It has been long-awaited but not unexpected. Today the Justice Department filed suit in federal court seeking to halt implementation of Arizona’s “Papers Please” law enacted when Arizona Senate Bill 1070 was signed into law by Governor Brewer last April 23rd.
The law gives Arizona state and local authorities broad powers to detain people within Arizona’s borders whom they believe to be there illegally. People thus detained would be expected to produce proof of American citizenship – something a majority of Americans are generally not prepared to do at the drop of a hat.
The lawsuit, filed by Assistant Attorney General Tony West along with other United States Attorneys, citing the State of Arizona and Governor Jan Brewer as defendants, has two major points:
- That Arizona, in enacting that law, violates the Supremacy Clause of the US Constitution, which declares federal law as supreme to state and local laws, and
- That the federal government has preeminent authority to enforce immigration laws and that “a state may not establish its own immigration policy or enforce state laws in a manner that interferes with federal immigration laws.”
Arizona’s sole mechanism in the immigration policy set forth in SB 1070 is the mechanism of “attrition,” says the lawsuit, where suspects who may or may not be citizens, are rounded up, detained, and exported. That mechanism, the suit claims, interferes with the federal government’s policies under the Department of Homeland Security. Quoting from the lawsuit, found here:
“…it will impose significant and counterproductive burdens on the federal agencies charged with enforcing the national immigration scheme, diverting resources and attention from the dangerous aliens who the federal government targets as its top enforcement priority. It will cause the detention and harassment of authorized visitors, immigrants, and citizens who do not have or carry identification documents specified by the statute or who otherwise would be swept into the ambit of SB 1070’s ‘attrition through enforcement’ approach. It will conflict with long-standing federal law governing the registration, smuggling, and employment of aliens. It will altogether ignore humanitarian concerns, such as the protections under federal law for an alien who has a well-founded fear of persecution or who has been the victim of a natural disaster. And it will interfere with vital foreign policy and national security interests by disrupting the United States’ relationship with Mexico and other countries.”
Really, the only greater fear than being stopped by the Arizona State Police for “having a deeper tan” than most people, is the fear that this heinous law will be upheld in federal court, or worse, by the US Supreme Court.
The possibility is there, and it is more than just a little unnerving what our country could devolve to if the individual states are allowed to nullify federal programs, policies, and laws.
The Balkans come to mind.