State Legislatures Must Push Back Against Federal and Executive Branch Overreach—Daniel Horowitz
President Joe Biden has issued a record number of executive orders in his first month in office, with far-reaching implications.
The North Dakota House recently passed a bill to create a joint committee examining federal laws and executive orders. The bill aims to nullify federal orders within the state if they violate the U.S. Constitution.
How would that work exactly? What powers do states actually have to counter the federal government?
At the border, there are fears of a growing crisis after Biden suspended deportations for 100 days, stopped border wall construction, and stopped the Remain in Mexico program.
Today, we sit down with Daniel Horowitz, senior editor of TheBlaze and host of the Conservative Review podcast. He is also the author of the book “Stolen Sovereignty.”
This is American Thought Leaders, and I’m Jan Jekielek.
Jan Jekielek: Daniel Horowitz, such a pleasure to have you on American Thought Leaders.
Daniel Horowitz: Great to be with you today, so much to talk about.
Mr. Jekielek: Daniel, President Biden has issued a record number of executive orders in his first month of office, some of them basically within days of coming into office. Obviously, these have very far reaching implications. You’ve been writing about the states thinking about how to approach this and asserting their own rights.
The North Dakota House passed a bill to create this joint committee that would look at executive orders and federal laws with the idea of being able to nullify them if they violate the U.S. Constitution. That’s pretty fascinating, and not necessarily something that’s in the collective consciousness. How would this actually work? What kinds of powers do states have to enact these sorts of things?
Mr. Horowitz: What people need to understand is that there are three branches of government, both at the state level and at the federal level. Each branch of government has a requirement to only use its powers in concert with the constitution. So contrary to popular notions, it’s not just the courts that get to determine constitutionality.
Every branch of government equally has to determine the right way to go with the Constitution, because otherwise, you don’t have co-equal branches. The founders were very clear about this— Madison, and even Hamilton, who wanted a strong federal government.
Having three branches of government in a federalist system where you have the federal government, but then in 50 states eventually, and even in local governments, that wasn’t a bug, but a feature of the system, because they didn’t want any one power running away.
Now, as much as they thought the power would be equal, relatively equal, they did envision the legislature predominating, as Madison said in the Federalist Papers, because they represent the people, and especially when you talk about state legislatures. These are people that are often elected every two years; they walk among the people. That is self-governance. That’s representative democracy at its core.
What we have seen here—you mentioned Biden’s executive orders. I think it is kind of incomplete to have this discussion beginning with Biden. We have to discuss the backdrop of the year we live in. As Justice Sam Alito noted, “We have never gone through a period of time in American history—and that’s not an exaggeration—where we have had executive power, governors, mayors, county executives, even before the president, projecting such a degree of power that affects every aspect of your life, down to the breath you take, literally your face and your ability to breathe air or to open a business or to go to school. And it’s all being done without a legislative process.”
Not only do you elect legislators, but there’s kind of a transparent process. You have committee hearings, you have a committee markup, you have a floor debate, people get to weigh in, they call their representatives, they meet with them. It’s not winner take all usually. You have amendments and compromise.
It’s something you could work with; “Okay, well, you really think masks work, but do they work everywhere under every circumstance? What about people with disabilities? Okay, you want this to shut down, but do schools have to shut down? There’s no data supporting the notion that kids and school openings are vectors for spread at all. In fact, all the research is in the other direction.” These are the types of things you would air out.
I speak of coronavirus, just because it really has engendered and encompassed every aspect of our life. This is the type of thing where you would have committee hearings, you would get to hear both sides, and you would make a determination. Instead, we have nothing but an executive—be it the mayor, be it the governor, be it the president of the United States, who gets up there and says, “I’m holding a press conference, and here’s what we’re doing.”
It doesn’t matter whether it violates the Bill of Rights. It doesn’t matter whether it violates statute. It doesn’t matter for how long you’re doing it. It could be for 10 months and counting, and now they’re saying into 2022. “Shut up, mind your own business, we don’t need a legislature.” This should concern everyone.
It doesn’t matter what side of the spectrum you’re on in terms of broad politics, in terms of the coronavirus response specifically or on other issues. We could talk about some of the specific executive orders, but this should bother everyone. This is something that both Republican and Democrat presidents have been ratcheting up.
Each one ups the next by projecting more power through executive actions. We’re not talking about just taking statutes and long standing policies and just adding orders to implement them, which is the executive power. We’re talking about very controversial, novel ideas.
Again, even if one believes in masks—to mandate indefinitely, everyone has to wear a mask when traveling, all forms of travel, anyone over two, no questions asked, up until the point where you’re either throwing up or an oxygen mask drops when the when a plane is going down, those are the only exceptions, no OSHA, no ADA no questions about proper PPE—the notion that you could do that executively, I don’t care where you are on the spectrum, that is absurd. That’s why I think it’s so important for state legislatures to get back on the playing field and start to take back some of that power.
