US Catholic Faith in Real Life

First challenges to Arizona immigration law

By Father Tom Joyce, CMF | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare

A federal court in Phoenix took up the first challenge to SB1070, the Arizona law on immigration. It's to prevent the law taking effect on July 29 in order to enable the constitutional issues to go forward. The district judge chose to hear the suits of Phoenix Police Officer David Saigado and a local Hispanic youth group, Chicanos Por La Causa (see Arizona Republic). The Justice Department and five other challenges continue and will be heard later.

The Justice Department had chosen to argue against SB1070 on grounds that state and local laws are preempted by federal law and that 50 state laws or hundreds of local laws would interfere with enforcement of federal law and with the regulation of interstate commerce.

Attorneys General of nine states have joined in supporting Arizona and presented briefs. All but one is a Republican, and five of them are running this year for governor. They include some of the same lot challenging the newly enacted health care reform in federal court (see Washington Post).Their argument is that the states have the right to assist the federal government in enforcement of immigration law beyond being invited by ICE.

A couple of lawyers writing in the Washington Post cite precedent in Supreme Court decisions in favor of the ethnic profiling in SB1070, though they say this precedent is exceptional. Ethnic profiling is still the most widely used argument against the law. Yet the Justice Department's suit only tangentially considers the argument, focusing rather on the nuisance it would create for federal enforcement.

Profiling is still speculative, since the law has yet to be implemented. Those who wrote the bill were careful to deny any intent to profiling and expressly prohibit it. Nonetheless Attorney General Eric Holder promised last Sunday that should evidence of profiling emerge, the Justice Department would file a second suit against Arizona (see Los Angeles Times).