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Counter Point to Supremacy Clause Argument: Reaction to ‘Response to Navarro’s Outrage’

The following Letter to the Editor is response to a "A Citizen’s Response to Councilmember Navarro’s Outrage," a Letter to the Editor published by Germantown Pulse on Monday, Jan. 30, 2017.

If the letter to the editor regarding Nancy Navarro’s statement that President Trump’s immigration order is outrageous were simply the writer’s exercise of his Constitutional right to free speech, I would not feel the need to reply. However, as his reliance on the Supremacy Clause is legally misguided and his assertions about Trump’s intentions are factually incorrect, I felt the need to respond. Disagreements over the state of our nation are a healthy part of politics and society in general, and the right to do so is a foundation of our country. But when they are based on half-truths and red-herrings, they rise to the level of the famous axiom, “I know just enough to be dangerous.”

To begin with, the writer’s reliance on the Supremacy Clause overlooks several important aspects of both the Constitution and the legal structure of the United States. The Supremacy Clause was meant to ensure that the federal government was not subservient to state constitutions and state laws. Importantly, however, the Supremacy Clause does not prevent states from speaking up or taking the federal government to court when they feel a law is outside the boundaries of the Constitution. (This is bolstered by the 10th Amendment as well, which says that the federal government has only those powers delegated to it in the Constitution; the states are in charge of the rest.)

Ms. Navarro did not say Maryland would not comply with the order, nor did she order customs officials to violate the order. She simply exercised her duty as a democratically elected Maryland official to stand up for constituents whose rights are being violated. If the writer feels that does not represent his views, he is entitled to say that and vote against her. But until she loses an election, she will act in the way the voting public elected her to act – just as the writer supports Trump in doing.

The reliance on the Supremacy Clause begs a counterargument – that the string of executive orders Trump has issued are actually an unlawful attempt to circumvent Article 1, Section 1’s provision that only Congress may enact legislation. Congress has exercised this authority in the realm of immigration law, a fact acknowledged in the executive order. That Trump feels Congress has, “failed to discharge this basic sovereign responsibility” does not negate the fact that Congress is the only branch with the authority to issue laws that amend its previous legislation.

While striking down one of President Truman’s executive orders, the Supreme Court itself concluded in Youngtown Steel & Tube Co. v. Sawyer (343 U.S. 579 (1952)) that: “In the framework of our Constitution, the President's power to see that the laws are faithfully executed refutes the idea that he is to be a lawmaker. The Constitution limits his functions in the lawmaking process to the recommending of laws he thinks wise and the vetoing of laws he thinks bad. And the Constitution is neither silent nor equivocal about who shall make laws which the President is to execute.