Mr. Jekielek: Before I ask you about this specific bill in North Dakota, it’s very interesting—this has come up on a number of shows—there’s also been this element of legislators or Congress deciding that they’re not going to legislate. It’s almost like kind of passing the buck up to the courts or to the administration. It’s happening from both sides, isn’t it?
Mr. Horowitz: Absolutely. This is a bipartisan issue. It’s happening at a presidential level. It’s happening at the state level. This is really where “we the people” need to come together. I find it shocking how anyone—again, I don’t care where you stand on politics or the virus—but the notion that we could be 10 months and counting where governors could make decisions that affect our lives in the most intimate way ever, without any oversight, any input is just absurd.
I’m finding all these governors, now that the state legislators are finally convening in January, February, March, into the spring—because remember they started doing this right when the legislatures left. A lot of times they conveniently said, “Well, we can’t convene, because we’re scared of spreading the virus. So, governor, do what you want.” That is just so dangerous from any perspective. You have this in both parties.
I saw the West Virginia Governor, Jim Justice, said, “Look, what I’m doing is working. We don’t need to stop. I don’t like this with the legislature coming and trying to limit my powers.” And mind you, the bill they were proposing was only to limit the emergency to 60 days. That’s a long period of time.
When you tell people, “Your life, liberty and property is gone. This is what we must do. This is what we can do. No questions asked.” Now, I think we all agree, if there’s a nuclear bomb coming, you might need some sort of emergency in place for 24 hours, 48, or 72. But a little bit beyond that, it’s no longer emergent. It might be important, but it’s not emergent. At some point, the legislature needs to convene.
It was atrocious, the fact that the governor said, “I’m not calling the legislature back in session.” Now, a lot of them are saying, “You can’t do this without me. It’s unconstitutional for you to pass a concurrent resolution to end the emergency without my authority.”
Well, it was unconstitutional for them to continue this stuff for 10 months, to shut down businesses without just compensation pursuant to the Fifth Amendment. This is very serious. Again, a lot of people went along with this last March. “Okay, this is unique, maybe we’ll quarantine for 15 days,” even though we’ve never quarantined all of humanity. You’ve only quarantined people with symptoms.
But the fact that you can go on for 10 months engenders a lot of questions. Well, either it’s not what you’re saying it is, or what you’re doing is not working, by your own admission. You’re saying it’s still an emergency.
So then, if it’s still an emergency, obviously, the non-pharmaceutical interventions are not really changing the natural geographical and seasonal curves that we’re seeing in every state [that are] very similar, irrespective of what they do. We need to start having discussions about the science, about the data, about the law. This is something that any self-governing group of people, whether you’re liberal or conservative, should agree to, that the legislatures need to get back on the playing field.
Mr. Jekielek: What is it exactly? Why is there this general trend, exacerbated in this specific scenario of coronavirus, or CCP virus as we call it here at The Epoch Times? People just don’t want to take the responsibility? They want to pass it up to the governor? What is it that is preventing the legislators from effectively wanting to do their job?
Mr. Horowitz: Look, when it comes down to it, some of it is political and some of it is also mechanical. At a political level, the Democrats seem to enjoy power. Regardless of whether that is legitimately projected and implemented and utilized by the governor, if they agree with the policy, their view is that the means justify the ends. That’s unfortunate. In states where you have Republican governors doing the same—of which there are many, with the exception of the Florida and South Dakota governors, and maybe a couple others—most Republican governors are doing the same to varying degrees.
The Republicans in the legislature don’t want to upend that, and they just want to go along with it. A lot of it is that they’re woefully unprepared. The executive branch has all the power. They have all the agencies, the health departments, and they bombard everyone with this data and science.
Some of these legislators have very small staffs. In some states, they have zero staff, and they feel very intimidated to engage. Maybe some of them feel there’s something not right about this, but they just don’t feel comfortable with all the experts in the executive branch.
The legislative branch, they don’t have enough of a research arm, a legal arm, to fight back. That’s part of the problem. As you mentioned, some of that is cowardice. It’s easier to virtue signal on social media. Social media has really destroyed legislative bodies, because they’re all looking for an audience rather than privately legislating. They’re all looking to make a point on social media.
This is how we’ve gotten to a point where Congress or state legislatures are nothing but tools for just spending more money, bringing home the bacon, and virtue signaling. Finally, the issue is bringing home the bacon. I think they get threatened that if you don’t go along with the emergency, you won’t get the money.
