Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Counterpoint: Court will rule states within their rights

Keep your fingers crossed. The Obama administration’s challenge to an Arizona immigration law will not hinge on the law’s popularity or wisdom; state legislatures are permitted to enact unpopular and unwise laws. And as Chief Justice John Roberts observed — and the administration’s lawyer agreed — this case is not about civil rights or racial profiling, either. The challenge to Senate Bill 1070 hinges on the narrow question of whether it conflicts with federal immigration law. Since last week’s arguments before the Supreme Court, supporters of the Arizona law are increasingly hopeful that the court will find it does not conflict with federal law and will uphold most if not all of it. S.B. 1070 requires state and local law enforcement officials to verify the immigration status of those legally stopped if there is a “reasonable suspicion” that they are in the country illegally. It also allows arrests without a warrant if authorities have probable cause to believe a noncitizen has committed an offense that subjects him to deportation. Those provisions are entirely consistent with federal law. Federal statutes allow state and local officials to communicate with federal officials to ascertain a person’s immigration status. The federal government is also required to respond to state or local government inquiries about an individual’s immigration status for any lawful purpose. As the 10th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals has noted, “Congress passed a series of provisions designed to encourage cooperation between the federal government and the states in the enforcement of federal immigration laws. … This collection of statutory provisions evinces a clear invitation from Congress for state and local agencies to participate in the process of enforcing federal immigration laws.”

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