Posted by on July 21, 2010 in Blog

On July 6, the Department of Justice challenged the state of Arizona’s passed immigration law, S.B. 1070, in federal court.  The brief filed on behalf of the Department of Justice, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Department of State (since all three have responsibilities to enforce immigration laws) in the district of Arizona claims that S.B.1070 prohibits the federal government's ability to enforce its immigration policies, further explaining that “the Constitution and federal law do not permit the development of a patchwork of state and local immigration policies throughout the country.”  This lawsuit closely follows President Obama's immigration speech and his attempt to bring the issue back to the forefront.

In the past month, South Carolina and Minnesota introduced copycat versions of SB1070, with Arkansas, Idaho, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, and Virginia set to follow suit in the fall.  A sponsor of SB1070, State Representative Russell Pearce, has also expressed interest in introducing legislation this fall that would deny birth certificates to children born in Arizona to parents who are not legally in the U.S., thus attempting to deny them the American citizenship accorded to them by the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.  Although these laws have been described as a means to target criminals, the impact will be much broader and have the potential to negatively affect all immigrant communities.

Secretary Janet Napolitano, former Governor of Arizona, said, “With the strong support of state and local law enforcement, I vetoed several similar pieces of legislation as Governor of Arizona because they would have diverted critical law enforcement resources from the most serious threats to public safety and undermined the vital trust between local jurisdictions and the communities they serve.  We are actively working with members of Congress from both parties to comprehensively reform our immigration system at the federal level because this challenge cannot be solved by a patchwork of inconsistent state laws, of which this is one.  While this bipartisan effort to reform our immigration system progresses, the Department of Homeland Security will continue to enforce the laws on the books by enhancing border security and removing criminal aliens from this country.”

However, with the Arizona legislation, a political confrontation is eminent. If not overturned, enforcement of SB 1070 will begin by Arizona authorities July 29.  Based on AAI's analysis, we believe the enforcement of these laws will result in discrimination against certain ethnic communities, have an effect on reporting and investigation of crime in Arizona, leave minorities more vulnerable to hate crimes, and will not resolve the underlying issue of a broken federal immigration system. In addition, we believe bills like SB 1070 will place significant burdens on federal agencies that are already understaffed and under funded, and pull time, energy and resources away from investigating more dangerous targets, such as those involved in drug smuggling, gang activity or terrorism.  The solution is Comprehensive Immigration Reform and measures designed to better control our nation's borders, not misguided state initiatives.  We will keep you updated.

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