So it’s a funny situation, because the federal government has unlimited funds. That printing press, as we’ve seen, is just unlimited. Whereas, the states don’t really have the ability. They don’t have a Federal Reserve that could create a balance sheet of 5 trillion overnight. They do have to have a balanced budget. So they feel like they’re limited for cash. And they feel like they have to go along with the emergencies, in order to get the funding.
Mr. Jekielek: We’re talking in very broad swaths here. Let’s go to the North Dakota example. They are proposing a bill that could effectively limit some of the executive powers and even federal law, to some extent, if it’s deemed unconstitutional by the legislature. The first question is, how common is this sort of action, or is this itself a kind of emergency action being taken by this legislature? Is this legislature unusual compared to others?
Mr. Horowitz: The message is getting out there to some in the legislature that, “Yes, we need to get back on the playing field, and this is not okay.” When you see a president like Biden, implement that many executive orders—and we’re not talking about small potatoes, we’re talking about making it a federal crime, but without a statute—to breathe. I think we’ve become desensitized.
Even if you agree with that, that is a very earth shattering thing to do at an executive level without the input of the legislature. It really brushes up against a lot of questions of privacy and personal liberties.
Obviously, the transgender stuff, that men have to be accepted into women’s sports and college dorms and locker rooms if they so choose, these are very officious and meddlesome and consequentially life-changing, civilization- changing acts. These are not your typical boring, check the box changes that some executives do upon assumption of power during that first month. These states are alarmed.
In the North Dakota legislature, some backbenchers pushed the bill, it’s HB 1282. They said, “Look, we’re going to set up a committee about neutralization of federal laws. We’re going to examine if the federal government is doing stuff that really is unconstitutional. As the body closest to the people, we need to interpose between the people’s liberties and federal encroachment.” So they set up this committee. It’s a standing committee like the Judiciary Committee or the Appropriations Committee. They have this committee focused on federal actions, and they’re saying, “Wait a minute, are we going to want to implement this at a local level?”
Our founders envisioned this. Jefferson and Madison certainly talked about it in the nullification debate. Even Hamilton discussed this in Federalist No. 33, that obviously, we have the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution that the federal laws are supreme. But as Hamilton said, deriving this from two words in Article Six of the Constitution, “It will not follow from this doctrine that acts of the large society which are not pursuant to its constitutional powers, but which are invasions of the residuary authorities of the smaller societies, will become the supreme law of the land. These will be merely acts of usurpations and will deserve to be treated as such.”
You can’t have a federal government just saying we’re taking away life and liberty. And states say, “There’s nothing we can do.” No, that is why we have multiple units and branches of government, so each one is able to throw a white flag on the next one and say, “This is not okay. Can the federal government really do this? Is this pursuant to statute?” Now you ask, “Is this new? Is this concept new?” I would say with Republican states, it’s pretty new.
With Democrat states, they’ve been doing this the last four years with President Trump. Let me give you a good example. They did this with federal immigration law. Look, I know you want to talk about immigration a little bit. People have a lot of different opinions on what sort of immigration policies we should add. But nobody can or should disagree with the fact that it is the federal government that controls certainly illegal immigration, because in order to traverse the state boundary, you first have to come across the federal union, the national border.
Everyone agrees that is a federal policy that is legitimately something that is the whole of the people; it’s international. As we saw with Trump and Mexico and Central America, it required a lot of negotiations, and they even had some treaties they signed together. The courts said in the 1800s that the immigration power flows from foreign affairs. So it certainly is very federal in nature.
Yet still, almost every Democrat state and certainly Florida and California, not only did they prohibit enforcement of federal immigration laws, even as it related to sex offenders and murderers that had ICE detainers, officials had ICE detainers on them, they actually made it a felony in the state of New York, for state and local officials to cooperate and pass on information to federal authorities.
So my point is, if Democrats states are able to block legitimate federal immigration laws on the books, as it relates to foreign nationals, certainly states have the right and indeed the responsibility to interpose when the federal executive branch is legislating wholesale by administrative fiat on issues that really infringe upon American liberties for American workers, American schoolchildren, and travelers, people with disabilities that are forced to wear masks under all circumstances, violating OSHA and ADA mandates. Again, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. Those Democrat states with the sanctuary movement they created are going to learn that that movement could be used for other issues.
Mr. Jekielek: That’s super interesting. I’d like to get back to the immigration issue in a moment. Let’s jump back to this North Dakota law. This has passed in the House now. So how does this actually work? Do they have this committee now? Can it start analyzing these executive orders? What is the process? Is it similar everywhere?
Mr. Horowitz: There’s a couple of other bills I’ve seen in Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Tennessee that have somewhat the same idea that, “Look, there’s a lot of funny stuff coming out of the federal government, and we really need to not reflexively go along with that.” As far as North Dakota, Republicans have an 80 to 14 majority in the House, and a 40 to 7 majority in the Senate. We’re talking about almost 5 to 1 majorities there in the Senate.
