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Ken Masugi- Columnist

Ken Masugi is the Director of the Claremont Institute's Center for Local Government. Its purpose is to apply the principles of the American Founding to the theory and practice of local government, the cradle of American self-government. Dr. Masugi has extensive experience in government and academia. Following his initial appointment at the Claremont Institute (1982-86), he was a special assistant to then-Chairman Clarence Thomas of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. After his years in Washington, he held visiting university appointments including Olin Distinguished Visiting Professor at the U.S. Air Force Academy. Dr. Masugi is co-author with Brian Janiskee of both The California Republic: Institutions, Statesmanship, and Policies (Rowman & Littlefield, 2004) and Democracy in California: Politics and Government in the Golden State (Rowman & Littlefield, 2002). He is co-editor of six books on political thought, including The Supreme Court and American Constitutionalism with Branford P. Wilson, (Ashbrook Series, 1997); The Ambiguous Legacy of the Enlightenment with William Rusher, (University Press, 1995); The American Founding with J. Jackson Barlow and Leonard W. Levy, (Greenwood Press, 1988). He is the editor of Interpreting Tocqueville's Democracy in America, (Rowman & Littlefield, 1991). [go to Masugi index]

Illegal Aliens, Illegal Indians
A Lesson in Lawlessness
[Ken Masugi] 09/06/03

The dust-up over Lt. Governor Bustamante’s acceptance of upward of $3 million from Indian tribes opens up an ugly side to American treatment of Indians. I refer not to the betrayal of treaties and so on but rather to the exception within American society that Indian leaders wish to carve out for themselves: On the one hand, they want to retain tribal government (which does not recognize many of the protections of the U.S. Constitution, federal law, or state and local law), on the other hand, they want the benefits of being American. As an example of the latter, The San Jose Mercury notes a bill passed by the legislature giving “unprecedented power to halt developments near sacred tribal land.” The Indian gambling casinos are of course a notorious example of the former.

When I worked for then-Chairmen Clarence Thomas and Evan Kemp of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, I noted that Indian rights advocates at the EEOC would seek to shrink the scope of the Civil Rights Act so it would cover fewer Indians. This is of course contrary to the bureaucratic imperative to expand control over as much of society as possible. But the enemies of bureaucracy should not cheer. The “Indian rights” advocates sought to leave as much power to the tribes as possible and decrease Indian individuals’ rights under and obligations to America. Though Indians are a protected class in American civil rights law and thus have a preference in employment and federal grants, the civil rights bureaucracy’s reach ends at the reservation’s border.

Thus the Indians are in a position curiously analogous to the illegal aliens, whose rights the California legislature and Governor Davis seem bent on increasing. (Note his signing into law the bill permitting illegal aliens to obtain drivers' licenses.) For some purposes (college tuition, health care, and so on) illegals wish to be Americans, but for other purposes they want to be aliens, beyond the law. Both illegal immigrants and native Americans are in a state of lawlessness. As Claremont Institute California Studies Fellow Victor Davis Hanson has noted with regard to illegal immigration, greedy Californians-- growers, gambling interests, restaurant owners, etc.-- share the blame. While parts of California and Indian reservations come to resemble the Third World, we see not just economic backwardness but the collapse of the rule of law and the denigration of American citizenship, both its protections and its obligations. It is not as though America has no use for the ambition of the immigrant or the pride of the Indian-- but these traits must be tied to a greater, American identity.


[This article orginally appeared at Claremont Institute.]


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