News Columns & Blogs

Pro-con: Was Justice Department correct to challenge Arizona law?

As a matter of policy, President Obama was right earlier this year to criticize a harsh new immigration law in Arizona as "misguided." On Tuesday, the Justice Department was right to challenge it as a matter of law. The Arizona legislation, which was signed in April and scheduled to go into effect at the end of this month, requires police officers to check the immigration status of those who are lawfully stopped if there is "reasonable suspicion" that they are in the country illegally. The law also makes it a crime for undocumented workers to seek employment and authorizes private citizens to sue state agencies that do not enforce the law. States are free to determine most laws and policies within their borders — even if the results are reprehensible and shortsighted. What they cannot do is pass laws that trump or ignore the federal government. The Justice Department suit, filed in Phoenix federal court, correctly calls Arizona on this breach, noting that the Constitution and Congress have vested the federal government — not the states — with exclusive authority to establish immigration and nationality laws. The Obama administration argues convincingly that allowing states to set their own policy toward immigration could harm U.S. foreign policy and lead to highly disparate treatment of immigrants from state to state. — Washington Post

It is outrageous that President Obama and his administration are suing Arizona because we are taking steps to secure our border — a job the federal government has failed to do.  Calls for comprehensive immigration reform are like focusing all of our efforts at cleaning up the oil spill in the Gulf before stopping the gusher at the bottom of the ocean. There is no other country in the world that tolerates the type of situation that exists on our border with Mexico.  Why aren’t we demanding that Mexico democratize its economy, create opportunities for its own citizens and mature into the trading partner and ally that American and Arizona surely needs? Surely it is in Arizona’s best interests to demand resolution to this crisis before being overwhelmed by an oncoming greater refugee crisis. The fruits of the current struggle can be reaped by demanding that our weak political culture in our nation's capital do one thing right first — secure our border now. — Chuck Coughlin, Arizona Republic