By BOB CHRISTIE, Associated Press Writer
PHOENIX – The U.S. Justice Department on Tuesday filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Arizona’s new law targeting illegal immigrants, setting the stage for a clash between the federal government and the state over the nation’s toughest immigration crackdown.
The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Phoenix argues that Arizona’s law requiring state and local police to question and possibly arrest illegal immigrants during the enforcement of other laws such as traffic violations usurps federal authority.
“In our constitutional system, the federal government has pre-eminent authority to regulate immigration matters,” the lawsuit says. “This authority derives from the United States Constitution and numerous acts of Congress. The nation’s immigration laws reflect a careful and considered balance of national law enforcement, foreign relations, and humanitarian interests.”
The government is seeking an injunction to delay the July 29 implementation of the law until the case is resolved. It ultimately wants the law declared invalid.
The government contends that the Arizona law violates the supremacy clause of the Constitution, a legal theory that says federal laws override state laws. It is already illegal under federal law to be in the country illegally, but Arizona is the first state to make it a state crime and add its own punishment and enforcement tactics.
State Sen. Russell Pearce, the principal sponsor of the bill co-sponsored by dozens of fellow Republican legislators, denounced the lawsuit as “absolute insult to the rule of law” as well as to Arizona and its residents.
“It’s outrageous and it’s clear they don’t want (immigration) laws enforced. What they want is to continue their non-enforcement policy,” Pearce said. “They ignore the damage to America, the cost to our citizens, the deaths” tied to border-related violence.
HOWEVER, dot dot dot
The Supreme Court has stated clearly and often that the U.S. Constitution gives Congress “plenary power” over immigration policy, meaning that Congress has virtually unlimited authority to regulate immigration into the United States. The Supremacy Clause of the Constitution says that federal law supersedes conflicting state law. In immigration matters, the courts have consistently held that this means that states may enact immigration-related laws that go as far as, but no further than, duly enacted federal laws, except in areas where Congress has specifically preempted state action. (The primary example of Congress preempting state action is 8 U.S.C. 1324b(h)(2), which prohibits states and localities from “imposing civil or criminal sanctions (other than through licensing and similar laws) upon those who employ, or recruit or refer for a fee for employment, unauthorized aliens,” which is why states and localities must tie E-Verify mandates to the issuance of business licenses.) Congress has not preempted state or local action regarding any of the federal laws that the new Arizona law seeks to enforce, so long as the state law goes no further than existing federal law. The Arizona law was drafted meticulously to ensure that it complies fully with the U.S. Constitution and with federal immigration laws.
Link (with more context and information)
Here’s what the law’s creator has to say about federal preemption:
NLJ: How did you ensure that S.B. 1070 conforms with federal pre-emption doctrine, which is likely to be the major basis for challenging the law?
KK: The provision of the law that many have focused on is the one makes it a misdemeanor for an alien to fail to carry registration documents on his person. They fail to mention that an individual is only guilty if he is in violation of 8 USC sec 1304(a) or 8 USC 1306(e). Those provisions have been around since 1940, making it a crime to fail to register or carry certain documents. The state statue literally refers to those federal statutes. A person can only be guilty under the state statute if he is guilty under the federal statute.
The principle that protects the Arizona law is the legal principle of concurrent enforcement. This has been recognized by several courts, including the 9th Circuit. It holds that a law is not conflict-preempted if the state law prohibits the same behavior that is already prohibited by federal law. Similarly, if a state officer acts in a way to assist the federal government in that action, he concurrently enforces what is already prohibited under federal law.
That principle guides any interpretation of S.B. 1070.
The controlling Supreme Court precedent is 1976′s De Canas v. Bica. In that case, the Supreme Court recognized states may enact legislation to discourage illegal immigration within their jurisdictions. The mere fact that a state law concerns illegal immigration or affects immigration in some way does not render it pre-empted.
So it looks like the feds don’t have a leg to stand on and they will lose any challenge. I hope the court doesn’t take too long to decide, so the illegals who are here already will not delay their exit from our state due to uncertainty about whether the law will be in force on July 29.