17 US states and DC sue federal government: Contend that authorities contribute to civil war danger

Seventeen states, including California, Illinois, New York and Washington State, as well as Washington, D.C. filed a lawsuit against the federal government on June 25. It seeks to force the Trump administration to reunite more than 2,000 children with their parents. The lawsuit is the first one by states over the “zero tolerance” policy to criminalize all entering the country and separate children from their parents. The suit says the federal government is acting in violation of the constitutional rights of immigrants and refugees, particularly due process rights, and is illegally inflicting trauma on children. Attorney Generals for California, Washington, and Massachusetts are leading the group. New York was to file its own lawsuit but instead joined this one. The rest of the states are: Maryland, Oregon, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Iowa, Minnesota, Rhode Island, Virginia, Vermont, North Carolina and Delaware.

The following day, addressing a class action lawsuit filed earlier by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) a federal court ruled that Trump is required to reunite all the separated families within thirty days and within 14 days for children under five (see above). Nonetheless, the lawsuit by the states is being pursued. This is an indication of the intensifying conflicts within the ruling circles as they strive for power — and the control of the many policing agencies that is a necessary component.

Part of what is at stake is whether the federal government can dictate to the states, especially the large ones, on matters of policing. The suit is taking place at a time many of these same states are refusing to send National Guards to the border as demanded by Trump, and where some, like New York and California have sanctuary laws, blocking local law enforcement from cooperating with federal agents, like Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), on certain matters. For this case, care and detention of children and refugees is also at issue. Many of the detention centers run by the federal government, for example, are in violation of state laws concerning licensing, safety and medical requirements for housing children.

The states are contending with the federal government as to who will have authority in a situation where rule of law has effectively been eliminated — as the actions surrounding immigration show. The federal government is acting with impunity, completely against human rights law the U.S. is duty bound to uphold. The states seem to think relying on the Constitution will resolve the conflict and hold the executive in check, but there is little basis for that to be so. Indeed, it is the very arrangements of the Constitution that have enabled the executive to increasingly usurp power and concentrate it in the office of the president. As the oath of office of the president states, he is to “faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States.”

Short of impeachment, the president can utilize the police powers of the executive as he sees fit. It has reached the point now where these police powers are all that remain of the public authority, without any semblance of government providing for the public good and upholding rule of law. This is evident not only on the matter of immigration but more broadly on issues of the rights of workers, women, students, issues of government racism and inequality, etc.

However, such a situation undermines the legitimacy of the federal government in the eyes of the people, including its ability to have a monopoly on the use of force. It creates conditions of contending authorities, in this case those of the federal government and the states. In a situation where many of these states, like New York and California, could be countries in their own right, such contention means the conditions of civil war always brewing under the surface could break out into open violence. In the current conflict, whether Trump adheres to the federal court ruling, whether the states persist and achieve a ruling of their own, whether National Guards will adhere to the will of the governors or Trump, are all indications of the seriousness the conditions of civil war are posing.

The vying factions among the ruling elite would like to see people line up behind one or the other faction so as to block the large majority — working people — from themselves gaining political power. But the many actions are already indicating that the people do not accept such a role. They are striving for a new direction. The alternative is for a government that upholds the rights of all — for an anti-war government and peace economy. Such a direction can resolve the wars abroad and conflicts at home in the interests of the people.

Voice of Revolution, Publication of the U.S. Marxist-Leninist Organization, website: www.usmlo.org

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