Our rights and freedoms once had value. They were something we cherished as a unique expression of America’s democratic and humanitarian ideals. Over the years we have become accustomed to doling out the rights enjoyed by our citizens to those who are not entitled simply because those rights are demanded. In the process, the meaning of our rights has been skewed, and their value eroded.
Demands from illegal immigrants for legal rights and entitlements have led politicians to trample the notion that America’s rights are intended for citizens and legitimate residents. DREAM Act supporters resorted to lofty calls to action, summoning rights on a scale transcending government:
The DREAM Act is not only a human rights issue, it’s an economic issue and it’s a competitiveness issue.¹
The Dream Act’s sanction of attendance by illegals at taxpayer-supported schools seems too pedestrian a cause to elevate to the level of a human right, but the immigration reform movement has always been on shaky ethical ground. H.R. 4321, the Comprehensive Immigration Reform ASAP Act of 2009, speaks of “labor rights of all workers in our country,” and a fix for immigration that “promotes equal rights for all.” The bill grants legal status, allowing illegal immigrants to purchase American rights for $500 after jumping through a few administrative hoops.
The Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause has been abused as an excuse to confer rights on illegals, its Civil War and abolition origins pushed to the side in favor of contemporary political and special interest opportunism. Deportation makes any appeal to constitutional protections largely irrelevant. Rights other than due process are useless to someone who is being deported, so granting due process before removing offenders seems the least we can do.
In Wisconsin, public sector employees are angrily defending what they view as their innate right to collective bargaining. A state-sanctioned right that can be eliminated by a shift in political fortune is illusory, at best. Governor Walker proved that the law granting this right could be nullified simply by passing another law, albeit with some unwanted judicial interference. Talk of public workers having broader and more universal labor rights is the stuff of political bombast. The federal government does not confer a right to collective bargaining on public employees, and collective bargaining rights are not addressed in our Constitution.
In Libya, President Obama acted under the assumption that our democratic rights should extend to those who live in other countries, no matter how far removed the Arab Muslim world is from our society’s mores. The president claims that:
…we must stand alongside those who believe in the same core principles that have guided us through many storms: our support for a set of universal rights, including the freedom for people to express themselves and choose their leaders; our support for governments that are ultimately responsive to the aspirations of the people.²
Mr. Obama’s statement is shaky justification for participating in an undeclared war, given that we are not even confident who the rebels are, or what they believe in. We can be reasonably certain that the Libyan people have a less than passing acquaintance with our “core principles,” and may come to resent American intervention more than they will value our strange foreign ideals. Superimposing America’s belief in the rights and freedoms of the individual will be quite a task, given the realities of the Arab Muslim world, where bad habits like beheading, flogging, stoning, and other forms of barbarism persist. Based on past experience, we should expect our experiment in benevolent nation-building to end badly.