Arizona Law 'Basic Constitutional Doctrine'

By Conte, Andrew | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, July 8, 2010 | Go to article overview

Arizona Law 'Basic Constitutional Doctrine'


Conte, Andrew, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


Just like Arizona, the federal government requires immigrants to carry registration documents.

The difference is that federal officials rarely enforce the law, said Peter Spiro, a Temple University law professor who specializes in immigration issues. The Justice Department sued this week to prevent Arizona's immigration law from taking effect this month.

"It's technically consistent with the federal law, but really only technically," Spiro said. "I think the courts are going to see through this."

Arizona lawmakers were careful to ensure their bill does not directly violate provisions of federal law, legal experts said Wednesday. Still, Spiro believes there's a "pretty good chance" courts will strike down the Arizona law for infringing on the discretion of law enforcement officers and federal officials.

Mike Hethmon, general counsel at the Immigration Reform Law Institute in Washington, helped draft the Arizona legislation. He sees it as complementing federal rules.

"It's not different at all," Hethmon said. "It's intentionally designed to mirror elements and terms of the federal law. ... It's basic constitutional doctrine of concurrent enforcement."

Parts of the Arizona law, he said, were designed to eliminate "sanctuaries" where local and federal law enforcement officials were not policing immigration laws aggressively.

"The lawmakers in Arizona perceived the federal government not enforcing the immigration law, and they wanted to be able to enforce the laws," said Valerie May, principal partner of the May Law Group, a Downtown firm that specializes in immigration issues.

Under the Arizona law, police are required to determine whether anyone they stop during the enforcement of other laws is in the United States legally. The person would be presumed to be here legally if carrying an Arizona driver's license or some other document showing proof of legal residence.

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