- (Photo: Reuters/Rick Scuteri)
The Supreme Court is meeting on Friday to discuss Arizona’s controversial immigration law and whether or not it wants to take up the case. The justices’ decision will be announced Monday.
The law was passed in 2010 and has sparked a national debate about the role of state governments in dealing with the immigration issue. Arizona’s state bill 10170 gave state police broader authority to detain someone they suspected of being in the country illegally, so long as the initial stop by police was for an unrelated reason, such as speeding.
Opponents to the bill shouted that this would lead to racism and discrimination. Proponents of the bill argued that it is within state rights to enforce the federal law regarding immigration and that they must do so because illegal immigration is leading to more crimes in the state. The Obama administration sided with the opponents and challenged the law as soon as it was passed, arguing that it is in conflict with the existing federal law.
Until a final judgment is made, lower courts have frozen key aspects of the law, including allowing the police officer to ask for immigration papers from a detained or arrested person, from going into effect.
“Federal law and policy do not adopt such a one-size-fits-all approach to enforcement,” argued Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli in court briefs.
“The officials who enforce the nation’s immigration laws require significant discretion in order to balance numerous goals and purposes … including law enforcement priorities, foreign-relations considerations and humanitarian concerns.”
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer has made it clear she believes her state has to act aggressively to pass and enact the bill because the federal government has failed at its job to control immigration.
“Arizona bears the brunt of the problems caused by illegal immigration,” wrote Paul Clement, a lawyer for the state, in court briefs. “Arizona has repeatedly asked the federal government for more vigorous enforcement of the federal immigration laws, but to no avail.”
“The law is pretty straight forward,” Han Von-Spakovsky, senior legal fellow at the Heritage Foundation, told The Christian Post.
“The Constitution says that the federal government has jurisdiction over immigration. But the courts and Congress in the past have encouraged states to help enforce the federal immigration laws. They can’t do anything that is in conflict of the federal law, but can do things that would help enforce it.”
“The lawsuit against Arizona is unprecedented. Congress intended for state and local police officers to help the federal government find illegals if they are arrested or detained for some other non-related issue. Not only does the federal government encourage cooperation but Congress funded a center that is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week that responds to state and local authorities’ inquiries about illegals in their jurisdiction.”
Therefore, according to Von-Spakovsky, Arizona seems to be enforcing the federal law already on the books. What is in conflict with the federal law, Von-Spakovsky noted, is states like Texas that give in-state tuition to illegal immigrants.
“States cannot provide in-state tuition to illegals unless they provide in-state tuition to all U.S. citizens. So the federal government would have a reason to sue states like Texas for being in conflict of the federal law. But they won’t do that because the Obama Administration has made it clear that they are, at least from a policy standpoint, not going to enforce the federal laws regarding immigration.”
The Obama administration is asking the Supreme Court to not take up the case right away and instead wait until more cases from other states have made their way through lower courts.
Arizona is hoping to push this through the Supreme Court immediately in hopes that the court will reverse the lower court’s standing and allow key provisions to go into effect as soon as possible.
Similar immigration legislation is pending in Utah, South Carolina, Indiana, Georgia and Alabama.