Reprinted from www.libertylobby.org, home of The SPOTLIGHT archive
Feds Ask The Sheriff
By James P. Tucker
For more than two years, all federal agents entering Bighorn County, Wyo., have been required to check in with Sheriff Dave Mattis and state their intentions.
So far, the few who have ventured into the sparsely populated county have been "cleared" for non-invasive chores.
The requirement that federal bureaucrats need to explain their mission stems from the settlement of a federal lawsuit involving Wyoming citizens and the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS).
INS officials had entered Bighorn County and started a "round up" of what they believed were illegal ali ens, the sheriff said. But all those caught in the roundup were American citizens.
After the settlement, "I issued a written policy -- that if they have actions [in Bighorn County] they must tell me what they are doing," Mattis told The SPOTLIGHT.
So far, the few who have entered have "not asked to take any real actions," Mattis said.
When asked if he would object to any federal missions, Mattis re sponded: "I would take it on a case-by-case basis and discuss it."
While this is a significant precedent for local governments protecting their citizens from heavy-handed bureaucrats, Internet reports calling it a "court decision" and quoting the sheriff saying he can detain federal officials in custody are wrong, Mattis said. While an In ter net report was being read to him for confirmation Mattis interrupted, saying: "I've seen that."
A similar report emerged from Tennessee, Mattis said, and keeps surfacing, from people who "write it the way they want it to be." Mattis said he has "no idea where it came from" but it originated in Nashville in 1997.
The Wyoming Sheriffs' Association, contrary to Internet reports, is not involved, Mattis said, but "probably some sheriffs are sympathetic."
But even without Internet embellishments, the Bighorn County action is an encouraging sign that states are re claiming their traditional roles in our government. Cities, towns and counties are mere political subdivisions of states.
The Supreme Court recently handed down decisions reinforcing states' rights, such as telling Congress that it has no role in deciding local schools' "drug-free zones" or requiring state governments to bow to federal age-discrimination laws.
More such states' rights cases are pending, including whether the federal government can restrict laws against abortions (in which the court may reverse its own 1973 "Roe" ruling) and the usage of medicinal marijuana.
Meanwhile, Congress is talking about "returning power to the states" and passed "unfunded mandates" legislation prohibiting itself from imposing financial burdens and duties on states -- such as requiring local governments to pay for federal gun "background checks" on gun owners.