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Student newspaper serving Tulane University, Uptown New Orleans

The Tulane Hullabaloo

Student newspaper serving Tulane University, Uptown New Orleans

The Tulane Hullabaloo

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OPINION | How civil wars start

Mylie Bluhm

On Jan. 22, the U.S. Supreme Court reaffirmed a constitutional precedent that should have never been challenged: the Supremacy Clause. It states that federal law “shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby.” 

Four conservative justices opposed while two conservative justices joined the three liberal members of the court; in a narrow 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court voted to confirm a basic known doctrine of American government. 

In a contest over who controls the U.S. southern border, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has prevented U.S. Customs and Border Protection from accessing a 50-acre city park in Eagle Pass, Texas, a small town on the U.S.-Mexico border that was a popular migrant crossing point. 

A federal appeals court decided in December that Texas may install razor wire to obstruct federal border patrol workers from performing their duties. The court further ordered that the border patrol not dismantle the wires except in limited circumstances.

Gov. Abbott’s actions effectively suggest that one state can overrule a government elected by all 50 states. Unfortunately for the stability of this country, he is not alone. Twenty-five Republican governors signed a letter in support of Texas, including Louisiana’s Jeff Landry. These elected officials and their conduct endanger people of every state and locality, far beyond Texas. 

Today, the issue of “states’ rights” as a defense to overrule the federal government is about Texas and the border. If other governors take the small step from supporting Abbott to replicating his actions, there could be chaos on any issue. 

Consider, for example, voting rights or LGBTQ+ protections in Louisiana. Even taking action against the federal minimum wage is something Louisiana Gov. Jeff Landry has expressed support for. Abbott’s behavior has the potential to spread rapidly to like-minded elected officials. 

A state asserting sovereign authority over the federal government on an international matter — in this case, the border — echoes history: specifically, the Nullification Crisis of 1832. The Nullification Crisis grew from certain trade policies the federal government had established that hurt South Carolina’s economy.

In response, South Carolina “nullified” the treaty, similar to how Texas is using razor wire to prevent federal agents from performing their duties. They further threatened to use armed forces to enforce nullification. President Andrew Jackson replied to South Carolina with the Proclamation to the People of South Carolina. The Library of Congress considers it to be “the greatest state paper of the era,” [as] Jackson promised to uphold the federal tariff and warned “disunion by armed force is treason.”

Abbott claims that Texas is facing an invasion. Classifying illegal immigrants as an invading army is a characterization stunningly removed from reality. Furthermore, taking this asinine notion on its face would mean an army attacked not just the state of Texas, but America at large, hardly a one state issue. 

But this issue goes beyond faux legal justifications. Texas leaders view these individuals as subhuman. Abbott stated, “The only thing that we’re not doing is we’re not shooting people who come across the border, because of course the Biden administration would charge us with murder.”

Texas routinely executes the most death row inmates in America. Gov. Abbott seems disappointed that he isn’t able to cut the entire judicial process out of determining whether someone’s life has value. 

Furthermore, framing this issue as a “challenge” or a “showdown” is dangerously misleading. Terms like this cast the issue as one that is between two relatively equal parties, Texas, and the United States. This is not a showdown between two equally aggrieved parties.

Texas is clearly in violation of the Constitution. The razor wire Texas has installed prevents the federal government from saving lives. Texas is rebelling against not only the constitution, but the impulse of basic human decency. 

President Joe Biden must enforce these laws. The Texas National Guard should be federalized. Razor wire barriers must be torn down, and Texas must allow federal agents to perform their duties.

Proper enforcement requires arresting those who attempt to defy the federal government. We are a nation of laws, and the rule of law applies equally to private citizens and public officials alike. Abbott must be charged with treason if he continues this language which echoes that of Confederate leaders

This is how civil wars start. The question is, will President Biden have the backbone to do what must be done? Attempting to appease the seditionists and traitors of the 19th century only postponed a brutal civil war. President Biden must snuff out treasonists of the 21st century for the sake of every American that respects the rule of law, the constitution and human decency.

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