Attorney General Jeff Sessions has been pummeled in the media for days for what journalists and Democrats are calling his insult to Hawaii, in response to a temporary restraining order issued by a federal judge against President Donald Trump’s executive order suspending immigration from terror-prone countries.
But Sessions was right: on immigration issues, Hawaii is an island in many ways, with different challenges than the rest of the United States.
Sessions’s full comment, as relayed to relayed to Mark Levin, was: “I really am amazed that a judge sitting on an island in the Pacific can issue an order that stops the president of the United States from what appears to be clearly his statutory and constitutional power.” Critics have pounced on that as an attack on the separation of powers. In fact, it was the opposite: a defense of a clearly defined executive power from overreach by an activist, liberal judiciary.
But Hawaii really is an island archipelago — first in the obvious sense that it is surrounded on every side, for thousands of miles, by water. That makes illegal border crossings almost impossible. In that sense, Hawaii “border security,” as most Americans understand it, has nothing to do with Hawaii. There are a small amount of “undocumented immigrants” in Hawaii — most from the Philippines and Japan, and who presumably enter and then overstay their visas.
That is a crucial demographic difference that makes immigration issues very different for Hawaii. There is also a large Native Hawaiian population that wants little to do with the mainland; some want to create an indigenous government. And judicially, Hawaii is the left wing of the left-wing Ninth Circuit — which is why activists brought their case there.
Interestingly, Hawaiians seem to regard homeless squatters from the mainland the way some Americans see illegal immigrants: the Hawaiian legislature perennially debates proposals to pay the homeless to leave the state permanently.
Hawaii faces the same threat from the six designated terror-prone countries as any other U.S. point of entry. In that sense, a federal judge in Hawaii is as competent to rule on President Trump’s executive order as any other. However, a judge in Hawaii might not interpret the immigration issue the same way as one in the continental U.S.
The ruling that Judge Derrick Watson, an appointee of President Barack Obama, delivered was based on speculation about the motives of the president when he issued the order, rather than his statutory and constitutional authority to do so regardless.
Sessions’s point was that federal judges in general should defer to the president in matters of national security and immigration policy — particularly in jurisdictions that may have a peculiar lens through which they view the issue.
There ought to be nothing controversial about saying so. Democrats are choosing outrage over logic and the law.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He was named one of the “most influential” people in news media in 2016. His new book, How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.