Arizona Ruling: Ripe for Appeal

A Clinton-appointed federal judge has blocked several key provisions of Arizona’s new law but allowed important parts of the statute to go into effect.

The Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act becomes law Thursday without a number of its main elements.  U.S. District Judge Susan R. Bolton sided with the Obama Justice Department in enjoining four sections of the broadly popular Arizona law.

The ruling barred the requirement that Arizona’s law enforcement officers must verify immigration status in certain circumstances. Making it state crimes not to have immigration documents on hand and to apply for a job as an illegal alien also were enjoined. And warrantless arrests because someone is suspected of being deportable were blocked.

Notably, the judge declined to strike down the entire law, which the Obama Administration asked for. Thus, Arizona has a new law on the books barring its cities from adopting sanctuary policies and enabling private citizens to sue sanctuary cities. The state now requires state officials to cooperate with federal immigration agencies.

As well, Arizona now has tougher state crimes against human smuggling, stopping an automobile to hire day laborers, delaying traffic flow by getting into a vehicle as a day laborer and knowingly or intentionally hiring illegal aliens. The existing state law that requires employment eligibility verification has been strengthened.  And the state will proceed with organizing a gang and immigration intelligence team and funding this effort.

The court’s injunction does nothing to hinder Arizona’s state and local law enforcement from exercising the inherent authority on which it has long relied—thanks to that good old 10th Amendment.  Officers can continue to detain illegal and criminal aliens and check immigration status on other grounds, state and federal.  Police may make ample use of the Law Enforcement Support Center, whose primary mission is to help state, local and tribal police determine a suspect’s immigration status.

In other words, the radical advocates for illegal immigrants and open-borders zealots didn’t score a wholesale legal victory.  Most of the lawyers and experts I have spoken with consider the preliminary injunction to be ripe for appeal.

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer immediately responded, “This fight is far from over. In fact, it is just the beginning, and at the end of what is certain to be a long legal struggle, Arizona will prevail in its right to protect our citizens.”

Gov. Brewer has indicated an expedited appeal is coming.  Many expect the ruling ultimately will be reversed.

Ranking Republican Rep. Lamar Smith of the House Judiciary Committee said, “Today’s ruling from this federal judge will be seen by Arizonans—and the majority of Americans who support the law—as just another in the long line of federal failures to deal with illegal immigration and border security.”

The parts of the ruling aimed at stopping the four provisions rest upon judicial activist tendencies and faulty reasoning. The court royally misunderstands federal pre-emption principles. 

It also buys the bogus DOJ argument that federal administrative policies trump states, when it’s Congress—not unelected homeland security bureaucrats’ little diktats—that enjoys plenary power over immigration and has seen fit to encourage, not hinder state and local police cooperation where immigration’s spillover effects are concerned.

Curt Levey of the Committee for Justice in a statement called the Arizona ruling “weak on both legal analysis and deference to the fact-finding, policy determinations, and judgment of the people of Arizona’s duly elected representatives.”

But perhaps more important than the legal failings of this injunction, the judicial interference in Arizona’s self-government pours political gasoline on a blazing fire. From the moment last spring when the Arizona law grabbed the nation’s attention, it has enjoyed strong public support all across America.

The politically correct crowd’s announced boycotts backfired.  They angered average Americans.  Popular support for Arizona and against the open borders types spiked.  The Obama Justice Department’s lawsuit against the Arizona law only inflamed the political fires further. 

Now, a Democratic judge engages in very public judicial activism on this prominent issue.  The entire nation is watching.  The likely outcome is to motivate conservative-leaning and independent voters to try to restore order to their runaway federal government come election day. 

That means the people who brought us government hostile takeovers in the private sector, bailouts, obscene debt and deficit spending, tax increases and red tape have handed Republicans yet another white-hot issue.  And here comes the Elena Kagan appointment as the next ultraliberal activist on the Supreme Court.

In short, federal judicial interference in the Arizona law makes for short-term bad legal opinion but longer-term good politics for conservatives.


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