The Border Crisis, Texas, Washington, Jackson, and Calhoun

AP Photo/Andres Leighton

To say that the United State’s southern border is a right mess may not be the understatement of the decade, but it will do until a better one comes along. Indeed, the immigration controversy is certain, as RedState’s own Jeff Charles has explained in detail, to become a major issue of next year’s Presidential campaigns. In the latest round of conflict, the Biden administration and the Department of Justice are threatening Texas Governor Greg Abbott with a lawsuit over his attempt to put his thumb in the dike that is our southern border; in other words, doing the federal government’s job for them.


Texas Gov. Greg Abbott took to Twitter on Sunday to taunt the Biden administration in a pair of tweets as he faces a lawsuit from the Department of Justice over the state’s effort to secure its international border with Mexico.

In one tweet, Abbott praised his border security for seizing more than 422 million deadly doses of fentanyl, which he claimed were able to cross the U.S.-Mexico border because of the president’s poor performance.

“Texas Has Seized More Than 422 Million Lethal Doses of Fentanyl Since 2021. More than enough to kill all Americans,” the Texas governor wrote. “We have also made 394,200 illegal-immigrant apprehensions and 31,300 criminal arrests. All because Biden is not doing his job.”

Governor Abbott, while pointing out that this is, in fact, Washington’s responsibility, also claims the sovereign right of the State of Texas to secure its own border:

“Texas has the sovereign authority to defend our border, under the U.S. Constitution and the Texas Constitution,” he wrote. “We have sent the Biden Administration numerous letters detailing our authority, including the one I hand-delivered to President Biden earlier this year.”

“Texas is stepping up to address this crisis,” Gov. Abbott continued. “We will continue to deploy every strategy to protect Texans and Americans — and the migrants risking their lives. We will see you in court, Mr. President.”

This could lead to a very interesting court case indeed.

While the courts nowadays seem reluctant to address issues on this scale, there have been some interesting precedents back when the country faced even more dramatic sectional crises than we face today.


The Constitution clearly gives Congress the power to impose tariffs; Article 1, Section 8 states:

The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States.

But in 1828 (amended in 1832), Congress passed a number of tariffs on hemp, cotton, and other raw agricultural products. This was seen as damaging to the economies of the primarily agricultural Southern states, and Vice President John Calhoun resigned his post in protest, returning to the Senate to speak for his native South Carolina. In 1832, South Carolina passed the Ordinance of Nullification, declaring the tariffs “null, void, and no law, nor binding upon this State, its officers or citizens.” This fundamental question concerning the powers of the federal vs. state governments was one of the major issues leading up to the American Civil War.

Governor Abbott may face a similar situation now, only instead of nullifying an action by the federal government, he is, in effect, nullifying a deliberate inaction. The really interesting question arising out of all this is as follows: What will Governor Abbott do should a federal court rule against him and order the State of Texas to remove all barriers and cease all enforcement actions along their border with Mexico?

Will Governor Abbott, like Andrew Jackson before him, state that the court has “made their decision, now let them enforce it“? Granted, Jackson was quite horribly wrong in that infamous incident, as the action he was taking was the Trail of Tears, but Abbott occupies a much more clearly defined moral high ground; he is attempting to enforce long-standing laws to protect the nation from a tacit invasion of unidentified, unknown individuals numbering in the millions.


It’s not impossible that this conflict between Texas and Washington could be as significant as the nullification debate (and in this case, my money’s on Texas.) Whatever happens is bound to be in the history books a generation from now.

That is…if the schools are still teaching history a generation from now.


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