A melee broke out on the floor of the Texas Legislature the other day (see here and here). The precipitating event was the presence of demonstrators in the gallery of the chamber, a number of them wearing T-shirts and placards proclaiming "I'm illegal and I'm here to stay" and the like. Some allege that they became vocal, disrupting the proceedings. They were there to protest the Republican-dominated legislature's recent passage, and the governor's signature into law, of an anti-sanctuary statute prohibiting officials from refusing to cooperate with federal immigration enforcement efforts.
Considering the matter, I'm persuaded that the protesters were aided and abetted by sympathetic Democratic lawmakers. With safety measures in public edifices being what they are today, there is almost zero chance that those placards would have made it past the security perimeter unless someone's staffer brought them into the building via an employee entrance, and then passed them out to the protesters prior to going into the gallery. But that's neither here nor there.
As I say, the precipitating factor was the presence of the protesters, including illegal aliens, but the trigger was when a Republican lawmaker took to the floor to declare that he had called ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement). At that point, the legislators cleared their chairs and the kerfuffle began in earnest. I have read some accounts saying that even a few demonstrators managed to make their way onto the floor to join in.
All of this has led me to reflect on the First Amendment protections afforded to illegal aliens.
There is no doubt that they possess them, perhaps even to the same degree as citizens. But there is a fine, yet distinct, line between expressions of free speech, and chutzpah, at least for public relations purposes, and it seems to me that illegal aliens and their supporters frequently don't distinguish between things that help, vs. hurt, their cause. Saying "I'm illegal and here to stay" probably doesn't endear the average American to your cause. It's a little too in-your-face, and isn't much different from waving Mexican flags at a demonstration while protesting that one should be given amnesty and permitted to remain lawfully.
Here are a couple other news items have caught my attention recently that I think give real meaning to the word chutzpah while ostensibly dealing with First Amendment free speech rights:
"Tom Cat Bakery workers protest at Trump Tower". Various media outlets have reported that 31 workers — at least some of them illegal aliens working at New York's Tom Cat Bakery (see, for instance, the legend under the photo accompanying the linked article) — took to the streets to protest when officials from ICE conducted an audit of the company's work authorization I-9 forms to determine whether it has been employing unauthorized workers in contravention of the law.
The protests confirm the legitimacy of the information that led to the audit. How ironic. I wonder if the workers realize the pot that they've put the company into by their demonstration? At best, the company will confront fines; at worst, if there is any evidence of complicity between workers and supervisors or officials at the company to falsify documents, conspire to commit identity theft, etc., the audit could potentially result in criminal charges. But no actual illegal aliens were taken into custody as the result of the audit.
How emboldened aliens have become after the lax enforcement of immigration laws under the prior administration! One of its first acts was to establish a policy of forbidding workplace enforcement (in which both employer and employees are targeted — the former for fines and penalties, the latter for apprehension and removal) in favor of these paperwork-only audits, which themselves became fewer and farther between with each of the eight years under the Obama White House.
Is it any wonder, then, that illegal aliens publicly demonstrate against the new administration's resolve to enforce the immigration laws, or Texas' passage of an anti-sanctuary law? It's time to bring back enforcement actions that focus not only on levying fines, but also free up jobs in the workplace through arrest of illegal alien workers. I am positive that there are plenty of citizens and lawful resident aliens alike among the 8.5 million people in the New York City metropolitan area who would be delighted to backfill those jobs if given the chance.
"Illegal Immigrant Busted For A Slew Of Trump-Bashing Graffiti On Campus". This says it all:
Police at the University of Connecticut have arrested a former student with 103 counts of criminal mischief for scrawling graffiti all over campus from December to March.
The former student — and current community organizer — is an illegal immigrant named Eric Cruz-Lopez, reports the Hartford Courant.
Some instances of the graffiti featured the words "F[expletive deleted] Trump" and cartoonish faces, according to police. The capitalized word "PEST" regularly appeared as a signature. ...
In his day job, Cruz-Lopez works for CT Students for a Dream, "a statewide organization of DREAMers and allies that seek to empower undocumented students and their families by advocating for their rights and raising awareness about issues they face."
I don't suppose it has occurred to either Cruz-Lopez or his statewide organization that he may not be the best spokesman for persuading ordinary Americans to approve of their aims and lend the public support they wish.
One last thing that I've been reflecting on is that many of these demonstrators seem to conflate the right to free speech with the nonexistent right not to be taken into custody for being in the country illegally. Somehow they think that if they demonstrate or protest, they are granted a cloak of immunity. Not so.
In some ways this constitutional confusion is understandable, because it was pretty much the operating policy of the Obama administration — one of many restrictions under which federal agents were obliged to labor. Some illegal aliens were even invited into the White House during Obama's tenure. I don't think we will be seeing a repeat of that during the Trump years and, while illegal aliens certainly have the right to make their voices heard, they may need to be prepared for the consequences when they choose to be too vocal, too strident, or too destructive in that process.