CIS Assists Arizona in Defending SB1070

By Jessica M. Vaughan on July 22, 2010

Lawyers defending the people of Arizona and the state's new immigration law sought the Center's help in countering the Obama administration's claims that the law would disrupt their careful balance of immigration law enforcement priorities, unduly burden DHS agencies, and cause harassment of lawful visitors and beneficiaries of humanitarian programs, such as battered women. The Department of Justice lawsuit, heard today in federal district court in Phoenix, accuses the state of adopting a policy of "attrition through enforcement," the strategy first articulated by Mark Krikorian in 2005 and elaborated on by me the following year.

In support of its claims, the administration submitted declarations from three senior DHS officials. These were challenged in a declaration I prepared for the case.

The first, from retired career INS manager Michael Aytes, who states that his primary job now as a USCIS contract employee is to plan for the enactment of comprehensive immigration reform/amnesty, declares that there are many individuals in the United States who lack legal status but are not targets of immigration law enforcement because their applications for humanitarian relief are still pending. He implies that these individuals could be unfairly caught up in an overzealous dragnet of Arizona immigration enforcement. My declaration points out that these individuals likely comprise no more than 0.2 percent of the illegal alien population in Arizona, and that Arizona officers would be very unlikely to arrest them for immigration violations in the rare event that they were encountered.

Dominick Gentile, who is Chief of the Records Division at USCIS, suggested that the Arizona law will create an enormous burden for his division resulting from the need to fulfill records requests in connections with an increased number of immigration prosecutions. What he does not mention is that most illegal aliens in Arizona don't actually have files that would need to be copied and sent to prosecutors, because they came here illegally. And, despite the agency's reputation as a technology backwater, most of the DHS records that would be necessary for prosecution are in fact kept electronically and/or in a central location for easy access.

David Palmatier, manager of the Law Enforcement Support Center, ICE's 24/7 help desk for local officers, declares that any new referrals or queries about illegal aliens encountered by Arizona law enforcement agencies will negatively affect his unit. Yet he also provides statistics showing that the LESC is currently operating at only two-thirds of total capacity, with Arizona contributing only about eight percent of the workload. I noted that when other, larger, states such as New Jersey and Georgia enacted similar programs a few years back, ICE did not complain but instead hired more agents to remove the increased number of criminals identified by the locals. After all, it is the local officers who are most likely to know where the illegal-alien criminals are, and ICE depends on their help to generate all kinds of investigations, including human trafficking and gangs.

One can't help but wonder that if the referral of a few thousand, or even tens of thousands, more illegal aliens discovered in Arizona would absolutely sink the immigration agencies, as the administration suggests, how on earth do they expect to be able to manage an amnesty program that would have to process millions of illegal aliens?

My colleagues Michael Cutler and Janice Kephart also provided materials to assist in Arizona's defense.