Thursday, July 29, 2010

Mission Accomplished

Whatever else may be said about U.S. District Court Judge Susan Bolton, she certainly is intellectually consistent. In its decision handed down yesterday

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has concluded that allowing a state to enforce a state law in violation of the Supremacy Clause is neither equitable nor in the public interest.... If Arizona were to enforce the portions of S.B. 1070 for which the Court has found a likelihood of preemption, such enforcement would likely burden legal resident aliens and interfere with federal policy. A preliminary injunction would allow the federal government to continue to pursue federal priorities, which is inherently in the public interest, until a final judgment is reached in this case.

The Court by no means disregards Arizona’s interests in controlling illegal immigration and addressing the concurrent problems with crime including the trafficking of humans, drugs, guns, and money. Even though Arizona’s interests may be consistent with those of the federal government, it is not in the public interest for Arizona to enforce preempted laws.... The Court therefore finds that preserving the status quo through a preliminary injunction is less harmful than allowing state laws that are likely preempted by federal law to be enforced.

Bolton ruled that federal immigration policy is to be made solely by the federal government because of the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution. (Tea Party members, who talk incessantly about the U.S. Constitution, will no doubt applaud the decision. Or maybe not.) According to The Arizona Republic, the Court enjoined implementation of the portions of the law which

- requires an officer make a reasonable attempt to determine the immigration status of a person stopped, detained or arrested if there's reasonable suspicion they're in the country illegally;

- creates a crime of failure to apply for or carry "alien-registration papers;"

- allows for a warrantless arrest of a person where there is probable cause to believe they have committed a public offense that makes them removable from the United States;

- makes it a crime for illegal immigrants to solicit, apply for or perform work. There are three parts to that part of the law. Two of them will go into effect, one of them will not.

There are, however, a few provisions of SB 1070 which the Court chose not to enjoin, and hence will go into effect today. Included among these is the statute's requirement that local authorities cooperate with federal authorities in the latter's effort to enforce immigration law. Municipalities such as Phoenix which have established themselves as sanctuary cities will have that status revoked, a triumph for consistency. Judge Bolton ruled that states cannot preempt federal law in this field- and neither should cities, boroughs, or townships have that discretion. The legislation's primary sponsor, State Senator Russell Pearce, argues "Judge Bolton has made it clear. These policies are illegal, and cities in violation will face significant fines immediately." And he claims "striking down these sanctuary city policies has always been the number one priority of SB 1070."

That aside, SB 1070 may already have suceeded. Following the ruling, Warren Richey of the Christian Science Monitor wrote

The Arizona law was deliberately written with tough and aggressive measures designed to encourage the estimated 460,000 illegal immigrants in Arizona to go home.

Don't blame Richey. He probably has listened to people throughout the country who believe Mexicans leaving Arizona will go back to Mexico. As this photograph from an LA Times blog illustrates, the idea is half right.

Most of the shopping center on the corner of 43rd Avenue and Thomas Road in Phoenix is vacant. Merchants blame a law intended to drive illegal immigrants out of Arizona. (Nicholas Riccardi / Los Angeles Times)

Put people, residing legally or otherwise, in fear of arrest, they will Get Out of Dodge, as they did in Riverside, NJ in response to an anti-illegal immigrant ordinance which the borough eventually rescinded under legal pressure.

But where have they gone? Mexico is an option, especially for those who were reluctant to come to the U.S.A. initially and (sarcasm alert) believe Mexico is really a top-notch place compared to North America. But for the others,(from

California to the west, Nevada the northwest, Utah the north, Colorado the northeast, and New Mexico to the east. Immigrants have five options (and to a lesser extent, 44 other states and D.C.) other than Mexico, perhaps rendering the law "a big sideshow." For the residents of the states bordering Arizona, passage of this law may have been a cruel joke. But for the politicians in Arizona pushing it, the mission has probably already been accomplished.

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