Arizona loses Round 1 in legal border battle

The preliminary injunction issued by a federal judge Wednesday barring key provisions of Arizona’s controversial new immigration law won’t end the legal battle over the law. Not by a long shot. We fully expect the issue will eventually end up before the U.S. Supreme Court.

But the ruling by U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton is a clear indication that, just as critics of the law contended, there are serious legal problems associated with the Arizona immigration law.

Bolton allowed some of the provisions of the new law to take effect today, as Arizonans anticipated. But she issued the preliminary injunction to prevent the most controversial portions of the law from being implemented.

She blocked a section that requires police officers to check a person’s immigration status whenever they are arrested, and another that makes it a state crime for legal immigrants caught not carrying their immigration documents. She also blocked a measure that makes it a crime for immigrants to solicit for work.

In issuing the injunction, Bolton made it clear there are serious questions about the state of Arizona attempting to usurp federal authority by passing the law.

“Preserving the status quo through a preliminary injunction is less harmful than allowing state laws that are likely pre-empted by federal law to be enforced,” she wrote.

Bolton’s decision will no doubt further inflame the already crackling debate on immigration, raising questions about what states may do and what the federal government should do.

There is no question the Arizona law stemmed in part from the failure of the federal government to adequately address the problem of illegal immigration. But it’s a mistake to claim the Obama administration has simply ignored the issue. In fact, during the first year of President Barack Obama’s tenure, more than three times as many immigrants were deported as during President George W. Bush’s first year, according to federal immigration figures cited in Harper’s magazine.

That doesn’t mean the administration is doing all it should do regarding illegal immigration.

As a letter writer suggests today, a comprehensive, worker-visa program is needed to meet demand for workers in this country, and at the same time allow temporary workers easy access back and forth across the border.

We agree, but we believe such a program should include a strong identification component. U.S. law already requires fingerprinting of foreigners who want to come to this country. It should be expanded to include trackable identification cards. After all, there is no constitutional right for foreign nationals to travel in this country.

Meanwhile, trying to enlist local police officers as ICE agents, as Arizona attempted to do, not only distracts police from other law enforcement issues but, as Bolton’s ruling suggests, it may very well be unconstitutional.


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