Senator Bob Menendez, a sitting U.S. Senator from New Jersey, has publicly urged President Obama to violate our laws intentionally, and worse, has called it a “tragedy” and an “outrage” that President Obama is refusing to do so. In the article entitled Latino group leader: Obama is 'deporter in chief', Menendez is quoted as follows:
"While we continue waiting for the House of Representatives to wake up and move on immigration reform legislation, I urge the president to take action today and halt needless deportations that are splitting apart our families and communities. The current deportation apparatus is an outrage and it's a tragedy."
This article is not about immigration reform or, for that matter, any legislative or policy issue. It is not about partisan politics, as both central actors are Democrats. It is not about free speech rights, as Senators are supposed to voice strong opinions about our laws and how they would like to change them. No, this article is about respecting the rule of law in a civilized society. These actions of Menendez are more than just advocating for a certain legislative policy. They are a dangerous call for anarchy.
What if Menendez urged the President to refuse to refund certain income tax payments because Menendez judged the tax laws to be unfair, with Congress unwilling to change them? What if Menendez urged the President to free all federal prisoners convicted of kidnapping, bank robbery, mail fraud, or civil rights violations because Menendez judged those laws to be unfair, with Congress unwilling to change them? I’m sure some of those convicted prisoners have spouses and children, so is the resulting imprisonment not also breaking up those families? This Menendez situation is exactly the same as the absurd examples outlined above, assuming you can check your party affiliation or immigration position at the door.
Every Senator takes an oath to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” Menendez has clearly violated this oath. His actions are disgraceful, and he should resign immediately—but he will not. And don’t hold your breath waiting for his colleagues, on either side of the aisle, to commence any proceedings to remove him for this outrageous conduct or to even chastise him for it. Not in this political age, where it seems like truth and duty – and complying with the Constitution – are optional for some politicians.
If the lawmakers themselves do not respect the laws they pass, will the citizens? We are a nation founded on laws, not a nation founded on only those laws that we favor. And if we become the latter, we will be just like any other country where there is rioting in the streets, lawlessness, and people trying to escape to a land where freedom and liberty still exist.
Dave Beltrami is a lawyer and political analyst living in Atlanta, Georgia. He received his Juris Doctor and Master of Laws (Taxation) degrees from the Georgetown University Law Center in Washington, D.C.