LANSING, Mich. (June 18, 2012) – Last week, Michigan joined the swelling ranks of states considering legislation that would effectively block any state cooperation with federal officials seeking to detain Americans under provisions in sections 1021 and 1022 of the National Defense Authorization Act.
On June 14, Rep. Tom McMillin (R-Rochester Hills) introduced HB5768. The legislation would prohibit any state agent, state employee or member of the Michigan National Guard from assisting “an agency of the armed forces of the United States in any investigation, prosecution, or detention of any person pursuant to 50 USC 1541, as provided by the federal national defense authorization act for fiscal year 2012, Public Law 112-81, if such aid would place that state agency, political subdivision, employee, or member of the Michigan national guard in violation of the United States constitution, the state constitution of 1963, or any law of this state.”
Five cosponsors signed on to the bill, including two Democrats and a 10-year Air Force veteran.
“Once again we see the bipartisan nature of the pushback against federal kidnapping,” Tenth Amendment Center communications director Mike Maharrey said. “This is not a Republican issue or a Democrat issue. This is an American issue.”
In the 1840s and 1850s, northern states effectively used a similar strategy to block implementation of the Fugitive Slave Acts. The federal law denied due process to blacks accused of running away from slavery. A slave-owner could haul a man or woman back south simply on the authority of his own testimony. A black person was not even allowed to testify in her own defense. Northern states passed personal liberty laws, in some cases refusing state cooperation, denying the use of state resources to slave commissioners and forbidding state officers to participate in the process. Other state laws guaranteed any person charged as a fugitive slave a jury trial.
Michigan passed its personal liberty law in 1855. It guaranteed in section two, “All persons so arrested and claimed as fugitive slaves, shall be entitled to all the benefits of the writ of habeas corpus and of trial by jury,” and section five declared, “No person arrested and claimed as a fugitive slave shall be imprisoned in any jail or other prison in this State; and any person having the care or control of any jail or prison, and knowingly permitting the imprisonment of such alleged fugitive slave therein, shall be subjected to the payment of a fine of not less than five hundred nor more than one thousand dollars.”
“The Michigan legislature has an opportunity to take its place alongside the heroic lawmakers who defied the federal government to protect the basic rights and liberties of blacks more than 100 years ago,” Maharrey said. “These men and women can take an important step to ensure the basic right to due process is preserved for all Michigan citizens. I hope they are up to the challenge.”
HB5768 was referred to the House Committee on Government Operations.
If you live in Michigan, contact the members of the Government Operations Committee and encourage them to pass HB5768 out of committee. For committee member contact information, click HERE.
Also contact your representative and ask him or her to support this bill. To find contact information for your representative, click HERE.
To track Liberty Preservation Act legislation across the U.S., click HERE.
If you don’t live in Michigan, contact your lawmakers and encourage them to introduce similar legislation in your state. For model bills, click HERE.