It may be a bit unusual to begin a comment by hoping that it turns out to be totally wrong, but this is certainly the case with my comment today, Monday, June 25. By the time it appears in ID, the Supreme Court may already have issued a ruling on the validity of the Affordable Health Care Act, disparagingly known as "Obamacare" even by its supporters.
Of even more direct concern to America's immigrant and other minority communities, the Court may also have issued a ruling as early as today on the validity of Arizona's draconian anti-immigrant S.B. 1070,Wo sind Ihre Papiere? ("Hand over your papers!" - hereinafter:"WSIP" ) law If the first of these laws is upheld and the second is overturned, Americans and immigrants together can breathe a collective sigh of relief that our democracy still works for everyone, not just the super-rich elite and the bigots who want to keep America lily-white.
In that case, readers should feel free to skip this comment and go on to one of the many outstanding items by ID's editors and other contributors which appear in this publication every business day. However, if these two decisions go the other way, as expected, America may have reached a crucial moment for the rights, not only of immigrants and other minorities, but all middle class and less privileged people in this great country. In all probability, a point of no return for the respect and authority enjoyed by the nation's highest court.may also have been reached.
If health care reform is thrown out (as it is reasonable to assume it will be in its entirety if the individual mandate is overturned - the court's right wing Justices do not usually do things by halves), it will mean that the role of government should be reined in, or eliminated entirely, when it helps tens of millions, or perhaps more than a hundred million, middle class or less well off people, including many minority immigrants and US citizens, obtain a higher standard of living, or, in many cases, hold onto life itself, by having access to medical care which they would otherwise not be able to afford, if this might mean lower profits for the insurance companies or less exorbitant bonuses for their CEO's.
It would also mean that the American people, through their elected representatives, would have no voice in determining their own future about this life and death issue, if five partisan Justices with records of supporting corporate interests over those of the public, as well as, at least in one or two cases, avowed right wing ideological axes to grind, disagree. This would not be a democracy in which the courts are an independent, co-equal branch of government, but rather a nation governed by a council of elders, who have the final say over what they think is best for the country, (or at least for its wealthy, privileged elite).
At the same time, if most or all of Arizona WSIP law is upheld, it will mean that not merely big, but gigantic government is legal, with all the trappings of a totalitarian police state. This would include police stopping people at random in the street or in vehicles and summarily dragging anyone without the right papers off to detention and deportation; predawn raids; American children going off to school in fear, not knowing if their parents will still be there when they return home; or, even worse, being kept out of school by parents terrified that their children will be interrogated and forced to reveal their parents' whereabouts, as is already happening in Alabama; and an expanding nationwide network of gulags, also known as immigration detention centers.
In short, if health care reform is thrown out and Arizona's WSIP law is upheld, it will mean that there are two doctrines of government in America: One would be small government, almost to the vanishing point, for the benefit of the billionaires, even if this means that tens of millions of people, US citizens and immigrants alike, can no longer afford health care, one of the most essential elements of life.
The other would be huge government, Orwellian style, for the benefit of the anti-immigrant bigots who want to keep America white. What respect for the role of the Supreme Court would be left it it issues two such utterly opposed decisions about the role of government at the same time, in order to satisfy the billionaires and the bigots, two key elements of the Republican coalition?
I will conclude by quoting once again from my favorite classical poet, Virgil. In Book 1 of the Aeneid, he describes what happens when the wind god, Aeolus, lets loose the powerful storms which he keeps locked up inside a vast underground cave: Haec ubi dicta, cavum conversum cuspide montem/impulit in latus; ac venti, velut agmine facto/quo data porta, ruunt et terras turbine perflant. ("Saying this, he strikes the side of hollow mountain with the butt end of his spear; and the winds, lined up as in battle formation, rush out through the exit, like a whirwind across the earth.")
If the right wing Supreme court majority lets loose Arizona's WSIP law, there will be a whirlwind of similar anti-immigrant hate laws rushing out all over America. Let us all hope against hope that the Supreme Court keeps Arizona's hate law locked up in the legal prison where it belongs.
Roger Algase is a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School. He has been practicing business immigration law in New York City for more than 20 years.