For all those little boys and girls with legal status concerned about potential separation from mommy or daddy, rest assured, Rep. Scott Desjarlais is here to assuage your fears.
The representative from Tennessee (my home state) addressed the concerns of an 11-year-old girl looking for advice in keeping her undocumented father in the United States, telling her that laws were laws, and implicitly, that her father was going to have to be deported. It is curious, however, that a politician with some degree of power over legislation would act like his hands were tied in speaking to those concerns, especially when that politician represents a party that is providing staunch opposition to any kind of reform of those very same laws.
See the appalling video below:
If there is one redeeming aspect to this story, perhaps it’s in the courage displayed by this 11-year old girl, asking a question sure to rile up the majority of Tea-Partiers in attendance. The quiver in her voice shows how terrifying it must have been. On the surface, there appeared to be a kind of brutal honesty to Desjarlais’s response, one not too often seen from politicians at these kinds of events. After all, the representative’s response was brutal in the sense that it was cold and unwavering in its commitment to the law, rather than actually addressing the source of the inquiry: a little girl terrified that her father was going to be taken away.
However, after giving his comments a little more thought, it is clear that the representative’s response was in fact hardly truthful at all. This notion that laws are laws is simply political jargon used to avoid coming to terms with staking out a particular position on an issue of politics. Of course laws are laws. Fortunately for Representative Desjarlais, his job is to craft laws and implicit in that process is the construction of reforms to already existing laws.
As a Republican, Rep. Desjarlais should be very familiar with this basic fact of political life. It’s why his fellow House Republicans have voted over 40 times to eliminate Obamacare, the existing law on health-care. It’s why conservatives are seeking out a constitutional challenge to Roe V. Wade, the existing law on abortion. It’s why conservatives sought out a constitutional challenge to sections of the Voting Rights Act, a law that has been reauthorized numerous times in the Congress since the 1960s. It’s why new abortion restrictions have swept various parts of the country. And of course it works the other way as well.
If Rep. Desjarlais is too scared to tell an 11-year-old girl that he supports laws that would mean the separation and breakup of millions of families, including her own, then he should own up to it. But please spare us this ‘law is law and we must enforce it’ nonsense. It is political cowardice and no one actually believes it.
Except, of course, for the crowd that cheered on this display of cowardice.