But with that said, a lot of Republicans were kind of scared to go along with it, so it only passed narrowly. It has to go to the Senate, and it does need the governor’s signature. It’s unclear whether they support it yet. So I don’t think it’s a shoo-in to pass. It’s not law in North Dakota yet. It passed the first level; there’s two more to go.
Other states are looking at maybe empowering the attorney general to make a constitutional recommendation. Then based on his recommendation, you’ll have a joint session of the legislature where they pass a concurrent resolution, which basically means both the House and the Senate pass identical language, and then you don’t need the governor’s signature.
Then the enforcement of that order, that federal executive order, is prohibited in that state, in the counties. Some give it to the attorney general or the governor, some outsource it to the courts, which is kind of a bait and switch, because that’s really the current practice anyway.
Personally, I am a big fan of the legislature doing it. Again, because they are elected most often, they walk among the people. And like I said, it’s not just elections. Governors are elected, even judges. At a state level, most states have some form of either initial elections or retention ballots, but there’s no transparent process like the legislative process, where you really have a committee process, hearings, and floor debate. That’s where people could weigh in.
There’s one thing I wish in this country that right and left could shake hands on: “Okay, you might want A, I might want B, let’s do this through the legislative process. Let’s not make the most earth shattering changes through the executive and the court system.”
Mr. Jekielek: I’m just thinking right now, there’s been multiple polls done and surveys talking about how the trust in politicians by Americans is quite low. I’m taking what you’re saying very seriously, that the legislators need to step up, and that these people, especially in the state legislatures, walk among the people. However, we do have the situation where there’s a lot of people who just don’t trust the politicians.
So the question is, for people who are wondering, “Is it even worth doing anything? What can I do when these politicians don’t even listen? How do I even get a group of interested people together? Will it make a difference?” These are the types of questions that I think we’re seeing all over the place when you look in social media and when you look in various articles. Tell me, what are your thoughts here?
Mr. Horowitz: I kind of disagree a little bit. I think there’s a lot people can do. You’re right, that there’s a lot of that, that the politicians aren’t listening, because they’re not doing anything. The people who are doing this stuff aren’t listening, because they don’t need to listen. They’re unelected judges, or health department officials stashed in some county, state, or HHS [U.S. Department of Health and Human Services] in Washington. And no one knows who they are, creating these funny things that govern every aspect of our life.
If we actually got in the faces of the county commissioners, the school board officials, the sheriff, the state legislators, you’d be surprised what a group of 15 to 20 people together could do. We don’t do it. We don’t get on the playing field, so that’s why they don’t hear it. They just hear from the special interests. But you’d be surprised at a local level if you get people that are vocal, they’ll hear it. You call them, you demand to meet with them, and you start publishing information, “Hey, this guy just did a bait and switch on the House Judiciary Committee.” Nobody follows that.
I’ve been trying to write articles on that and cover as many states as I can. It’s hard. I started a new organization, the Constitution Action Network. It’s conaction.network, where people can sign up and give us their state. Then we’ll pair them together with a strikeforce team of 15 people, at least within a state that will focus on this stuff we’re talking about.
A lot of legislatures now are talking about broadly limiting the emergency powers of the governors, but they do a bait and switch. So they’ll say, “Yes, we’ll limit it to 60 days, but the governor could extend it anyway.” Rather than the governor can’t extend it, unless the legislature agrees to extend it. There’s a lot of these games.
In Kentucky, they passed a bill saying, “Schools and businesses should open, pursuant to CDC guidelines.” Well, that’s the whole debate. That’s the whole enchilada, which basically means they can’t open in any sane way. So again, this is what needs to happen. Kind of like a drill. A drill focuses the pressure and the torque on a very narrow area, and that’s when you can have your impact. You look at the country as a whole and people just throw back their hands and say, “What could I do?”
But if you’re in a legislature, if you have legislative sessions going on right now, you’d be surprised at how few people focus on that process. Nowadays, there’s a lot of websites where you can track these bills and see what they’re doing. If you see a good piece of legislation, it would be like, “Hey, why aren’t we pushing that? Why isn’t the leadership holding a vote on this to give legislative input, at least after 30 days of a governor declaring emergency?”
These are certainly things that need to be discussed. Schooling: are we going to mask our kids forever? At this point, that is an important question to ask, “What is your evidence behind that?” We’re seeing no matter what that schools do not contribute to the problem. We’re seeing kids have less of a problem from this even than the flu. Even for those that really are very bullish about lockdown policies for adults, for kids the evidence certainly is not there. So this is stuff that a lot of people could do.
