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Arizona's Immigration Law Gets to the Supremes

Posted By Hans von Spakovsky On December 12, 2011 @ 12:01 pm In Featured | Comments Disabled

In a decision that should cheer those who believe in the rule of law and want to see our federal immigration laws enforced (despite all of the efforts of the Obama Administration to prevent that from happening), the Supreme Court today accepted Arizona’s petition for certiorari in the lawsuit filed against the state’s immigration law by the Justice Department. That means that the Supreme Court will make the final decision on whether Arizona’s law (SB 1070) is constitutional.

SB 1070, which has served as a model for other states such as Alabama and South Carolina, has a number of provisions that attempt to help the federal government enforce immigration requirements. The most controversial, at least from the standpoint of the Obama Administration, is a provision that requires police officers to check on the immigration status of individuals they have arrested or detained for some other violation, if the officers have a reasonable suspicion the individuals are in the country illegally. Race and ethnicity cannot be a consideration in that determination.

In a badly reasoned decision, a federal judge in Arizona issued an injunction against that requirement. The judge essentially ignored a provision of federal law that specifically requires the federal government to respond to all inquiries from federal, state, or local officials about the immigration status of any individual and the fact that Congress funds a “Law Enforcement Support Center” administered by the Department of Homeland Security to provide alien status determinations to state and local law enforcement officials 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. There is even another provision in federal law that encourages states “to cooperate with the Attorney General in the identification, apprehension, detention, or removal of aliens not lawfully present in the United States.”

That dubious injunction was upheld by a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, the most widely overturned appeals court in the nation. Carlos Bea, the dissenting judge in the Ninth Circuit’s decision, pointed out the numerous fallacies and mistakes made by the court. As he emphasized, “Congress has provided important roles for state and local officials to play in the enforcement of federal immigration law.” In a completely contrary opinion, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals recently upheld an identical provision in Alabama’s immigration law that also requires police officers to check the immigration status of individuals they arrest.

The Office of the Solicitor General at the Justice Department, which represents the United States before the Supreme Court, must be looking forward to this review of Arizona’s new law by the Supreme Court with some trepidation. Just last term, the SG lost another fight against Arizona when the Supreme Court upheld a prior Arizona immigration law. That law forces Arizona employers to use the E-Verify system and sanctions employers with the possible loss or suspension of their business licenses if they knowingly and intentionally hire illegal aliens. The Supreme Court upheld the law as constitutional and well within the authority of state governments, to the consternation of the Obama Administration.

Given that Congress actually requires the federal government to assist state and local law enforcement officials in verifying the immigration status of arrested individuals, it seems highly likely that when the Supreme Court issues its decision in this case by the end of its term in June 2012, the Obama Administration will have a bad feeling of déjà vu when it loses again.


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