Arizona S.B. 1070 Complements Federal Law


In its complaint against Arizona’s S.B. 1070, the Department of Justice argues that a state “may not establish its own immigration policy or enforce state laws in a manner that interferes with the federal immigration laws.” Of course, Arizona is not attempting to establish its own immigration policy. If it were unilaterally admitting foreigners into the country, or unilaterally deporting illegal aliens in accordance with its own immigration priorities, then Arizona would clearly be running afoul of the Constitution’s Supremacy Clause which requires that where a federal and state law are in conflict, federal law will trump or preempt the state law. The only real question is whether Arizona’s S.B. 1070 is in conflict with federal immigration laws. 

Arizona did not write S.B. 1070 in an effort to undermine federal priorities. The law was designed to complement existing federal law. One would think that the White House would welcome the help of state and local law enforcement in carrying out the intent of Congress by passing parallel legislation, but that assumes the administration actually supports existing immigration law. It does not. The Obama administration has worked tirelessly to limit the scope of immigration enforcement over the past few years, and Obama’s “administrative amnesty” – which gives a pass to millions of illegal aliens – is evidence of this fact. Under federal law, nearly every illegal alien is to be deported. But Obama only wants to deport the murderers and rapists while turning his back on illegal aliens engaged in ID theft and a whole host of other crimes. By welcoming the help of state and local law enforcement, the Obama administration could curb a significant amount of criminality. But it seems the amnesty agenda outweighs concerns about public safety, sovereignty, and the rule of law.

When DoJ attorneys speak of S.B. 1070 “interfering” with federal law, they really mean S.B. 1070 would make it difficult for Obama to ignore the laws he has sworn to uphold. If states start playing a more pro-active role in immigration, the White House will suddenly have to deal with the impact of immigration laws that have gone unenforced for decades. For example, the requirement in S.B. 1070 that aliens carry their documents with them at all times is not a unique idea thought up in Phoenix; federal law has required it for well over half a century. If Arizona starts arresting aliens caught violating this statue (both the state and federal version, concurrently as it were) and turns the aliens over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), then the White House would have to respond in some way. Either they would have to seek to punish the individual in accordance with existing federal law, or tell Arizona that the White House is not interested in enforcing the law. Put another way, the administration would either have to violate the goals of its amnesty agenda, or deal with a public relations nightmare.

Look at this another way: Why hasn’t the ACLU, MALDEF or any other group involved in these lawsuits sued the federal government over the federal provision requiring aliens to carry their documents at all times? Simple: Illegal aliens and their advocates are not worried about the federal government enforcing these provisions anytime soon. It is only when the states start getting involved do these laws stand a chance of actually being enforced. And that’s what frightens the open-border crowd.

If this lawsuit were really about a concern over states undermining federal immigration law, the DoJ would have already filed lawsuits against a number of sanctuary cites that operate to shield illegal aliens from immigration enforcement. For example, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Chicago openly admit that their sanctuary policies were designed to limit the impact of ICE agents going about their duties. Although sanctuary policies clearly conflict with federal priorities, the DoJ has not sued these jurisdictions because this type of interference is consistent with the administration’s open-border agenda. 

The Obama administration and their allies are focusing their attack on Arizona because they fully understand that the most likely place for honest, effective, and consistent immigration enforcement is on the state level. The White House has made it clear via its administrative amnesty that it only intends to deport a small portion of illegal aliens. Without state involvement, the overwhelming majority of illegal aliens will get a free pass. And that’s the way the open-border crowd wants to keep things.

Selective enforcement by the executive branch should not justify Arizona’s S.B. 1070 being preempted; the Supreme Court has held that it is Congress’s “clear and manifest purpose” that should be controlling when preemption issues arise. And Congress has made it clear that states do have a role to play in immigration enforcement. Certainly a line must be drawn somewhere, but since S.B. 1070 seems to support federal law, it is likely the Supreme Court will not be so quick to overturn it. Hopefully the Justices will see past the politics and not allow the Obama administration’s political agenda to override the will of Congress.