Now, as one person, it’s tough. You get burned out. But if you get 15 people together and you start maybe dividing it by county—this person deals with the sheriff at an implementation level, this person deals with some county commissions, this person deals with state legislatures, this person will write articles and go on radio, this person will call meetings—there’s a lot that can be done. It’s all part of self-governing, we need to make self-governing great again.
Mr. Jekielek: Yes, and presumably you have some resources for these people where they could learn how to do some of this stuff. That sounds really interesting. We’ll put the link in below. Now, let’s jump to this immigration question. You know, in 2019, there was by many standards, an immigration crisis. Over a million people had basically come through, migrants had come through the border. The system was overwhelmed. So a series of policies were put in place by the Trump administration to deal with that.
Now, a number of these executive orders, going back to what we were talking about at the beginning, from the new Biden administration have had directly to do with immigration and border security. From what I understand the numbers are back at something like 3000 people or even more a day, which is kind of pushing in that direction, like back in 2019. A lot of people are wondering what’s going on here, exactly? The question is, there’s been a lot of criticism of these executive orders related to immigration and border security. Where do you see the biggest problems?
Mr. Horowitz: President Biden is basically saying, “I don’t believe in immigration enforcement.” And he said that he’s suspending deportations. Now, according to the INA [The Immigration and Nationality Act], if you enter the country without documentation, you have to be placed into removal proceedings. That’s the law. Now, someone might not like it, and I think they are concurrently introducing legislation to maybe change those laws. But currently, they are the law. It’s kind of bizarre. They’re not “voodoo” laws.
Every country has those laws. You are not a sovereign nation if you don’t have a way of controlling who comes into your country. So the notion that a president could do that is extremely, extremely novel. It is very hard to imagine. It’s actually funny that Alexander Hamilton wrote an essay on basically just explaining the difference between a king and a president, because many were concerned. If you study history, you know that we started off with a legislature, the Continental Congress, and it was just one branch.
When they created the Constitution, they created this presidency. A lot of people were like, “Wait a minute, we just got done with a king. We don’t like what’s going on here.” So Hamilton wrote, in the Federalist Papers, it was Federalist No. 70, he wrote an entire essay contrasting the power of a president to that of the king. He wanted everyone to be clear that look, this is a new office. He’s the chief executive officer of the executive branch. He’s there to execute the laws; he doesn’t make law. He certainly can’t violate rights. And he can’t just do whatever he wants.
One of the things he said was pretty amazing; he used the example of making denizens of aliens. It’s pretty funny how of all things, he picked that as the paradigm of what a king can do. I’m sorry, it’s Federalist No. 69. He said, “A president can confer no privileges whatsoever. A king can make denizens of aliens.” Again, you need Congress, if you want to give them de-facto legal status. You mentioned the border crisis. It is true. In parts of Texas, we are back up to levels that we didn’t see since 2019.
One thing I found very funny that a lot of people forgot. What is the buzzword that we have heard throughout this whole COVID crisis—in order to alleviate the burden on hospitals, governments can infringe upon fundamental rights. Stuff that everyone agrees on. Life, liberty, property, your business is shut. You’re done. I’m not agreeing with it, but I’m just saying, that is what we have said, basically, as a nation, as a government.
This is what we’re doing. Americans don’t have First, Fourth, Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment rights, because we need to make sure that hospitals aren’t overrun. What I found shocking is that the media did not cover this.
In 2019, we had our borders rushed with people coming over during flu season. They were coming to use the hospitals for elective surgeries. They had mumps, they had tuberculosis, they had chicken pox, and they were coming for all sorts of things. You have to realize that at the border most of them are like Yuma, Eagle Pass, Texas—small cities that don’t have large hospitals. They were overrun. Americans had to wait in line.
This is well-documented. It was a healthcare crisis. CBP commissioner, at the time, Mark Morgan said, “This is not just a humanitarian crisis and a security crisis, it is a health crisis.” At the border they had all sorts of field hospitals. Never once did we say, “Illegal immigration needs to be shut off, so we don’t have a run on the hospitals.” So illegal aliens have greater rights than Americans. It is truly unbelievable.
Now we have the pandemic, and according to their logic, this is Biden’s logic, human movement and gathering is the decisive, determinant outcome in the epidemiological curve. That’s his view. So the greatest way to spread is to have international mass influx, international travel, because remember, each country kind of has its own curve. But if you import from another country, it might be a little bit later when they get there, it’s called the Hope-Simpson curve.
The southern latitudes tend to get the winter spread that we seem to be over with, they get it in the spring, and we saw that around last year too. They could bring that in, no concern. They’re not tested, or nothing. They’re sent on buses now. A lot of Haitians are coming in at the Texas border. They’re bused in, and that’s it. They stopped the turnarounds—turning them around and saying, “Look, it’s a pandemic, we can’t go through the process.”
