and policies should be defensible and justifiable to the courts. We’ll see if the President can accomplish that.