No final answer


There’s no question that immigrants feel deflated after the US Supreme Court last week effectively ended the Obama Administration’s attempt to shield several million undocumented people from deportation. They should know that this is not the last word. The executive order that has been enjoined by a federal judge in Texas was only effective so long as Barack Obama inhabits the White House. President Trump would upend it on Day One.

Twenty-six governors sued the Administration over Obama’s attempt to shield the parents of children who were born in the United States from deportation. The President issued the order after it was clear that comprehensive immigration reform would not come in his term. The House is stridently against showing any mercy to those who swam the Rio Grande on their way to Storm Lake to pack meat or shingle houses.

The Supreme Court was deadlocked on whether the appeal should be heard. That’s because Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, will not allow a hearing for Obama Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland.

The issue at hand would not deal with the 10-million-plus immigrants already living, working and paying taxes in the USA without the proper papers. It would not present a permanent answer to the quandary of children brought to Storm Lake from Guatemala when they are infants. Do we order them back to Guatemala when they can’t even speak Spanish, and are enrolled in an Iowa college?

These dilemmas deserve answers other than “Ship them out.”

The Supreme Court cannot provide them. It can only contemplate the relationship between the executive branch and the suing states. The court cannot decide what our immigration policy should be. The President did not want to issue executive orders. He begged Congress for years to do something about immigration.

The Senate tried. The House refused to hear anything of it. Seal the border, they said. Build a wall. Make them self-deport. That sort of thing.

Led by no less than the inestimable Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, the leading Know-Nothing in the Republican caucus.

Congress is not doing its job. It is not reviewing Supreme Court nominees. Grassley prefers to play games. King is not interested in solutions that might help Storm Lake move forward. He is interested in getting on the Fox squawk box. And, the President himself had the opportunity to pass a comprehensive immigration package when Democrats controlled both chambers of Congress. They did nothing for fear that vulnerable House members could be exposed to a perilous vote. They lost the House anyway.

Young Latinos in Storm Lake, meanwhile, suffer from uncertain futures. They want to invest in the American Dream, but we first must allow them. We want someone to do the most grueling jobs in America, but we will not say they are of us. We want to keep them aside and sweep them away when it is convenient.

The only way to change the calculus is for Latinos to be heard at the ballot box. Forget about the courts. Get rid of Steve King. Take over the legislatures that gerrymander them out of power. There are enough Latino voters in the Fourth Congressional District to make a difference. They need to get organized and stake their claim in democracy. Only then will the questions get answered.

Hint, hint

The Iowa Supreme Court, meanwhile, on a 4-3 vote refused to overturn state mandates not allowing convicted felons who have done their time to vote. Chief Justice Mark Cady, a thoughtful man, wrote the majority opinion in which he nudged the legislature to get with the times. Cady noted that the Iowa Constitution requires that convicts of “infamous crimes” may not have their voting rights restored after serving their sentence. The Iowa Legislature in 1994 declared that all felonies are “infamous crimes.”

Many people believe it amounts to cruel and unusual punishment to bar people from voting. It conflicts with the notion of having paid one’s debt to society by paying the fine and doing the time. And it disproportionately affects minority communities, as many drug crimes are felonies. Iowa has among the harshest laws on this in the country; only seven states are worse. No doubt, Cady and his peers have the same concerns from the tone of the opinion. He writes:

“This conclusion is not to say the infamous-crime provision of our constitution would not accommodate a different meaning in the future. A different meaning, however, is not for us to determine in this case. A new definition will be up to the future evolution of our understanding of voter disqualification as a society, revealed through the voices of our democracy.”

That is to say, the Legislature.

Again, the Democrats sympathetic to minority communities had their chance to change the harsh 1994 law when they had control of the governor’s office (Culver) and both legislative chambers. They did nothing from 2007 to 2010. Cast no stones toward the court.

Sentencing reform is the talk of the day. Cady is telling legislators to seize the moment. We hope they do next year.