Obama Administration Doesn't Want to Enforce the Immigration Laws

By Jon Feere on April 23, 2012

Vote for Jon Feere's Op-ed at US News and World Report, April 23, 2012

The federal government estimates that Arizona has one of the fastest growing illegal immigrant populations in the country, increasing from 330,000 in 2000 to 560,000 by 2008. As a result, the state has become a smuggling corridor burdened by violent crime, illegal hiring practices, significant fiscal costs, ID theft, and degradation of national parks. In an effort to alleviate these problems, Arizona passed a number of laws including SB 1070 which is designed to "discourage and deter" illegal immigration. The Supreme Court will likely hold that SB 1070 is consistent with Congress's intent to grant states some authority over immigration.

Arizona is not "regulating" immigration as its critics contend. If Arizona were unilaterally admitting or deporting aliens to and from the United States, certainly the state would be overstepping its authority. However, Arizona is simply assisting the federal government in carrying out its responsibilities. One would think that the White House would welcome the help, but that presupposes that the Obama administration actually wants the nation's immigration laws enforced.

For a number of reasons, such an assumption is misguided. The White House has worked tirelessly to limit immigration enforcement as evidenced by its administrative amnesty that shields a significant percentage of illegal aliens from deportation. This lawsuit is simply another part of the administration's amnesty effort.

In fact, the White House argues that its decision to not enforce immigration law in some instances effectively renders SB 1070 in conflict with federal priorities. But selective enforcement by the executive branch should not justify the law being preempted; the Supreme Court has held that it is Congress's "clear and manifest purpose" that should be controlling when preemption issues arise. And Congress has consistently welcomed state involvement in immigration matters. Congress created the 287(g) program, for example, which allows state and local officers to assist federal authorities in identifying and removing foreign nationals. Congress created the Law Enforcement Support Center in order to promote additional cooperation, and Congress has mandated that federal officials respond to all state inquiries. Though the White House may seek to limit immigration enforcement for political reasons, it cannot override the will of Congress.

The Supreme Court has upheld state involvement with immigration matters on a number of occasions, most recently when upholding Arizona's E-Verify law just last year. Since SB 1070 was written to complement federal law, it is likely that Arizona will once again be successful.