What Arizona lawmakers did two weeks ago to address the state’s growing illegal alien population wasn’t only necessary, but was also just by exercising its sovereign right under the Constitution’s 10th Amendment.
The bill, signed into law by Gov. Jan Brewer, empowers state and local police to use suspected illegal immigrant status as a crime-fighting tool. The bill promotes an attrition through enforcement strategy, which sets aside mass amnesties and deportations in favor of a more reasonable, rational strategy.
This law has been vilified in every conceivable way. Obama: “misguided.” Los Angeles Roman Catholic Cardinal Roger Mahony: “German Nazi and Russian Communist techniques.” But the best description is “common sense.”
The intent of the legislation is to “discourage and deter the unlawful entry and presence of aliens and economic activity by persons unlawfully present in the United States.” It does so by strictly prohibiting racial profiling, and an amendment by Arizona lawmakers late last week places even further restrictions by only allowing enforcement after an individual has been stopped, detained or arrested.
New state crimes include transporting or harboring illegal aliens.
This law reflects a state properly acting to protect its citizens. It represents federalism at work.
And it’s long overdue. Janet Napolitano, Arizona’s former governor and now Homeland Security secretary in the Obama Administration, vetoed similar legislation. Napolitano has long advocated “comprehensive immigration reform”—code for mass amnesty.
Arizona already has the toughest state law on the books requiring all state employers, public and private, from checking all new hires with the E-Verify employment verification system. The new law takes the next logical step toward making Arizona less hospitable as an illegal alien destination and for rooting out vast foreign criminal networks.
A recent report from the Department of Homeland Security estimates that Arizona’s illegal alien population could be as large as 460,000. It’s already drained Arizona’s healthcare, education, welfare and law enforcement resources. It has also given the state some of the nation’s most oft-used smuggling routes, trekked by hordes of illegal aliens, gangs and smuggling rings.
“Border-related violence and crime due to illegal immigration are critically important issues to the people of our state,” Gov. Brewer said at the bill-signing. “We cannot sacrifice our safety to the murderous greed of drug cartels. We cannot stand idly by as drop houses, kidnappings and violence compromise our quality of life.”
The recent murder of rancher Rob Krentz by a suspected illegal alien sparked a loud public outcry. Krentz was on his own property at the Arizona-Mexico border.
Opponents of this law claim that rampant racial profiling will follow, despite its restrictions to do so. They also assert that it’s unconstitutional because only Congress has plenary power over immigration policy. But states hold inherent police powers and much discretion under the 10th Amendment.
Arizona’s new law addresses the consequences of illegal immigration that fall upon the state and its localities, just as its E-Verify law goes after the “jobs magnet” from the state side. Arizona is solidly within its police powers to write this kind of legislation that’s complementary to federal immigration-related statutes.
DR. JAMES EDWARDS is one of the legislative specialists who represents NumbersUSA daily on Capitol Hill. He is co-author of "The Congressional Politics of Immigration Reform"
Updated: Thu, May 6th 2010 @ 5:20pm EDT