The Obama administration lawyers must have used the Thurgood Marshall’s constitutional law handbook to prepare their Arizona case.
By Yussuf J. Simmonds
Sentinel Managing Editor
In reviewing the case that the U.S. Justice Department presented to the federal court in attacking the validity of Arizona’s SB1070, the late, great constitutional lawyer and Supreme Court Justice, Thurgood Marshall would have been proud of the legal response to the notorious Arizona Law; it was a vintage Marshall response. U.S. District Court Judge Susan Bolton issued a preliminary injunction that said, in essence, to Arizona’s governor that Immigration and its enforcement are the domain of the federal government; the state cannot usurp that responsibility, especially at the cost of the civil rights of its citizens. However, it is believed that the ruling would now prod the federal government to establish comprehensive immigration reform, a national policy.
The state of Arizona filed an appeal to the judge’s ruling the next day and based on court observers and legal experts, this case is crying out for a constitutional ruling and will most likely end up at the doorsteps of the U.S. Supreme Court. How long that takes is anyone’s guess.
Rev. Jesse Jackson who has been involved in civil rights issues for decades said, “Immigration is an issue that is uniquely and unequivocally reserved for federal law, and Judge Bolton’s ruling expressed skepticism about the constitutionality of Arizona’s law. We cannot have a patch work of fifty different immigration policies passed independently by fifty different states–we are one United States of America and there must be one immigration policy guiding our nation.”
In responding to the Judge Bolton’s ruling that blocked of key sections of the immigration law as a partial victory, Rev. Al Sharpton issued the following statement: “Today a judge has blocked key provisions in Arizona’s immigration law which is a significant partial victory and the reason I have led marches in Arizona. I was prepared to spend this weekend in jail if necessary to protest the violation of the legal rights of citizens of Latino descent but based upon this ruling I will now assess how I will weigh in this weekend. This is clearly a step in the right direction and a victory in part for all Americans.”
The executive director of the Center for Community Change said, “We have been advocating for a true, just and comprehensive solution to our broken and outdated immigration system for several years. Congress and the President have to stop passing the buck, and do the right, if not easy, thing. This fight has taken a serious toll on the people of Arizona and the country. Unfortunately, without decisive action from Congress on comprehensive immigration reform, we may see more states try to emulate Arizona, even in the face of evidence that such laws violate our Constitution. The court said that the federal government is in charge. It’s time they start acting like it.”
Arizona’s law was the most far-reaching in the country and the most closely watched. But similar measures are in place in local communities across the country, with a potential slew of unintended consequences. According to media reports, nine other states are considering similar legislation, though the Judge Bolton’s ruling may temper their enthusiasm somewhat; and 65 percent of people polled agreed with SB1070, despite the judge’s ruling. There are vociferous reactions on both sides of the issue. Arizona is scheduled as a no-show at a meeting of the governors of the border states–between U.S. and Mexican governors–hosted by Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico.
The day after the ruling, Arizona officers began enforcing what was left of the state’s new immigration law. Arizona and Fremont, Nebraska, are at the forefront of the movement by state and local governments to get tough with illegal immigrants, rather than rely on the federal government’s efforts to address the problem. But they are learning that simply passing a law is far from enough–constitutionality, if valid, and enforcement are everything.
Only remnants of Arizona’s law went into effect at midnight after Judge Bolton, hearing a half-dozen lawsuits, enjoined the key sections of the measure last week Wednesday. Among the provisions that were put on hold were those that called for officers to check a person’s immigration status while enforcing other laws and required immigrants to carry identification papers at all times. (Shades of apartheid South Africa’s passbook requirement).
The Constitution sets forth a clear separation of powers between states and the federal government; for example, in 1941, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the state of Pennsylvania’s “Alien Registration Act” could not require Chinese residents to register and carry identification cards with them. [Hines v. Davidowitz]