In 1832, the state of South Carolina passed an Ordinance of Nullification declaring that certain federal tariff laws were “null, void, and no law, nor binding upon this State, its officers, or citizens.” Thus began the first major effort to enforce the doctrine of nullification, originally promulated by Virginia and Kentucky in 1799, according to which a state ought to be able to declare an act of Congress null and void if the state believes that act to be unconstitutional.
Now San Francisco is trying the same thing — only without bothering to claim that the act they are threatening to nullify is actually unconstitutional. Justin Jouvenal of the Baltimore Examiner reports:
SAN FRANCISCO – Mayor Gavin Newsom said Thursday that The City will not comply with any federal legislation that criminalizes efforts to help illegal immigrants.
The mayor also denounced a bipartisan congressional proposal that would beef up border security and allow as many as 12 million illegal immigrants to gain legal status.
Newsom, who has not been afraid to wade into controversial national issues such as gay marriage, appeared with a group of elected officials on the steps of City Hall to support immigrants, â€œdocumented as well as undocumented.â€ Newsom also signed a resolution sponsored by Supervisor Gerardo Sandoval, and passed unanimously by the Board of Supervisors, urging San Francisco law enforcement not to comply with criminal provisions of any new immigration bill.
If you read that carefully, Newsom seems to be both opposed to enforcing the laws against illegal immigration, and opposed to amnesty which would make the illegal immigrants legal. In other words, he is in favor of illegal immigration, but opposed to legal immigration!
Putting aside the idiocy of Newsom’s position — and putting aside what you or I actually think of the various immigration reform proposals, it should be clear that nullification of federal immigration laws by cities is a bad thing. By doing so, a city in effect denies that the United States is a sovereign entity, and arrogates that status to the itself. Yet, the Constitution clearly grants the power to control international borders to the federal government. That provision should not be treated lightly.
After all, if San Francisco can defy federal law to allow federally-illegal immigrants in, then surely some other city could defy federal law to keep federally-legal immigrants out. In fact, another city could potentially bar U.S. citizens from entering that city. Maybe Dallas could pass a law barring the entry of U.S. citizens from San Francisco. After all, if cities control their borders, why not?
South Carolina’s Nullification Ordnance of 1832 lead ultimately to the secession of South Carolina, then the secession of 10 other states and the Civil War to get them all back into the Union.
The response to San Francisco’s nullification is basically the opposite: Clayton Cramer asks, “Can We Expel San Francisco From The Union?”
Apparently, some San Francisco folks have already proposed just that. There was a column in the San Francisco Chronicle three years ago with that proposal. And, some want to call the new country the Free State of San Francisco. I wonder why they’d want to keep the obviously Catholic name, given their recent legislation on Catholicism.