Many in this state are angry, and that anger increased Monday when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down most of an Arizona law targeting undocumented immigrants.
The decision was a near-complete defeat for an Alabama Legislature that passed a law that, by design, was even harsher than the Arizona law.
While the Arizona and Alabama laws were about immigration, the Supreme Court’s decision was about something more fundamental. The decision was about the fragile bond that maintains the United States of America.
Democracies are sloppy. They acknowledge that there are few universal truths, that “right” and “wrong” are concepts upon which people tend to disagree. To survive, a nation must have a method for resolving those disagreements. In America’s democratic republic, the majority generally gets to decide. Every legislative and executive pronouncement overwhelms a frustrated minority.
The American tension is not just between the majority and the minority, but between the federal and state governments.
Both have areas of sovereignty. For the union to endure, it must recognize a non-violent method of resolving conflicting claims of sovereignty.
After a failed experiment in which state authority trumped federal, our Founding Fathers drafted, and the states ratified, a constitution that gave federal law supremacy.
The same constitution gave the federal government explicit authority to determine questions of immigration.
The Supremacy Clause does not disenfranchise anyone. Each of us has a right to vote on which candidates will represent us in the federal government. With few exceptions, Alabama’s elected representatives to the federal government support more restrictive immigration laws. Each of us has a voice.
What we do not have is a right to dictate our beliefs to the majority. We may resent being in the minority and we may try to convince others that our views should be adopted by the majority, but our nation cannot survive a rejection of majority rule.
Immigration is an important issue. More important, though, is the Constitutional fabric that preserves the union. Rip that and we have nothing left.
The Supreme Court’s decision was neither pro-immigration nor anti-immigration. It was merely a validation of the mechanism by which we strive to preserve our nation.
Today’s angry minority could be tomorrow’s jubilant majority. It may not be pretty, but America owes its greatness to the democratic process the Supreme Court upheld.