Amygdala is Back! (Impairment of Contracts)

His fans will be glad to know that Gary Farber seems to have overcome the problems in his life long enough to take up blogging again, and has a stemwinder of a post in Papers, Please on the new Alabama anti-undocumented-immigrant statute.

I had not being paying enough attention, because until he pointed it out, I had not known that among the many jaw-dropping features of this piece of punitive xenophobia is this bit, hidden in plain sight in the New York Times:

Among the other sections Judge Blackburn upheld: one that nullifies any contracts entered into by an illegal immigrant; another that forbids any transaction between an illegal immigrant and any division of the state, a proscription that has already led to the denial of a Montgomery man’s application for water and sewage service; and, most controversially, a section that requires elementary and secondary schools to determine the immigration status of incoming students.

Nullification of contracts? Er, what about this little section of the Constitution, in Art. I, Sec. 10, para 1:

No state shall enter into any treaty, alliance, or confederation; grant letters of marque and reprisal; coin money; emit bills of credit; make anything but gold and silver coin a tender in payment of debts; pass any bill of attainder, ex post facto law, or law impairing the obligation of contracts, or grant any title of nobility.

(emphasis added). Surely that’s relevant?

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11 Responses to Amygdala is Back! (Impairment of Contracts)

  1. Dave says:

    In this particular case maybe there wasn’t yet a contract – the application was denied. I’m sure there will be some water district that decides to cancel all service and have everybody re-apply solely to cut off water to undocumented immigrants.

    I do wonder about the ban on “transactions” with the state. Would that mean undocumented immigrants can’t be made to pay, say, traffic fines? Is arresting somebody a “transaction?”

    (Not just questioning the law for practical reasons, it’s beyond odious and a stain on all of us.)

  2. Brett Bellmore says:

    You’d think it would be relevant to a awful lot of things the government does, frankly, but it gets away with them anyway. The government impairs contracts every day, as “Contrary to public policy”. Since public policy is that illegal aliens shouldn’t be here, isn’t every contract they enter into for anything but passage out of the country contrary to that policy?

    BS, really, but why swallow a horse and then strain at a gnat?

  3. Altoid says:

    Presumably on roughly the same grounds that contracts with minors are unenforceable, or at least nullifiable– not legally competent to contract, or something like that. But then, as Dave says, can any “transaction” with any state agency be legally enforced? To me, that means the state can’t force them to pay taxes. Unless, of course, they’ve thought of that and made a specific provision in the law for it. Which, honestly, I have to say I suspect they did.

    Alabama isn’t disclaiming jurisdiction over them, right? It looks more like “shunning,” the way Old Order Amish and some other sects sometimes do. Can a government body do that?

    • Brett Bellmore says:

      Not if you’re here *legally*. But that’s the elephant in the room: They’re [i]not[/i] here legally. While the federal government won’t permit the states to enforce federal immigration laws the federal government wants left unenforced, I’m not sure they can actually force the states to provide any services to people who aren’t even supposed to be in the country.

      As for the no school for children of illegal aliens, isn’t that pretty much a no brainer? Even I, a citizen, can’t expect to enroll my child in a school outside the district I legally reside in. (People have been convicted of felony fraud for doing it covertly.) Why would the fact that said district is somewhere in Mexico change that? The children are entitled to an education, they’re just entitled to get it from a school somewhere in Mexico.

      • Having talked to a contracts person, it may be that the distinction is future and past contracts. A state can ban certain types of contracts prospectively and not run afoul of the Contracts Clause. It’s only retroactive abrogations that would be a violation.

      • Just me says:

        Mr. Bellmore: If the family lives in the US (even illegally), they do not reside in Mexico. So, your assumption that ” said district is somewhere in Mexico” is incorrect.

        • Brett Bellmore says:

          Yeah, and if I drive over to the next school district, and spend a week in a hotel, that doesn’t make the next school district over my legal residence. Emphasis on legal.

          One of the more tiresome aspects of the whole illegal immigration argument is the way opponents of immigration law enforcement relentlessly refuse to admit that the “illegal” part carries any significance. Those children belong with their parents, who belong in a different country.

          • Just me says:

            I get it, your argument is they do not legally reside in this country, thus their “legal residence” is not in the school district. Accepting that for the sake of argument, your statement that the family’s residence is in Mexico (or whatever the country of origin was) is incorrect. They left Mexico and no longer reside there. The illegal immigrant has no “legal residence” anywhere.

            As for your hotel example, yes, the hotel may be your residence if you intend to stay there. But if your intention was to leave in a week, no, it could not be your residence and your school district doesn’t change.

            This isn’t that tough. If your position is simply that illegal immigrants have not obtained proper government authority to be in this country and therefore should not be given any government services, then just say so. Reasonable people can disagree, but attempting to support your position with logically flawed arguments doesn’t help your cause.

  4. Gary Farber says:

    Hey, thanks muchly, Michael! Very nice of you.

    I also appreciate that you linked to Amygdala, which understandably has few hits these days, but I should also mention that the iterations at Obsidian Wings draw more comments and arguments, if anyone wishes to join in there.

    (Though at the moment, my not particularly noteworthy post on al-Awlaki is getting some argument.)

    Hi, Brett.

  5. James Madison says:

    SCOTUS has already held that states cannot discriminate based upon alienage when it comes to primary schooling. See. Plyler v. Doe, 457 U.S. 202 (1982).

    How did the court miss that one?

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