It's a commonly held Republican value that the power to govern should remain largely with the states. GOP lawmakers are known for their preference of what they call "small government" — or, a federal government that does less and lets states do more. But what happens when states use the power they have to protest the federal government? The American people may soon find out, as several states have begun fighting against President Trump in the wake of his controversial measures.
Since taking office, Trump has sparked protests in all 50 states and around the world. His inauguration took place the day before the historic Women's March on Washington. His Cabinet nominations have been heavily protested, pushed to resign, or encouraged to withdraw. In other words, the Trump Train has seemed to struggle leaving the station.
Along the way, the actions of various state legislatures and institutions have aligned with these protests. From just beyond the borders of Washington, D.C. all the way to the Pacific coastline, states are sending a message to the White House. In the days and weeks that come, it remains to be seen what effect these actions will have on the Trump administration or the state populations.
Last month, Trump issued his now-notorious travel ban, an executive order that attempts to prohibit individuals from seven countries from entering the U.S. His executive order specifically targeted sanctuary cities, which have long been havens for immigrants. While Trump's executive order is being considered in court, California has taken steps to become a "sanctuary state." According to USA Today, Senate Bill 54 in the state legislature aims to limit the relationship between federal law enforcement and local and state law enforcement, in a seemingly roundabout attempt to prevent state and local forces from enforcing the travel ban. Not to mention, many of California's state-run universities have vowed to protest the president's immigration policies.
Hawaii has launched a First Amendment lawsuit against the Trump administration. As Honolulu news station KHON2 reports, the Hawaii v. Trump case alleges that Trump's travel ban infringes on the free exercise of religion that is promised by the U.S. Constitution.
Brunswick, Maine, is a town of about 20,000 people on the country's northeastern coast. In the November election, Brunswick's population strongly supported Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton — and the town wasted no time working to offset the potential negatives from Trump's victory. In December, school superintendent Paul Perzanoski announced plans to consider adding a new civics and government course to the school district's curriculum. "...We as a nation can no longer be apathetic about our attention to the politics of the United States and we must have faith in the checks and balances of our government’s structure," he wrote.
Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh has the freedom to sue the federal government, according to a decision by the Maryland General Assembly on Wednesday. According to The Washington Post, the measure passed quickly through the general assembly. Maryland can be seen from Washington, D.C., but the two governments at odds here definitely don't see eye to eye.
Last week, the New York State Assembly passed a bill similar to the one being considered in California, making the Empire State a sanctuary state for immigrants. It won't officially be the law of the land until it passes the New York Senate. According to Politico, it's unclear if the bill will pass. Also up for consideration is the Dream Act, which would provide tuition assistance to undocumented immigrants.
Like lawmakers in California, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown isn't keen on Trump's plans for immigration. In January, she declared that she wouldn't use state funds to enforce the Trump administration's immigration laws. However, according to The Williamette Week, the governor didn't go so far as to say she would refuse to cooperate with federal law enforcement.
Could the nation's smallest state effectively block Trump's big wall? According to a report from Tuesday, some Democratic lawmakers in Rhode Island have proposed a bill that would ban Rhode Island from investing in companies that work with the Trump administration on the president's beloved border wall. The state legislature has a Democratic majority, but the bill could still face some tough scrutiny.
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, joined protestors at Dulles International Airport near Washington, D.C., last month, as they expressed concern over Trump's travel ban. McAuliffe, too, expressed his concern. "We here in Virginia are open and welcoming to everybody," he said.
"I'll use every tool that I have as attorney general to make sure that the president follows the Constitution." Those were the words of Washington state's attorney general, Bob Ferguson, to ABC News' George Stephanopoulos last weekend. Ferguson also claimed that the president "is not reading from" the Constitution. The attorney general said he could examine certain documents and emails to investigate the motive for Trump's contentious travel ban, likely to build a case for the courts.
To the Americans who have protested in the streets, called members of Congress, and felt offended by the Trump administration, the work of these states should provide some comfort. These states are a reminder that the U.S. government is a layered system — and not all the power is meant to be centralized in D.C. If you're still looking to protest or otherwise take action, maybe it's time to work at the state level.