So your business is shut down. You must wear a mask for the rest of your lives. Your kids can’t go to school, but foreign nationals have the right to crash our border. This violates the social compact at its core—a government of, by, and for the people by the consent of the governed. That’s the Declaration of Independence. Again, this is not right or left, this is the purpose of government.
We have an extremely generous immigration system, which by the way, for the most part, we did not shut down during the pandemic while Americans are locked down. But the notion that you’re going to have illegal immigrants crashing the border during the pandemic really is very revealing as to when they care about COVID and when they don’t.
Mr. Jekielek: Why don’t you tell me what do you think is actually going on here?
Mr. Horowitz: It’s the same reason why they were concerned about COVID until we had the George Floyd funerals which were all indoors or all the mass rioting and protesting. That was virtuous. You had doctors putting out letters saying this is great. This is the First Amendment in action. It’s heads they win, tails conservatives lose. That’s what it is. It’s all about power. Let’s face it.
Let’s face it, if they knew that these people would be voting a different way, they would have landmines and machine guns at that border. If it were more like Eastern Europeans that tend to be a little bit more conservative because they’ve had bad experiences with communism—if they were coming over, I think we would see a different policy.
And it’s all like I said, that the means justify the ends. They want more voters. This is it. This is what we’re doing. I got it straight, confirmed from the State Department that refugee resettlement, they are not testing them for COVID. They’re bringing them from all parts of the world. How is it that American schoolchildren are treated the way they are, [as opposed] to the sacred thing of immigration?
Let’s look at this from a labor standpoint. For a while before COVID, we virtually had full employment. Below 4 percent unemployment is considered full employment. Maybe you could say we need more foreign labor.
But then we had the worst lockdown ever. We have a lot of problems with jobs, a lot of people are out of work. Particularly, a lot of people might have some sort of job, but they’re woefully underemployed and their hours were cut back. How could you justify bringing in more foreign workers? It just doesn’t make any sense: a) the pandemic, just in terms of the viral spread, and b) the labor market.
This is how so many Americans get the impression that the government just doesn’t work for them. It’s putting Americans last. It’s all whatever the big tech, and the big corporations want. They want cheap labor. You know, it’s kind of the Masters of the Universe get together. This is really more than a right versus left. It’s up versus down.
Mr. Jekielek: One of the big arguments that I understand is the case for facilitating asylum cases, and immigration from Central America is basically on compassionate grounds. Situations in a lot of these countries are a lot worse, and there’s a lot of people that need help or are looking for help. This is the idea. People who are supporters of at least some of these policies would imagine that America is a benevolent country and helps others.
Mr. Horowitz: Sure. That’s an hour discussion in and of itself. I’ll give a couple of brief pointers on that. First off, again, starting with the pandemic, no country is doing this during a pandemic. In some states, they still have curfews. If you have curfews on your own people, you’re certainly not going to have international migration. That just doesn’t add up. But broadly speaking, there’s a lot of misnomers there.
First off, our entire immigration system is one big refugee and asylum [system,] so they get multiple bites at the apple. We don’t have a skills-based system. We need to create one. Basically, our legal immigration system is primarily people from third world countries, impoverished countries. We have over a million a year. Then we have hundreds of thousands of guest workers.
We have refugee, we have asylum, we have TPS [Temporary Protected Status], we have SJV [Single Journey Visas], we have the UAC [Unaccompanied Alien Children], and we have U visas. I’m just going through a few. We have VAWA [Violence Against Women Act] visas. We have all sorts of categories, so they have multiple bites at the apple. Then they look at each one and they say, “We need more of this,” and they forget the other ones.
And then there’s the definition of what is a refugee and what is an asylee. Refugee and asylum was meant for a very limited scope. It was if you had a particularized political group, ethnicity, race, or nationality that were being persecuted by a majority, and you disentangle that minority from that majority, and you bring them in.
It wasn’t about a third world in poverty that’s kind of a lousy place to live, and we’re bringing everyone in. Say what you want about Latin America, but it’s a very homogenous place. We’re not disentangling a persecuted minority from a majority. It’s just a green light, “Hey, anyone who you want is in.” And the question is how much? So again, we already have so much legal immigration from these countries. We’ve had two generations of illegal immigration, and we’re going to continue this.
So here’s the question that people who support it need to ask themselves. If their belief is that anyone who pays a smuggling cartel—which by the way is killing Americans with the proceeds by killing our youth with drugs, the cartels and the smugglers and the caravans—if we have a moral obligation to let anyone who successfully does that into the country, then don’t we have a moral obligation to land boats in those countries and prospectively bring them in?
Why should someone who pays the cartels be better off than someone who doesn’t? What about someone who’s maybe disabled or older can’t make the trek? Shouldn’t we have to bring in every human being from every impoverished country?
