US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Arizona immigration law faces challenges

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

The new Arizona law making it a crime to be in the state without proper documentation is already being challenged in federal court and the state promises a vigorous defense. But first, attorneys and law enforcement official are puzzling on how to enforce the new law.

For one thing, it's going to be expensive. And there are all kinds of issues that have to be worked out. Principally, how are you to determine it's not "profiling" when all or most of those stopped look Mexican? How are legal immigrants who are not carrying papers to be handled? Can the county jails handle the crunch? Remember that the state of Arizona has been hit by budget crunch more so than other states. (For the enforcement difficulties see Arizona Republic.)

State prosecutors even fret about how to handle cases in court. The state law is tied to federal law, but to an antiquated law rarely used. It's a federal misdemeanor for an alien who entered the country legally to be here beyond 30 days without registering. The law goes back to the early 1940s and was meant for Nazi and Fascist sympathizers. Also the requirement for registration does not apply to those under 14 years (see Arizona Republic). The law may not be enforceable, even if it gets through court challenges.

Arizona apparently can expect no sympathy at the Supreme Court, if it gets that far. First, it has to wind through federal court, which will be influenced by a recent decision favorable to a legal resident facing deportation.

The Supreme Court ruled unanimously in the case of a legal Mexican immigrant who was convicted on two occasions of a misdemeanor drug offense. His convictions led an immigration judge in Texas to deport him because he was guilty of an "aggravated felony." The justices were unanimous in striking down a lower court decision. The offenses were slight and the state courts gave out minor penalties. The case had wound through the 5th Federal Judicial Circuit - notorious for being less compassionate to immigrants than other districts. The 5th Circuit is often deaf to claims of undocumented detainees for a stay a deportation order to remain in the country. The decision is national and so a major step toward equal justice toward legal immigrants. (See LA Times.)

Despite all the challenges the Arizona law faces, some, encouraged by the favorable national polls and the enthusiastic support of the Tea Party supporters, want to push it further to ban issuing state birth certificates to the U.S. born children of the undocumented (see LA Times).