In suing to block Arizona’s racist immigration law, SB 1070, which is scheduled to take effect July 29, the U.S. Justice Department chose the narrowest but strongest argument to overturn it: the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution.
Under the Supremacy Clause, Article VI (2), when state laws conflict with federal laws, federal laws prevail. Since immigration laws are part of the federal government’s exclusive right to manage foreign relations, immigration is therefore strictly a federal matter.
With this approach, the Obama administration sidestepped the likelihood that enforcing SB 1070 would violate civil rights laws. This law requires immigrants to carry their alien registration documents at all times, and allows police to inquire into a person’s immigration status in the course of enforcing another law, based on “reasonable suspicion,” which is not clearly defined. In practice, it would amount to racial profiling aimed at Latinos.
SB 1070 was passed amidst racist hysteria that doesn’t fit the facts. Illegal immigration and crime along the Arizona-Mexico border are declining. It has been estimated that 75 percent of the nation’s 11 million illegal immigrants pay payroll taxes, contributing about $7 billion to Social Security funds they are not allowed to claim; 66 percent pay income taxes; and all of them pay sales taxes. On the whole, illegal immigrants contribute $5 billion more to government agencies than they take out. There is also the practical concern that SB 1070 would make people in immigrant communities less likely to report crimes to the police.
The racist pedigree for the Arizona law can be found in its author, Kris Kobach, a University of Missouri-Kansas City law professor and top immigration adviser to former Attorney General John Ashcroft, who works for the Federation for Immigration Reform, which was inspired by John Trevor, a Nazi sympathizer and anti-Semite. Conservatives who support SB 1070 are also selective when it comes to the Supremacy Clause, for former President George W. Bush tried to use it to undermine state health, safety and environmental laws.
In Michigan, racism and opportunism can be found in the campaigns of Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard, who is seeking the Republican nomination for governor, and state Rep. Kim Meltzer (R-Clinton Township), who is running for state senator. Trailing in the polls as they approach the Aug. 3 primary, both are going for the bigot vote by calling for Michigan to follow Arizona’s example. Shame on them.
Comprehensive federal legislation is needed to deal with the broken immigration system, and it must take into account the fact that it is logistically impossible to round up 11 million illegal immigrants.