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Connecticut, The Nullification State

Push has come to shove in Connecticut on the question of “sanctuary cities,” a misnomer. In Connecticut, every municipality is a sanctuary for border-crashing illegal aliens. It would be more proper to speak of sanctuary states, because it is the state government, not municipalities, that enforce “sanctuary,” a concept borrowed from what used to be called “the Dark Ages” when it was generally recognized that religious institutions and civil institutions both had laws that must be obeyed.  Sanctuary was a cultural compromise with the police power of the state; an accused, having arrived in the sanctuary of a church, was safe from apprehension because the civil authority had for centuries recognized an alternative, church law.

That is no longer the case – especially and pointedly in Connecticut. Only a few days ago, the Democrat dominated General Assembly approved a bill, following a hearing featuring a good many testifiers that spoke against the bill,  that would eliminate from Connecticut law a provision carving out an exception for religious parents who want to retain the authority to decide whether or not their children should be forcibly inoculated. The bill suspends a constitutional obligation to provide free and equal education for the children of such parents. Indeed, it sanctions parents who do not submit to the strictures of the bill by eliminating a long cherished free public schooling and may itself be unconstitutional. No one in Connecticut should expect Attorney General William Tong to rise to a defense of the imprescriptible Constitutional rights of Connecticut citizens.

Sanctuary states are those that refuse to abide by federal laws. They are not so much “sanctuary states” as states that enforce what used to be called in the Confederacy during the pre-Civil War period nullification, which rests on precarious predicates. Under nullification, a state has the right to nullify or invalidate any federal law the state regards as violating the U.S. Constitution. Compact Theory -- the notion that all the states are joined together in a compact that may be abrogated by any state – holds that states, as creators of the federal government, retain final authority to determine the limits of federal powers. According to compact theory, any state therefore may reject, or nullify, those federal laws the state regards as lying outside the federal government's constitutional powers.

The U.S. Supreme Court and federal courts consistently have rejected both compact theory and nullification, holding that federal law, under the Supremacy Clause, is superior to state law and that the federal judiciary is the proper interpreter of the Constitution. This holding, of course, does not prevent a union of states, acting through the U.S. Congress, from amending Constitutional law. No U.S. state thus far has proposed an amendment that would effectively repeal immigration processes, and that is why the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan recently ruled that the federal government operates within its constitutional authority when it withholds millions of dollars in law enforcement grant funds from states, Connecticut among them, that nullify federal laws through the establishment of sanctuary states.

The ruling sent Connecticut Attorney General William Tong into a tizzy. “Placing arbitrary and partisan restrictions on law enforcement funding,” Tong said following the ruling, “makes us all less safe, and does absolutely nothing to improve our immigrating system.” That is a highly partisan political statement, when what is needed from Connecticut’s Attorney General following the ruling is an advisory opinion.

The ruling is hardly arbitrary, since it applies to sanctuary states that have instituted a constitutionally defective nullification process. Neither is the decision partisan. Quite the opposite; it is the nullification of necessary constitutional federal laws that will more likely “make us all less safe.” And state nullification of federal laws – as well as legitimate sanctions used to enforce those laws – does “absolutely nothing to improve our immigration system.” Indeed, the nullification of federal laws designed to uphold a rational, effective and legal immigration system eliminates a necessary screening process that has served the United States well in the past, and that legal screening process can only be enforced through reasonable sanctions – such as the denial of federal funds to outlaw states that practice nullification.

As Attorney General of Connecticut, Tong knows very well that the enforcement of laws is impossible without the applications of sanctions. Any police chief in the state could tell him as much. Any criminal could tell him that if sanctions were removed from the law – the principal object of the nullifiers among us – the law could not be enforced. Applying legitimate sanctions to lawmakers in the state who so boldly defy federal law, Tong believes, “is an overt and obvious retaliation against the state of Connecticut and it’s an attack on the people of this state.”

Just the opposite is true. It is the partisan nullification of federal law that presents an overt and obvious retaliation against the lawmaking power of the U.S. Congress, years of Supreme Court decisions upholding the Constitution’s Supremacy Clause, and the peace of Connecticut, which depends upon the faithful observance of laws duly enacted.

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