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Skirting the Constitution

By Henry Lamb
web posted December 10, 2007

The U.S. Constitution could not be clearer: "No state shall enter into any treaty, alliance, or confederation...." Nevertheless, the state of Arizona, USA, and the state of Sonora, Mexico, have entered into an agreement, which is called a Declaration of Cooperation. Obviously, Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano considers this agreement to be neither an alliance nor a confederation.

On the surface, this agreement appears to be nothing more than a mutual desire by both states to work together to improve economic development in the region. From all the press releases and the hoopla on the Governor's website, she is quite proud of her achievement, without consideration of the apparent Constitutional prohibition against such "...alliance or confederation" with foreign states.

Progressives may consider criticism of this agreement on Constitutional grounds to be nothing more than swatting at gnats. In reality, this agreement is just the tip of the iceberg that is looming large in the path of the ship of state.

In Arizona, there is also an entity called the Arizona-Mexico Commission. It is not really a commission, but is, in fact, a non-government organization. The membership list, however, includes seven state agencies, and eight cities, all paying annual membership fees that range from $1,250 to $12,500. Membership also includes other state institutions and large corporations.

The membership is divided into 14 committees. The chair of the Agribusiness Committee is also the Director of the Arizona Department of Agriculture. The chair of the Education Committee is also the Deputy Associate Superintendent of the Arizona Department of Education, and so on. Governor Napolitano is a member of the board of directors.

What these committees do is outlined in a 50-page agenda. One of the more interesting projects is to implement the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, which is a part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's effort to create a driver's license type card to permit free travel in the Western hemisphere.

What Arizona is doing is a microcosm of what the Security and Prosperity Partnership is doing at the hemispheric level: integrating the laws, rules, and regulations of Canada, Mexico, and the United States. This, of course, has nothing to do with the creation of a North America Union, or so says the President.

On the other hand, the legislative assembly in Manitoba, Canada is boasting of its participation in the development of events designed to create a North American Union - while scrupulously avoiding the name.

As a non-government organization, the activities of the Arizona-Mexico Commission are not subject to legislative review and oversight, or public meeting laws. As a non-agreement agreement, the Security and Prosperity Partnership is not subject to congressional review and oversight. The result is, at both the state and federal level, appointed individuals are shaping and making public policy with no review, oversight, and often, no participation by the elected officials charged exclusively with the responsibility of making public policy.

This nifty skirting of the Constitution may be by design, or the result of bureaucracies simply finding ways to avoid legislative obstacles. However it came to be, the situation in both Arizona, and with the Security and Prosperity Partnership, ignores the fundamental Constitutional principle that governmental power arises from the consent of the governed.

The Arizona-Sonora Declaration of Cooperation may appear to be innocent, but by ignoring the Constitutional prohibition against such agreements, it erodes the Constitution a little further. The Security and Prosperity Partnership may seem innocent enough to the President, but by calling the alliance a "Partnership," rather than an agreement, he can claim that he has no Constitutional responsibility to consult with Congress, nor ask for their approval.

This attitude and practice creates troubled and dangerous waters for the ship of state. In isolation, they may not be icebergs of Titanic proportions, but even small penetrations, strung end-to-end can sink the strongest vessel.

There are two issues here that elected officials must challenge: the integration of the United States with foreign nations, and the methodology being used to do it. The legislature of the state of Arizona has not authorized the activities of the Arizona-Mexico Commission. Nor has the Congress of the United States authorized the Security and Prosperity Partnership. It is the responsibility of elected officials to demand review and oversight; it is the responsibility of the electorate to choose representatives who will rise to their responsibility. ESR

Henry Lamb is the executive vice president of the Environmental Conservation Organization (ECO), and chairman of Sovereignty International.

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