Arizona's "show me your papers" law dealt a stunning blow

The Torch is back with Peter Ashman, an ACLU of Nevada board member and an immigration attorney in Las Vegas, giving us an interesting look at the recent blow dealt to Arizona's anti-illegal immigration bill.

 Last July, just before Arizona's anti-illegal immigration bill, S.B. 1070, was to go in effect, the United States stepped in and successfully obtained an injunction from a federal judge in Phoenix. Governor Brewer, the controversial proponent of the measure filed an appeal of the decision. On April 11th, 2011, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the Arizona District Court holding that S.B. 1070 is preempted by federal law. As most rational thinking people predicted, Arizona's efforts to create its own separate state policy on immigration is not consistent with the federal government's role in regulating the national borders and conducting its own foreign policy with Mexico.

As the court correctly recognized, Arizona’s misguided attempt to drive immigrants from the state interferes with the federal government’s exclusive authority to enforce immigration law, has negatively impacted U.S. foreign relations, and reflects the dangers of allowing states to enact a patchwork of conflicting regulations. The Ninth Circuit also rightly rejected Arizona’s claim that state police have “inherent authority” to enforce federal immigration laws and held that Congress intended state officers to “aid in immigration enforcement only under the close supervision of the Attorney General.”

SB 1070 would have required all Arizona law enforcement personnel to verify the status of anyone they come in contact with, or even suspect of being an undocumented immigrant. It would have required all people to carry proof of their immigration statuses—including U.S. citizens, and made it illegal to seek employment in public places. Proponents argued that the law was necessary to deal with the federal government's abject failure to create and enforce reasonable laws on immigration and deal with Arizona's undocumented population and their purported burden on Arizona's schools, hospitals, roads, and generous social benefits.

Utah has recently passed similar legislation, but has taken an additional (and somewhat bizarre) step of providing papers that would purport to let undocumented aliens work legally in Utah, as long as the federal government agrees to allow Utah the power regulate the undocumented within its borders. Georgia's legislature passed a similar law the day after the 9th Circuit decision in U.S. v. Arizona. Florida and many other states are considering similar anti-immigration laws. But Texas, Colorado, Kentucky, Wyoming, New Hampshire, and Nebraska have rejected Arizona-style bills this year, according to the National Immigration Forum.

Most observers believe this matter will eventually wind up before the U.S. Supreme Court, unless Congress acts first to deal with this long-overdue problem. However, with the 2012 elections already beginning to heat up, and a Congress seemingly gridlocked on budgetary issues, this observer sees no solution on the horizon and expects that while the 9th Circuit decision is good news to those that object to racial profiling, harassment, and vilification of millions of hard working men, women, and children, we are nowhere near the end of the debate over illegal immigration.