The rule of law
BY MIKE JONES Associate Editor
Sunday, July 11, 2010
7/11/10 at 5:35 AM
Read Jones' blog.
This Constitution, and the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, any thing in the Constitution or laws of any state to the contrary notwithstanding.
— Article VI, U.S. Constitution
The lawsuit filed by the U.S. Justice Department against Arizona's controversial new immigration law will lean heavily on the supremacy clause in Article VI of the constitution. A reading of Article VI should make it clear that the U.S. government has a good case.
Simply put: Federal law trumps state law. The Founding Fathers, the original patriots, knew that a central government was necessary to hold the 13 states together, as it should the 50 today. In the last few years, with the fear of illegal immigration stoked by so-called patriots, some states, including Oklahoma, have fallen victim to the hysteria and passed laws that clearly violate that portion of the Constitution that the Fathers so carefully and faithfully hammered out.
The Arizona law requires officers, while enforcing other laws, to question a person's immigration status if there is reasonable suspicion that they are here illegally. Such suspicions could arise, according to the law, if a person speaks poor English, is traveling in an overcrowded vehicle or hanging out in an area where illegal immigrants typically congregate. It also makes it a crime for legal immigrants to not carry their immigration papers. Think any illegal Caucasians will be asked for their papers?
But the lawsuit filed last week doesn't address those parts of the law, although they, too, would have a difficult time passing constitutional muster. The lawsuit leans on Arizona's flouting of the supremacy clause.
Proponents of the Arizona law and other such laws point out that those laws are merely upholding the U.S. Constitution and that the states are enforcing laws that the federal government refuses to enforce or is incapable of enforcing.
The supremacy clause is valid in this case because the Arizona law demands law enforcement action that is already covered by parts of a current federal immigration law and is the purview of U.S. agencies, such as Immigration and Customs Enforcement as well as the FBI. The Arizona law usurps the authority of the federal government and its enforcement agencies.
The problem is that current federal immigration law is inadequate and not diligently enforced. Inaction by administrations and Congresses for almost 20 years has led the country to this state. Immigrants, legal and illegal, are being blamed for many of the country's ills. Such suspicion and distrust have been the fate of every ethnic group that has entered America. And every ethnic group has, over time, assimilated. This group will, too.
One more time: I know the definition of illegal. I'm not in favor of full amnesty. But neither do I support the misguided notion that we can somehow round up 12 million illegal immigrants and ship them back to their home countries. Or that we should scare or intimidate them into leaving.
Although the final judgment will come from the courts, the Arizona law clearly seems to be unconstitutional, not to mention mean-spirited and given to racial profiling
If any good can come from this lawsuit, other than the law being dissolved, all the publicity might finally force Congress to do what it ought to have done years ago: Write fair, but tough, immigration policy and back it up with the necessary enforcement.
So far, most politicians have wilted in the face of immigration reform. Even those Republicans who supported President George W. Bush in his attempt to push through immigration legislation have now become frightened in the face of a vocal opposition. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., worked hand-in-hand with the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., to pass immigration reform. McCain, however, has since abandoned the cause in the face of a tough re-election bid in Arizona where anti-immigration fever runs high.
Democrats, members of the so-called party of the downtrodden, have not exactly been at the forefront of change. Again, the desire to be re-elected overwhelms the need to do the right thing.
The Founders knew the importance of a strong central government. Will the current leaders find the will to underwrite the foresight of those long-ago patriots? Or will they again shrink from their duty and cower when confronted with the least bit of resistance?
Who knows about politicians? But it looks as if it will take a court decision to force them to finally do what is so desperately needed in this country and what they should have done years ago.
Mike Jones, 581-8332
A Customs and Border Patrol agent checks the international border in Nogales, Ariz. At the heart of the debate over Arizona's tough new immigration law is frustration with how the U.S. deals with the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants within its borders. MATT YORK/Associated Press file
Maria Duran, from Phoenix, holds statue of the Virgin Mary, before a protest against Arizona's immigration law, in Washington, D.C., Wednesday. ALEX BRANDON/Associated Press
Supporters of Arizona's law on illegal immigration gather near the Capitol in Phoenix. ROSS D. FRANKLIN/Associated Press file