Immigration policy is a federal responsibility and should remain so. That's the message NLC and dozens of cities sent to the Supreme Court last week as it heard oral arguments in State of Arizona v. United States, which challenges the authority of the state of Arizona to enact its own immigration law, SB1070.
"It is important that the federal government, on behalf of the nation, adopt a comprehensive immigration policy that advances the highest and best interests of all residents," said NLC Executive Director Donald J. Borut.
Under SB1070, which became law in 2010, local law enforcement officers are required to investigate individuals' immigration status, detain all arrestees until their immigration status is verified, and enforce state laws that criminalize both the failure to carry registration documents and any attempt by an undocumented resident to apply for or perform work in the state.
NLC, in an amicus brief joined by the U.S. Conference of Mayors and more than 40 municipalities from across the country, including Phoenix, Flagstaff, Tucson and San Luis, Ariz., argues that allowing states to create their own immigration enforcement policies will detract from local public safety priorities and stretch already limited resources. SB 1070 effectively requires local law enforcement to spend considerable time and money detaining individuals who may eventually not even be charged with a crime, while researching their immigration status.
The law also creates an unreasonable burden on law enforcement to enforce an unworkable law. If a city chooses, for whatever reason, not to enforce the law to its fullest extent, then it may be sued by any resident of the state. Localities also risk depleting resources defending themselves from a surge of lawsuits contending that arrestees were stopped using constitutionally questionable tactics, like racial …