The political climate is tense.
Undocumented Californians don’t trust the government.
The national government located more than 2,000 miles away believes the undocumented immigrants have no interest in becoming citizens.
That leads to open civil disobedience to undercut federal law enforcement efforts.
If this sounds familiar, it is. But it’s not California today. It was California in June 1846.
California was part of Mexico. More and more settlers that technically were undocumented or illegal immigrants since they didn’t have permission of the federal government in Mexico City to be here were arriving in California from the United States.
Mexico was certain the new arrivals had no desire to become subjects of Mexico.
The new arrivals did not trust the government.
So they did what Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf did — they openly rebelled against federal authority. Schaaf deliberately undermined a federal Immigration Custom Enforcement raid while her anti-federal authority counterparts 172 years ago staged the short-lived Bear Flag Rebellion.
Since it was before the days of instantaneous communication, when American settlers launched their rebellion on June 14, 1846 with the bloodless takeover over of the Mexican outpost in Sonoma, they had no clue the United States had declared war on Mexico a month earlier on May 13, 1846 after the more infamous skirmish in Texas.
In quick succession the Bear Flag rebellion took over the Presidio at San Francisco and then Mexico’s provincial California capitol in Monterey where they claimed victory. The Republic of California lasted three weeks before news arrived that the United States was at war with Mexico. The renegade Californians, who were mostly American citizens, quickly sided with the United States.
The same dynamics are now underway in California although the war is more civil disobedience with one of the main weapons of choice being the delivery of volleys of legal briefs in federal courts.
Leaders in the State of California have done everything short of creating a legal status for undocumented California residents with the asterisk that they only have rights that are conveyed by Sacramento and not federal standing.
Schaaf’s stunt was pure political posturing to score brownie points with her base. If it was not then we should expect her to issue warnings of any advance notice of federal Occupational Heath Safety Administration surprise inspections given how draconian and repressive OSHA’s rules can be.
Whether she will pay a legal price for her actions that likely did little to impact arrests while giving her maximum credit for manning the political barricades, has yet to be seen. But given how the California Legislature after Trump’s election created a fund to bankroll suing the president’s administration even before they started rolling back regulations plus how Attorney General Xavier Becerra is suing Trump every time he sneezes, Schaaf would have to be naive to think she won’t have criminal charges filed against her.
The one nice thing about living 172 years ago is that you didn’t have social media, concerns about TV ratings, polling companies and politicians that were so removed from the rank and file that they could plunge country into war and never gave to worry about their lives being at risk gumming up the process.
Thanks to the endless white noise created by both sides we are ignoring reality.
Back in 1846 the “illegals” arriving in California were primarily American citizens. They were coming here for opportunity for a better life. Gold had yet to be discovered.
They worked the land right alongside legal Mexican subjects and citizens. They learned to speak Spanish, as that was the language of the economy and of the government.
While they legally purchased sections of land grants, they had no standing as citizens or even subjects of Mexico. On top of that their forefathers were immigrants to these shores from Europe, as were many of the forefathers of Mexico’s citizens who made their way to the New World from Spain.
Is it all that much different than why people immigrate to the United States today legally and illegally?
Yes, there were hardcore criminal elements back 172 years ago that crossed the Mississippi River and then the Sierra to end up in California. And there were those once here who broke low level laws. The same is true of undocumented immigrants today.
The bottom line is they are by far in the minority.
Every wave of immigration, legal and otherwise, has ended up making this country stronger.
The reason why Mexico for the most part did not chase “illegals” out of California on a wholesale basis is the same reason we aren’t today. They were and are critical to the economy.
There should be no carte blanche immigration or wholesale roundups and deportations.
What we need is for our elected federal leaders to come up with more functional immigration policies even if it requires compromise on both sides.
The only way to address serous concerns on both sides is to find common ground. If not, immigration abuses and abuses of humanity will continue unabated.
The sooner more realize that the Democrats and Republicans are equally culpable in the mess that’s been created, the sooner real work can get done on immigration reform.
If you doubt that, there have been periods of time in the past 30 years where each party had controlled Congress and the White House yet the immigration policy needle on solutions based in legislative bedrock as opposed to the shifting sand of bureaucratic decrees hasn’t happened.
This column is the opinion of Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Journal or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 209.249.3519.