Right Opinion

Arizona Begins Enforcing Immigration Law -- for Now

Arnold Ahlert · Sep. 20, 2012

In Arizona on Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton lifted the injunction on the part of Arizona’s immigration law upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in June. As a result, police can check the immigration status of people they stop and suspect are in the country illegally. The implementation of this particular provision of SB 1070 represents the latest development in the two-year battle between the state of Arizona and the federal government. Governor Jan Brewer was delighted. “Today is the day we have awaited for more than two years,” Brewer said, before adding a caveat. “It must be enforced efficiently, effectively and in harmony with the Constitution and civil rights. I have full faith and confidence that Arizona’s State and local law enforcement officers are prepared for this task,” she added.

What Arizona law enforcement officials actually do may be largely irrelevant. It is no secret the Obama administration and its minions in the Department of Justice (DOJ) are contemptuous of Arizona’s attempt to protect itself, despite the reality that the state remains the nation’s most heavily traveled corridor for both illegal immigration and smuggling. The same DOJ estimated that 400,000 of Arizona’s two million Latino population are illegal aliens. Moreover, 60 to 70 percent of the state’s deportations or “removals” are Mexican nationals.

The usual demagogues are out in force muddying the waters. Omar Jadwat, a senior staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union Immigrants’ Rights Project said the ruling “opens the door to racial profiling, wrongful detentions and arrests, putting everyone’s civil rights at risk. Law enforcement resources are wasted when people are targeted based on their skin color, and our core American values of fairness and equality are compromised,” he added. The National Day Laborer Organizing Network released a statement. “President Obama has the moral responsibility and legal authority to protect the people of Arizona,” it said. “We expect he will do everything within his power to prevent the discrimination, punishment, and suffering that will escalate under…[the law’s] implementation.”

Pro-illegal activists will employ several strategies in an effort to undermine the statute. Efforts to set up a hotline to field questions about one’s rights if stopped by police have begun. Immigration patrols conducted by police will be monitored by private citizens armed with cameras. Opponents of the law are contacting individual police departments around the state asking them not to enforce the provision. And the ACLU said it was prepared to continue challenging the law by documenting instances of racial profiling throughout the state, according to Alessandra Soler, executive director of the legal group in Arizona. Phoenix attorney Daniel Ortega echoed that sentiment. "We have to respect authority. We have to be cooperative. But we have constitutional rights and we should exercise them, especially if we believe that the police are racially profiling us and the community,“ he said.

The federal government is on board with the activist side of the equation as well. Authorities have put Arizona on notice that they will help enforce the law, but only if that enforcement "conforms to their priorities.” Those priorities are apparently limited to catching repeat violators and those who threaten public safety and national security. If the feds refuse to pick up illegals detained by Arizona police, local officers will likely be forced to let them go, unless they’re suspected of committing a crime that requires incarceration. In other words, the Obama administration’s position is clear: breaking an additional law on top of being in the country illegally is the minimum threshold for getting involved, despite the reality that it is the federal government’s duty to enforce immigration law.

Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio mulled the reality of the fed’s position. “I am mulling what I will do if they don’t respond,” he said. "I don’t feel comfortable letting the illegal alien back on the street.“

The machinations behind the effort to overturn the statute – despite its approval by the United States Supreme Court – reveals one of the pillars of progressive ideology: no court, not even the highest one in the nation, will stop us from attempting to overturn any law that does not align with our worldview. Thus, it was completely unsurprising that a coalition of civil rights and immigrant advocacy groups, including the ACLU, the National Immigration Law Center and the Mexican American Legal defense and Educational Fund, tried to get Bolton to ignore that ruling and re-instate the injunction. Now that she has refused to do so, the coalition is appealing her ruling to the infamous 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, a body notoriously sympathetic to leftist causes. The coalition has filed another suit as well in which they raise a separate claim that the law was passed with intent to discriminate, and thus violates the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.

If any one of these suits succeed, or the 9th Circuit over-rules Bolton, it is highly likely the case would be forced back into the Supreme Court. During the original ruling Justice Anthony Kennedy alluded to such a possibility. Despite writing for the majority, Kennedy noted that the ruling "does not foreclose other preemption and constitutional challenges to the law as interpreted and applied after it goes into effect.” Kennedy contended that if an individual were detained under SB 1070 longer than they would have been before, just to check their legal status, it would constitute a constitutional problem.

How one determines such an ill-defined time period is precisely the fodder activists will undoubtedly use in their ongoing attempt to eviscerate the state’s ability to protect its citizens, even as a sympathetic DOJ – which is also continuing to sue the state – studiously ignores their obligation to enforce the law. In other words when it comes to a choice between the rule of law and the progressive agenda – the rule of law be damned.

Arnold Ahlert is a columnist for FrontPage Magazine.

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