I once worked out, if you look at Guatemala and Honduras’ GDP, if you look at every country below that GDP level, we would have an obligation to bring in over 2 billion people, or one and a half billion people into this country.
It makes no sense. It literally makes no sense. That’s never what it was designed to be. Also, we are harming these countries, by draining off their people. They need to build their own countries, and we spend a tremendous amount of foreign aid on development.
So this is, again, where they get two bites at the apple. They bring them in, so they’re working against the aid, because that point of the aid is to build up those countries. A lot of these governments—the last regime in Guatemala actually worked with Trump to put an end to the caravans. They didn’t like them. It was harming their country. It was ruining their ability to get off the ground. So it doesn’t help anyone.
It’s like fat and calories. If I say, “I’m pro-fat; I’m pro calories. It’s good for you.” What a vacuous statement. How much? What type? What sort of quantity? Over what period of time? Some is vital, some is kind of neutral. Beyond that, it’s very harmful. That’s really what immigration policy is, as almost every policy is, it’s not in the absolute.
We are coming off a period of record legal and illegal immigration from this past generation. You have labor market issues, you have assimilation issues, you have cultural issues, and you have criminal issues. Again, when you have a wild border and people just pay cartels to come over—not everyone is like that—but you have an awful lot of bad guys coming over.
Let me just give you some statistics. Just in fiscal year 2019 alone, those who were subject to detainers by ICE in FY-2019—these are just the people ICE has identified, which is a force of 6000 deportation officers, a very small force that’s a third of the size of NYPD—they had a cumulative history of 1923 murder charges, 56,000 assaults, 14,506 crimes, 5000 robberies, 2500 kidnaps and 74,000 DUIs. DUIs are a particular problem we’re seeing from the illegal immigrants from Latin America. There’s a lot of studies that have been done on that. That is a simple fact.
In New York City alone, the detainers that were lodged accounted for 200 homicides, 500 robberies, and 1000 sexual assaults. Let me say this; in a given year, New York only has about 300 to 350 homicides. Now, they weren’t all necessarily within that one year, those 200, but you get what I’m saying. This is something you can’t ignore. We have the problem with the gangs. What we’re doing is, we’re feeding this circuitous cycle of basically telegraphing the message that anyone who comes here with a kid, you’re here to stay.
Let’s say I’m for charity, and I’m going to go out on I-95, the busiest highway on the east coast, and hand out bread on the interstate. Well, you can only begin to imagine the cascading effect of misery you’re going to create with all the car crashes and everything, and it’s a similar thing when you create a market for smugglers and really bad people and the gangs. We have this problem of rent-a-child, all these people that rent kids, kidnap kids, as their ticket to get over.
Then you have these 15 to 17 year-old-boys being dropped into the country without much support or sense of purpose, or a sense of identity in America. Guess what? They are prime recruits for the MS-13 gang. Any U.S. Attorney, DEA agent, or FBI agent that works this will tell you that in the last five years when we’ve had the Central American influx—MS-13 was almost killed off in the previous decade—they’re thriving now. And it’s a circuitous cycle of drugs, and violence, and kidnappings.
Look, I could go on and on. And I know you’ve got to run. I’m going to leave you with one point. When you do immigration irresponsibly, too much from certain areas over too short a period of time in the wrong way, you get what is bad for Americans and bad for the immigrants. What you want for the immigrants is to experience America. You don’t want [them] to experience where they came from. But what you do with these policies, is you turn America into the countries where they came from where you don’t have the rule of law, and you have anarchy like we’re seeing at the border.
The Washington Post, actually, of all publications, did a good series on MS-13’s growth in the area of the country where I live, around the Washington suburbs, both the Virginia and Maryland side, among the El Salvadorian community. What they’ve done is basically they would have quotes from people that appear to be illegal immigrants themselves.
They said, “This is exactly how it’s like in my home country.” They would have to pay extortion in neighborhoods in Silver Spring, Maryland; Wheaton, Maryland; Prince George’s County, Maryland; places in Arlington and Fairfax, Virginia, where you now have MS-13 that has recruited from these illegal alien children, and where you have these families that now are living and often have to pay extortion to MS-13 on our soil.
[If] you bring in the right amounts, in the right flow, in a controlled fashion, in a vetted way, you can enrich America and give immigrants the American experience. [If] you do it the way we’re doing it now, you bring all of the problems— that everyone clearly agrees exists in those countries, that’s why they’re saying, “Oh, we have to let them in,”—you bring them to the shores of America.
Mr. Jekielek: Yes, and to finish up actually, we do have a situation, for example, where Texas is saying, “Hey, wait a second. I don’t know if we want to do all these things which are being mandated federally. To finish up, I’m wondering if you could let us know what the status of that is, and what a state like Texas can actually do. I believe this is through the governor, at least in part. What’s the expected outcome?
