Arizona versus Obama

There have been no tanks sent into Arizona to quash the fledgling rebellion in that state over illegal immigration, just lawyers sent to federal court. Yet, to hear some comments about the federal lawsuit filed this week over Arizona’s immigration law, you might think Gen. Sherman had just marched into Phoenix.

Is it possible that politics played a part in the decision by the Obama administration to sue Arizona over its recently passed, toughest-in-the-country immigration law? Of course. There’s no question that the president can help fire up his liberal base and large numbers of Latino voters by challenging a law that’s deeply unpopular among them.

But there was also a good deal of politics that went into the passage of the Arizona law, helping to energize many conservatives worried about the consequences of illegal immigration.

However, there are legitimate constitutional issues to be determined by the federal lawsuit, namely the limits the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution imposes on how far states can go in dealing with immigration issues.

The federal government clearly has the primary responsibility in this regard, since Article I of the Constitution specifically gives Congress the power “to establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization.” But it mentions nothing about border security.

Proponents of the Arizona law like to say the state statute doesn’t conflict with federal law because it simply requires its police officers to enforce U.S. immigration law. But many others believe it goes beyond federal law when, for instance, it makes it a state crime for someone in the United States illegally to solicit a job.

The potential for racial profiling under the Arizona law has been substantially decreased from the originally passed version of the law. Amendments now say officers can’t stop people simply because they suspect they may be here illegally. They must have other legal cause to stop them, and race can’t be the determining factor.

Furthermore, the Arizona law has been a wake-up call to the Obama administration and Congress that the immigration issue demands action from the federal government — and not just lawsuits filed against the states. Even so, the dispute over who has authority in this case deserves a clear decision. Thankfully, we usually make those determinations in this country with legal briefs and judicial decisions rather than bombs, bullets and tanks.


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