If we are a nation of law, what do we do about a bad law?

I’m working on an article about a greatly heroic man whose act in saving thousands of desperate refugees and immigrants centered on defiance of one of his country’s laws. Actually not a law, but an executive order.

I think of him every day, because of the egregiously ugly and mindless actions commanded by Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly and obeyed by his armed and expanding militia called Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection.

Displaying impatience at a time when enforcement practices are being scrutinized for deporting non-criminals and DREAMers, Kelly told members of Congress that if they don’t like his department’s enforcement practices, “they should have the courage and the skill to change those laws. Otherwise, they should shut up and support the men and women on the front lines.” His message was clearly meant to pummel advocates as well: he added that DHS personnel are “frequently convicted in the court of public opinion on unfounded allegations testified to by street lawyers and street spokespersons.”

That extract above is from an ACLU essay, Homeland Security Secretary Tells Critics To Shut Up. We Won’t, in which Chris Rickerd, Policy Counsel of the ACLU, proudly states that they are the “street lawyers and street spokespersons” Kelly is sneering at, and offers a thorough picture of the laws they’re fighting.

I donate to the ACLU because it and other non-profit organizations have become our real government nowadays, a government that does not write autocratic executive orders but takes them to court.

So what do we do in our nation of laws when the laws are bad and the people who zealously apply those bad laws are worse?

Kelly says Congress should “have the courage and the skill to change those laws.” Well, sure, but our current Congress doesn’t, and our current Supreme Court probably won’t. Meanwhile, thousands and prospectively millions of people can’t wait for Congress or the courts to be righteous.

That leaves the administration of true justice to defiant civil servants like Sally Yates, to organizations like the ACLU, and to us.

 

 

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