Gov. Greg Abbott appears to be having a difficult time understanding the Constitution as it relates to immigration, so Stephen Colbert explained it to him.
Abbott introduced an anti-immigration crackdown, putting razor wire along 60 miles of the border. But the federal government didn’t like the razor wire, saying it physically prevented border patrol agents from entering the area, processing migrants, and providing assistance to drowning victims, which is why border patrol had been cutting the razor wire to reach them. As a general rule, you want to be able to help people who are drowning or really in any mortal danger, not make things worse. That’s why the fire safety signs don’t say, “Stop, drop, and stab.” Now, once the feds started cutting the wire, Abbott sued, but he also doubled down, installing razor wire under the surface of the Rio Grande and circular saw blades between buoys. Next, he’s gonna change the poem on the Statue of Liberty from “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free” to “Would you like to play a game?”
The razor wire case went to the Supreme Court, which ruled against Texas in a 5-4 decision with no details or explanations provided. The dissents simply read “Nay, nay, nay,” and “Does this luxury RV come in mother-of-pearl?” Now, this really should have been a clear 9-0 decision against Texas.
The federal government has the final say on immigration. It’s in the Constitution. It’s called the supremacy clause and it clearly states that federal law and federal treaty obligations “Shall be the supreme law of the land.” For those of you who didn’t go to law school, supreme law means it comes with sour cream. But unanimous or not, SCOTUS has spoken. It’s been decided, right? Wrong. ‘Cause Greg Abbott is plowing ahead.
After the ruling, the Texas National Guard ignored the Supreme Court decision and Abbott continued construction along the border, claiming that he doesn’t have to listen to the Supreme Court because the Biden administration had “Broken the compact between the United States and the states,” a reference to an archaic idea called the “compact theory and nullification.” That theory states that states can ignore any federal laws they choose. It was used to justify secession by the confederacy and was originally championed in the 1830s by vice president, notorious racist, and guy who just got spun around in the barber chair and does not like what he sees, John C. Calhoun. Calhoun opposed a tariff back then designed to help northern manufacturers, and he convinced his home state of South Carolina to pass a law nullifying the tariff in their state. Well, that did not please president and pantene-american, Andrew Jackson.
President Jackson threatened to invade South Carolina, so Calhoun backed down, and the state repealed the nullification act. Jackson never forgave his vice president. When asked about his time in office, Jackson replied, “I regret I was unable to hang John C. Calhoun.” Hang his vice president? So Trump has no original ideas. [Applause] We’re cooking along. We’re humming. Now, Abbott says that nullification applies here because the rush of migrants at the border constitutes an invasion. But that argument was struck down in 1800 by James Madison, who, it’s worth remembering, wrote the [bleep] Constitution. He said, “Invasion is an operation of war, and the removal of alien friends has appeared to be no incident to a general state of war.” He’s saying this isn’t an invasion because we’re not at war with Mexico or anyone else. These migrants fall under the category of “Alien friends,” alongside Mork, E.T., Stitch, and Tilda Swinton.
It is not very often that viewers get an explanation of the supremacy clause, nullification theory, and a John C. Calhoun namedrop on a comedy show. In fact, it is not very often that those things are mentioned on cable news.
Greg Abbott doesn’t have the power or authority to do what he is doing on the border, and yes, states thinking that they can nullify and ignore federal laws and powers is the ideological underpinning for the Civil War.
It is not an exaggeration to suggest that Abbott’s behavior could provoke a real crisis on the border What Republicans aren’t saying is that secession might be the only way that they get Trump back into power, and that’s what Abbott’s behavior is really all about.
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Jason is the managing editor. He is also a White House Press Pool and a Congressional correspondent for PoliticusUSA. Jason has a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science. His graduate work focused on public policy, with a specialization in social reform movements.
Awards and Professional Memberships
Member of the Society of Professional Journalists and The American Political Science Association