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FIRST-PERSON: Please, at least read the law

ALEXANDRIA, La. (BP)–During the marathon debate over health care legislation, it came to light that some Washington D.C. lawmakers don’t even bother to read all of the bills they vote on. It recently came to light that some key members of the Obama administration seem more than willing to follow the example set by irresponsible Capitol Hill legislators.

United States Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. has been one of the chief critics of a new Arizona law aimed at curtailing the Grand Canyon State’s increasing problem with illegal immigration. Joining Holder’s chorus of criticism condemning the legislation was Janet Napolitano, the United States Secretary of Homeland Security.

In interviews and press conferences Holder called the law “unfortunate” and said he believes it could be abused and lead to racial profiling. The Attorney General suggested the law could well be unconstitutional and even hinted the U.S. might challenge the Arizona law in court.

Napolitano appeared in a variety of venues and labeled the Arizona law “misguided” and denounced it as “bad law.” She said it was “not the kind of law I would have signed.”

There is only one tiny problem with Holder and Napolitano’s critical rhetoric. Both have admitted that they had not read the bill prior to leveling their criticisms.

Testifying before a congressional committee on May 13, Holder admitted under oath that he has never read the law.

Holder’s admission prompted Rep. Ted Poe, a Republican from Texas, to respond, “It’s hard for me to understand how you would have comments about something being unconstitutional if you haven’t even read the law.”

Holder indicated that his critical comments have been based on “what I’ve heard about the law” in newspapers and on television.

During an appearance before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on May 17, Napolitano was asked by Sen. John McCain (R.-Ariz.), “Have you had a chance to review the new law that was passed by the state of Arizona?” Napolitano responded, “I have not reviewed it in detail, I certainly know of it, senator.”

Napolitano’s ignorance of the law’s details did not keep her from once again criticizing the law. She told the committee, “I believe it’s a bad law enforcement law.”

Now, it is possible that the Arizona law could well be as nefarious as Holder and Napolitano contend. It is also possible that the law could be abused in the ways they describe. However, neither Holder nor Napolitano is in a credible position to comment or criticize the legislation due to the fact they both admitted they have not read the law.

As key members of President Obama’s cabinet, Holder and Napolitano have the responsibility to know about legislation that affects the safety and well-being of American citizens. There is no excuse for their having not read the Arizona anti-immigration law.

The old saying, “ignorance of the law,” seems especially apropos in this case.

The irresponsibility of Holder and Napolitano is compounded by the fact that both had the audacity to criticize a law they had never read. They painted the bill with broad negative brush strokes without ever having looked at it.

Rather than offering light to help provide legal illumination to the Arizona law, Holder and Napolitano only added political fuel to a situation already ablaze with controversy. The citizens of the Grand Canyon State need help from Washington, D.C., not uniformed criticism.

Had Holder and Napolitano actually read the Arizona law and then took issue with specific parts of the legislation, they could have spoken with authority and would have deserved to be heard. As it stands, they come across as partisan politicos more concerned about politics than the safety of U.S. citizens.
Kelly Boggs is a weekly columnist for Baptist Press and editor of the Baptist Message (www.baptistmessage.com), newsjournal of the Louisiana Baptist Convention. Read the Arizona bill at http://bit.ly/cRfdQo or at http://www.azleg.gov/FormatDocument.asp?inDoc=/legtext/49leg/2r/bills/sb1070s.htm.

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  • Kelly Boggs