Vail Daily column: Begin with the rule of law

Butch Mazzuca
Butch Mazzuca |

“The Statue of Liberty goes dark — a clear argument against President Donald Trump’s travel ban,” read the Washington Post headline on March 8 in response to the National Park Service’s decision to briefly turn out the lights on the Statue of Liberty in order to effect repairs to its electrical system.

The problem with that headline, however, is that the Statue of Liberty has nothing to do with immigration, at least not from the perspective of those who conceived of, designed and built the monument. So what’s the real story about Lady Liberty’s purpose and how she came to be?

Some contend a quirky French sculptor, Frederic Auguste Bartholdi, a mid-career statue maker, decided to pitch the United States on his vision to build a massive lighthouse in the shape of a woman. According to legend, Bartholdi battled naysayers, engineering impossibilities, and a raging storm during transport to put the Lady on her feet in New York harbor.

Others attribute its origins to Edouard de Laboulaye, a man frequently called, “The Father of the Statue of Liberty.” Laboulaye originated the idea of building the monument to honor the work of America’s late president Abraham Lincoln, a man Laboulaye admired greatly.

Our Constitution gives us the means and the right to change laws; but it does not give us the option to follow only those laws we agree with.

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But Laboulaye had a secondary purpose; he hoped the statue, a gift from the people of France, would inspire the French to create their own democracy in the face of a repressive monarchy. It should also be noted that the official name of the icon, “Liberty Enlightening the World,” supports this version of the statue’s purpose.

So how did the Statue of Liberty become entwined with immigration? Like most urban legends the specific answer is difficult to ascertain. Perhaps it was the statue’s proximity to Ellis Island that caused people to conflate the purpose of the monument with immigration.

A more likely explanation however, points to the poem written by Emma Lazarus, “The New Colossus,” appearing on the pedestal of the statue, “Give me your tired, your poor your huddled masses yearning to breathe free” and how it makes specific reference to immigration. But Lazarus wrote her sonnet 13 years after the idea for the statue was even conceived; meaning Lazarus’ words referencing immigrants were an afterthought.

Metaphorically speaking, and in the eyes of those who created the monument, the statue is a symbol of liberty and an encouragement to those who would seek democracy in their own country, not those seeking a new homeland.

Meanwhile, by linking Lady Liberty with immigration, the Washington Post and other media are in effect placing the same significance on the words of Lazarus, a socialist immigrant, with those in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution; documents authored by American giants Jefferson, Hamilton, Madison, et al.

Most people knowledgeable with immigration law understand that cooperation between federal, state and local governments is the cornerstone of effective immigration enforcement for the simple reason local law enforcement officials are far more likely to encounter people here illegally while doing their jobs than are federal agents.

Quoting from the Federation for American Immigration Reform, “The ability of state and local law enforcement and other government officials to freely cooperate and communicate with federal immigration authorities is not just important — but essential — to the enforcement of our immigration laws.”

Nonetheless, states and local governments across the country are actively engaged in policies that restrict or prohibit cooperation with federal immigration authorities. Commonly referred to as “sanctuary policies,” such ordinances, directives, and practices undermine enforcement of U.S. immigration law by prohibiting state and local law enforcement from doing their jobs.

One justification for the willful violation of the law is to claim people here illegally* will be more likely to report crimes if they don’t fear of deportation. However, there is only anecdotal evidence supporting that assertion, not to mention that most law enforcement agencies already have the discretion to grant immunity to witnesses and victims of crime.

(*Note — to be technically accurate, under federal law, any non-U.S. citizen is defined as an alien and aliens who have entered the United States without permission, or who have violated the terms of their admission, are identified under the law as illegal aliens.)

Sanctuary jurisdictions also cite that immigration is a “federal issue” and therefore they do not have a responsibility (or the money necessary) to cooperate with federal authorities.

But can you imagine the outcry from the left if Gov. Hickenlooper suddenly declared that all handgun purchases within Colorado would be free of federal firearms statutes, or if Mayor Hancock announced that the city of Denver would ignore the Supreme Court ruling regarding gay marriage?

Our Constitution gives us the means and the right to change laws; but it does not give us the option to follow only those laws we agree with. Regardless of intent, sanctuary policies are illegal, plain and simple. Unfortunately, legality doesn’t seem to matter when it’s contrary to the left’s ideology.

Quote of the day: “Any resistance must be within the framework of the orderly processes established by law. Any other course is indefensible.” — Former democratic senator, Allen J. Ellender.

Butch Mazzuca, of Edwards, writes regularly for the Vail Daily. He can be reached at

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