Constitutional Law Professor Jeffrey G. Purvis, San Joaquin College of Law
Constitutional Law Professor Jeffrey G. Purvis, San Joaquin College of Law

There are write-in advice and answer columns in hundreds of newspapers, magazines, and blogs, addressing every conceivable topic. But how many of these openly address fabricated e-mails from "audience" members who are admittedly imaginary? Only one! "Valley Views on the Law," San Joaquin College of Law's monthly legal information radio show on FM 88.1. KFCF, in Fresno, does just that. In the "Dear Professors" segment, I answer the pressing and topical legal questions generated by my own perfervid imagination (along with one actual e-mail from an actual listener) every month, for the edification of the audience. You can also send me an e-mail to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Here is a recent one preceding a discussion of immigration.

 

DEAR PROFESSORS:

You are always saying how great the Constitution is, Professor Purvis, and how important it is to enforce its limitations on government power in order to protect our liberty. You went on and on about how terrible it was when President Bush tried to protect America from the terrorists, but you liberal hypocrites always look the other way when it is a Democratic government official who is shredding the Constitution. I'm talking about President Obama allowing illegal aliens to stay in the United States. Only Congress has the authority to make laws, and the only way illegal aliens could become legal is by Congress changing the immigration laws. But that hasn't stopped Obama from making it possible for millions of illegal aliens to take our American jobs, and worse, for illegal alien terrorists and criminals to kill Americans and threaten our country. When all you liberals whine about "how can people support Trump for President," what you don't understand is that we patriotic Americans are sick and tired of inviting a bunch of foreigners who don't even speak English to waltz into America and start demanding all the rights and privileges of Americans. I know that you Democrats will be trying to sneak a bunch of illegal aliens into the voting booth on November 8, but we'll be there, exercising our Second Amendment rights, to make sure the election is not stolen from Donald Trump.

--Sarah Bachmann, Waterloo, Alaska

 

We will specifically discuss the constitutionality of President Obama's immigration actions during the interview with our guest, but I would like to respond to your email by talking about how people form some of their opinions about immigration. Progressives tend to describe Trump supporters like you, Ms. Bachmann, as stupid and bigoted, and while the latter may be a fair description of a lot of them, I don't think the support of Trump's hateful and evil declarations can be substantially explained by stupidity. It would be understandable if only stupid people supported a billionaire demagogue who promised to save their blue collar jobs and sustain their middle class status against predation by the wealthy. Stupid people could look at gigantic corporations moving jobs and trillions of dollars overseas in order to maximize the wealth of the richest of the rich, and blame the diminishment of their economic situation on others much poorer than themselves. But the number and nature of people who support Trump make it impossible that the majority of them are stupid.

 

I think they are willfully ignorant. That is a term we lawyers use to describe someone who intentionally avoids the truth because the avoider knows the truth would reveal something uncomfortable or even unlawful about what he is doing. People in the United States, a nation of immigrants, have taken anti-immigrant positions since the founding of our nation, and repeatedly thereafter. (The European invaders who ultimately organized the United States apparently didn't ask the opinions on immigration of the indigenous people living here at the time.) The 2016 version repeats old tropes--immigrants, especially the illegal ones, are criminals, and come here to steal our jobs--and modifies the false charge of sedition that imprisoned Japanese Americans during World War Two into the spectre of terrorism from families fleeing the industrial grade murder in the Middle East.

 

Consider agricultural workers, who earn, according to US Department of Labor surveys, between 7 and 8 dollars per hour. Assuming they work year-round, that would mean a worker's income would be about $15,000 per year, gross. Is it possible that millions of patriotic Americans desire to engage in difficult physical labor for $15,000 per year, but are denied jobs because of immigrants, illegal or otherwise? If the dreams of Trump supporters could come true, and all illegal immigrants could be removed from the United States, would agricultural employers be forced to raise the wages paid so that jobless Americans could join the middle class? Is it likely that the corporations that sent millions of industrial jobs overseas to take advantage of the much lower wages they could pay workers in other countries would respond to a shortage of low-wage workers in America by significantly increasing what they pay to non-executive employees? Did after-tax income for the top one-tenth of one percent of households rise by 200 percent between 1979 and 2011, while income for 80 percent of Americans rose an average of 45 percent, because the jobs of 80 percent of the population where stolen by illegal immigrants? Should all the angry white people supporting Trump blame their presumably unhappy situation on immigrants, or should they blame billionaires like Trump who manipulate the laws and economy of the United States to benefit the wealthy?

 

Of course, argument from data is only as good as the data. People who claim to be scientists can be manipulating the data. Look at the scientists who claimed that smoking tobacco was healthy, or at least, not harmful to the health of smokers or those near them. Look at the scientists who claimed that airbags in cars did not reduce injuries or deaths in auto accidents. Look at the scientists who claim that there is no climate change, or that it is not affected by human activity. If all science is a dodge, then how can anyone make rational decisions about anything?

 

This brings me back to Trump supporters and their attitudes about immigration. Will there be "large scale voter fraud happening on and before Election Day," as Trump recently tweeted? Is the election machinery rigged in favor of Clinton, including in swing states where Republicans control state government and will be conducting the election? Many Trump supporters are not stupid, but will they do their best to examine the available data, in good faith, to reach an answer? I think not--they will assume that Trump is correct, and will then intentionally filter the information they receive to credit only what supports that assumption. Some progressives undoubtedly do the same thing, but they do so in order to support organic, non-GMO foods or non-traditional medicine, not to bar people from our country who are trying to save their children's lives from Russian bombs or drug cartel guns. I have long said that the best way for America to solve its social and political ills is to provide a quality education to all children; perhaps that is a chimera. But if we continue to allow politics to distort science, bluster to overwhelm truth, and greed to dominate government, I fear we will see much worse than Trump in the future.