Mr. Horowitz: You’re talking about the border?
Mr. Jekielek: Yes.
Mr. Horowitz: As the border is concerned, we talked about states pushing back broadly, but then there’s the border states. Look, Article Four, Section Four of the United States Constitution guarantees the states protection from an invasion. That is why they joined the Union. Justice Scalia used to say that states would have never joined the Union had they known that a president—he said this when Obama was doing something similar— could just nullify sovereignty law and saddle the states with the fiscal and security burden of illegal immigrants in their education system and their health care system.
They would have never joined. The federal government was given control over immigration to protect states from influx, because they didn’t want other states bringing in too many people that really weren’t good for the union, just so they could juice up their representation in Congress, their census numbers, which is literally what California does today. They didn’t do it to abrogate state sovereignty.
At some point, if the federal government is derelict, they have a right and responsibility. I know the Texas DPS [Department of Public Safety], they have the Texas Rangers, there is a lot they could do. They do have a lot more assets, certainly, than other states do. They’ve deployed them in the past, and they have a right to protect their state. [It’s] not a matter of setting up their own process, but turning people back.
Again, if a governor could shut down your mouth, literally, your mouth cannot be open without a mask. Your business can’t be open unless under these circumstances. Your private schools can’t be open unless under these circumstances. If that’s true, they certainly have the right to shut down illegal immigration.
Mr. Jekielek: Daniel Horowitz, any final thoughts?
Mr. Horowitz: Look, it’s all local. It’s all about making state legislatures great again, making self- governance great again. I think what’s important to realize—look, it’s no secret, you hear it in my voice, I’m a conservative. People have different views, but I think what we should all agree upon is this. I would love for all 50 states to reflect my values, and all cities to reflect where I want the country to be and where I think the Constitution really was supposed to take us, but from a pragmatic sense, I understand that we have a very divided country.
The only way to disagree agreeably in a fashion that I think will avoid any violence and acrimony is to really start devolving this power where the federal government is not winner take all—you get in power and you get to do whatever you want everywhere and control people’s lives. We need to start devolving these decisions to local units of government, where people could start self-sorting.
And if this area of the country reflects more your values, then that’s where you’re going to go. I understand, let California be California, but let Texas and Florida and North Dakota be the way they are. That way we could self-sort. That’s a good way to have competition too, you get to see which ones are doing better, which states are thriving better, who has good ideas, and you could copy them or learn from the mistakes of failures. This is what our founders envisioned, and I think this is the way we’re going to have to operate as a country. We have to recognize that people do have different interests.
We had this even in the founding of our country. The first challenge to the federal government’s authority was the Whiskey Rebellion in 1794, when Alexander Hamilton instituted a tax on whiskey. The truth be told, there was no right answer. They needed revenue to pay off the Revolutionary War debt, but at the same time, it really stuck it to the western farmers in Kentucky, Appalachia, and Western Pennsylvania.
It really didn’t affect the merchants on the coasts, and Hamilton’s allies. They rebelled, and they took up arms. George Washington—the federal government was new and was very fragile—quelled that rebellion very swiftly. At the same time, he understood where they were coming from. He pardoned the leaders of the rebellion, because he understood it did disproportionately affect them.
When you say, “I’m going to shut you down. I’m going to shut down your business, you have to wear a mask, you’re a threat.” Even if you buy into the science behind that, you do have to understand that is an earth shattering step for a government to take. We’re going to have to have self-sorting. We’re going to have to have areas where, “Look, if you want to wear a mask, go wear it. You want to stay in your house for the rest of your life—that’s lovely—if you happen to have a job that allows you to do that.” But a lot of people don’t have that luxury, and you have to understand and respect that.
I resent it to no end when I see government workers earn their paycheck, because they could have a government job where they can work online, and they earn their paycheck off shutting down another person’s paycheck who can’t work online. He has a restaurant. What’s he supposed to do? These wealthy executives, or these government workers, that’s lovely, you’re not affected by it, but these people are. How do you judge them?
This is where we start. We’re going to have to have different strokes for different folks. We’re going to have to have states that start reflecting the other side of the view, like the other side of the divide. California and New York reflect the values of their side, the Republicans or a new party needs to reflect the other side.
That’s going to be good for everyone. It’s going to create choice and competition in the marketplace. You’re already seeing people vote with their feet, moving out of places like New York and going to Florida. This is what needs to happen. You cannot have a one-size-fits-all solution. Our founders understood that in a republic of 8 million people. That certainly rings true today in a country of 330 million people.
Mr. Jekielek: Daniel Horowitz, such a pleasure to have you on.
Mr. Horowitz: Really appreciate it, and looking forward to coming back.
This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.