New York Times (Editorial): The Supreme Court’s decision to review a federal court ruling blocking parts of Arizona’s notorious immigration law is troubling. It is arguably premature to take this case because there is no split among the federal appellate courts over states’ powers to enact such laws.
The court should use this opportunity to clarify the need for uniform laws in this area of vital national interest and stop the march of states taking immigration policy into their own hands. The Obama administration sued to stop Arizona — and later Utah, Alabama and South Carolina — because immigration is a federal responsibility that states cannot usurp.
Judge Susan Bolton of Federal District Court struck down parts of the Arizona law, enacted last year, that requires police officers to check the immigration status of anyone they have “reasonable suspicion” of being in the state illegally, makes it a state crime to be unlawfully present in this country and a state crime for illegal immigrants to work or look for work, and permits the warrantless arrest of anyone believed to be deportable.
The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit got it right in April when it upheld Judge Bolton’s ruling. In a powerful concurring opinion, Judge John Noonan paid particular attention to the section of the law that enshrines the mass expulsion of illegal immigrants — “attrition through enforcement” — as Arizona’s official state policy. “That 50 individual states or one individual state should have a foreign policy is absurdity too gross to be entertained,” Judge Noonan said. “In matters affecting the intercourse of the federal nation with other nations, the federal nation must speak with one voice.”
The Constitution gives Congress, not the states, the power “to establish an uniform rule of naturalization. ” As the solicitor general, Donald Verrilli Jr., wrote in a brief urging the Supreme Court not to take the case, laws like Arizona’s upset the federal government’s careful balancing of “law enforcement priorities, foreign-relations considerations and humanitarian concerns.”
States like Arizona have been trying openly and mightily to throw that balance out the window, being much harsher than the federal government in criminalizing undocumented immigrants. Arizona contends that “federal immigration laws expressly contemplate and authorize cooperative law enforcement efforts between federal and state officials.” But under the Constitution, federal immigration laws pre-empt the Arizona provisions. While mass deportation may be a rallying cry for many state officials, it is not, thankfully, federal policy. The Supreme Court should end the state-created chaos in immigration laws by heeding Judge Noonan’s wise words.
- Eli Kantor
- Beverly Hills, California, United States
- Eli Kantor is a labor, employment and immigration law attorney. He has been practicing labor, employment and immigration law for more than 36 years. He has been featured in articles about labor, employment and immigration law in the L.A. Times, Business Week.com and Daily Variety. He is a regular columnist for the Daily Journal. Telephone (310)274-8216; firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, visit beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com and and beverlyhillsemploymentlaw.com