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Arizona “Papers Please” Law Hits Supreme Court This Week

Front: Justices Thomas, Scalia, Roberts, Kennedy, Bader Gingsburg. Rear: Justices Sotomayor, Breyer, Alito Kagan

Arizona v. United States, No. 11-182 (2012) is the official name of the case. The State of Arizona is suing to enforce Arizona Senate Bill 1070, which Governor Jan Brewer signed on April 23, 2010, making it an Arizona misdemeanor for an undocumented immigrant to be in Arizona without a green card, authorized state and local law enforcement to carry out federal immigration laws and created penalties for sheltering, hiring or transporting illegal immigrants. Specifically, the law required police to check immigration status of anyone being detained for a crime or just suspected of being an illegal, required immigrants to carry their papers at all times, bar illegals from seeking work in public places (as in sites on street corners where men or women stand around waiting for someone to offer them day labor), and allowed arrests without warrants on suspicion of any deportable crime.

The Obama administration cried foul. According to the United States Constitution, Article I, Section 8, “The Congress shall have Power…to establish a uniform Rule of Naturalization.” The “immigration laws” passed by Congress in 1790, 1795, 1798 and 1870 all dealt with naturalization. The first law limiting immigration was passed in 1875. It and the laws of 1891, 1892, 1903, 1906, 1917 and 1918 all dealt with “undesirable” immigrants, specifically, Asians. The first real immigration law was passed in 1921, limiting immigrants from any country to 3% of the number of people from that country living in the United States in 1910. The next major immigration law was designed to keep out European Jews. There have been a total of 22 Federal laws passed dealing with immigration and naturalization.

To this day, being in the United States “illegally” is a misdemeanor.

The Feds object to Arizona SB1070 because it treads on Federal jurisdiction in a matter which effects all fifty states. The also do not want local law enforcement getting in the way of the Border Patrol and most of Arizona’s local law enforcement doesn’t want to. To them, the task of enforcing Federal law is an unnecessary burden on already overtaxed police departments and sheriff’s offices.

State Senator Russell Pearce, who was defeated in a recall election in November, pushed the law because his son was shot by an illegal immigrant years ago. Governor Brewer signed it because of “headless corpses” in the Arizona desert. They sold the idea to Arizona residents as a way to stop drug crime, not as a way to end illegal immigration. Since Arizona SB 1070 was passed, Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, South Carolina and Utah have passed similar laws. Portions of them will be effected by the ruling handed down by the Supreme Court in this case.

The states have claimed that these laws are necessary because the Obama administration isn’t doing its job protecting our border. They were all passed by Republican legislatures. No one ever made this much fuss over lack of border protection when a Republican was in the White House. The Obama administration’s record on border protection and arrest and deportation of illegals is impressive. A half-million potential crossers were stopped at the border, another half-million have been arrested and deported, and most importantly, the administration set up a network that can be accessed by any law enforcement agency in the country so that illegals who commit crimes do not simply cross state lines and get away. They have also greatly expanded the verification service for employers.

The issue that will be heard in oral arguments this week is jurisdiction. Who has jurisdiction over immigration – the individual states or the Federal government? The Constitution did not specifically address immigration because our founding fathers did not foresee a time when we would want to limit the number of immigrants coming to America. They also didn’t envision the United States including Hawaii and Alaska and having 311 million citizens.

The stupidest piece of propaganda to come out of the immigration battle says that Obama was elected with the illegal votes of illegal immigrants. To the right wing, that explains McCain losing by 9.5 million votes. There are 11.5 million illegals. The “illegal immigrant vote” is also the driver behind the new voter ID laws which are also making their way through the Federal court system. There’s only one thing wrong with their “logic” – if you take the vote statistics from the 2008 election, deduct a number from Obama’s votes equal to the number of illegals in the state, he would still have won. Obama would have lost 42 electoral votes, but the total would have been 323-215 instead of 365-173. Even if every one of the illegal immigrants in America right down to the smallest child had voted for Obama, they would not be the reason he won.

As in all Supreme Court cases, there will be oral arguments this week which will not be televised. There will be endless dissection of the arguments by commentators and analysts on the news programs and it will be weeks, if not months before we know the Court’s ruling.

This one should provide a better gauge of the Court than the Affordable Care Act ruling will. The conservative justices are supposed to be absolute sticklers for the Constitution, unlike those “activist” liberal justices. But the Constitution and the entire history of immigration legislation lays jurisdiction clearly in the Congress. If the Court should rule in favor of the State of Arizona, posterity will have its proof that this is one of the most biased Supreme Courts in our history.

 

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