Immigration Showdown

The Register Guard (Eugene, OR), December 13, 2011 | Go to article overview

Immigration Showdown


Byline: The Register-Guard

The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to consider the constitutionality of Arizona's controversial immigration law. That's good news, since it will take a ruling from the nation's highest court to reassert federal authority over immigration enforcement and to discourage individual states from concocting their own rules and regulations on what the U.S. Constitution makes clear is a federal responsibility.

Last April, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld an earlier trial judge's ruling that blocked enforcement of some of the Arizona law's most noxious provisions, including a requirement that police check the immigration status of anyone they have "reasonable suspicion" of being in the state without authorization.

The appeals court also blocked portions of the law demanding that immigrants carry papers and making it a crime for illegal immigrants to work or look for work.

The Supreme Court has ruled consistently that states cannot make their own immigration laws - and for good reason. The Constitution gives Congress the sole power "to establish an uniform rule of naturalization." That's because, as Donald Verrilli Jr., the U.S. solicitor general, noted in a recent brief, immigration policies require a balance of "law enforcement priorities, foreign relations considerations and humanitarian concerns."

Arizona's indifference to that delicate balance - and to the federal government's exclusive authority on immigration policy - is made clear by the first section of the state's law, which declares the expulsion of illegal immigrants to be official state policy.

As federal Judge John Noonan noted in a concurring opinion to the 9th Circuit ruling: "That 50 individual states or one individual state should have a foreign policy is absurdity too gross to be entertained.

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