Rich Cooper

Mar 20, 2009

Several days ago, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) spoke at a town hall-type meeting at St. Anthony’s Church in San Francisco, CA.  In addressing the assembled crowd, which news coverage described as being filled with both legal and illegal immigrants, the Speaker described the raids that have been conducted on homes and businesses where illegal-immigrants are located as “un-American.”  Decrying the enforcement of existing immigration law and “kicking in doors in the middle of the night,” the Speaker asked, “What kind of value system is that?”

That’s a great question to ask: “What kind of value system is that?”  

I always thought the answer to that question was the ‘rule of law’ but apparently if I agree with enforcing existing laws, I am, in the words of Speaker Pelosi, “un-American.”  

As illuminating as the Speaker’s words were, she seems to be deafeningly silent and devoid of details as to the value system we should be using instead of the one we have in place now.  If she does have an idea of what that system ought to be, she should have the guts to articulate those specific values before labeling law-enforcement officers who are carrying out their sworn obligations as “un-American.”

Our immigration laws, security efforts and other homeland-centric measures are the result of laws our Legislative and Executive branches have enacted.  That is a fact, and it’s amazing that has to be explained to the person who is third in line to the presidency.  If she finds these measures to be in serious need of replacement and revisiting, she has more than enough authority and clout to put those values on the public agenda for discussion, consideration and voting.   Engaging in demonization of people who have been given the difficult and often dangerous position to enforce those laws is repugnant.  It shows a lack of respect, character and integrity for the value system of law that is the basis of any civil society and those who have stepped forward to serve in its enforcement.  

As revolting as the Speaker’s demonization of law enforcement has been, what has been even more disappointing is the screaming silence of the Obama Administration in responding to Pelosi’s remarks.  The men and women of ICE (who are charged to enforce our immigration laws) now report to them.  As part of their duties, they are prepared to follow the lead and policies of the Administration wherever it may take them.  These leaders have an inherent responsibility and obligation to defend their followers from mischaracterization and demagoguery in all of their forms – and no matter where it comes from.  

Even if the new Administration and its leaders are sympathetic to Pelosi’s views on illegal immigration and enforcement, its cowardice in addressing her words (and tone) is even more unsettling.  

It would have been better (and even respectable) if the Administration had offered a spokesperson saying something like, “We hear what the Speaker has said on this issue but believe her labeling these efforts as ‘un-American’ is a poor choice of words.  These men and women are sworn law-enforcement officers who put their lives on the line every day and there is nothing ‘un-American’ about their service.”

Instead, they said nothing.  That’s probably what disturbs me the most.  It shows an absolute abdication of leadership, especially considering the challenge was issued in the public arena by one of the country’s most senior legislative leaders.  

Real leadership rises to respond. Hopefully, some day soon someone in the new Administration will have the courage to stand up and defend those who are doing the job they were hired to do.  Until then, it appears they’re on their own and no one is watching their backs.  

What kind of value system is that?

This piece was originally posted on Security Debrief.


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