Beyond The Federal Government’s Lawsuit: How Others Are Challenging Arizona’s Immigration Law

gavelThe Associated Press is reporting that Department of Justice officials have confirmed that the U.S. federal government has filed a lawsuit challenging Arizona’s new immigration law, SB-1070, on the grounds that it “usurps federal authority.” “As other states and localities go their own ways, we face the prospect that different rules for immigration will apply in different parts of the country,” explained President Obama last week. “A patchwork of local immigration rules where we all know one clear national standard is needed.”

The federal government’s lawsuit will likely focus on “federal preemption,” or the notion that that the Constitution’s supremacy clause mandates that federal law preempts state law “in any area over which Congress expressly or impliedly has reserved exclusive authority or which is constitutionally reserved to the federal government, or where state law conflicts or interferes with federal law.” However, while the federal preemption argument presents the most common case brought up against SB-1070, a diverse set of challenges have been raised in amicus briefs filed over the course of the past couple months that demonstrate the extent to which SB-1070 interferes with a wide range of government responsibilities:

SB-1070 Will Be Disruptive To Federal Enforcement Of Immigration Laws
(American Immigration Lawyers Association – AILA)

AILA argues that not only is SB-1070 federally preempted, but it’s also at “cross-purposes with the enforcement efforts of the federal government and its implementation will be disruptive.” SB-1070 explicitly states that “attrition through enforcement” is the official policy of Arizona. In other words, the law’s purpose is to make life so miserable for undocumented immigrants that they choose to self-deport. However, that’s not the approach followed by the federal government which tends to focus its limited resources on catching undocumented immigrants who are violent criminals. In that vain, the federal government has established several programs that “are intended to provide tools for use by the federal government and localities in enforcing immigration law.” Yet, unlike SB-1070, all of the actors are under the “direction and supervision of the Attorney General.”

SB-1070 Will Burden The Court System
(American Bar Association – ABA)

The ABA believes that SB-1070 will place excruciating burdens on defenders and prosecutors alike. According to Padilla v. Kentucky, all defense attorneys representing criminal defendants must be familiar with the immigration consequences of their case. Given that police will be required to investigate immigration status as part of any legal stop or detention, every minor or misdemeanor offense that is accompanied by “reasonable suspicion” that the defendant is unlawfully present in Arizona will essentially compel civil offense lawyers to become versed in immigration law as well. Prosecutors, meanwhile, will find that their ability to decide the criminal charges to be brought will be routinely delayed by Padilla’s instruction that prosecutors consider the range of immigration consequences.

SB-1070 Will Have A ‘Chilling Effect’ On Latinos’ Access To Social Benefits
(National Council of La Raza – NCLR)

NCLR argues that SB-1070 “will have a profound chilling effect on the constitutional right of certain Latino children to an education.” In fact, several reports have already come out showing that school enrollment is down. NCLR predicts that the “chilling effect” would “extend to other public benefits that are provided regardless of immigration status,” including Medicaid assistance, immunization programs, school breakfast and lunch programs, testing and treatment for communicable diseases, and some forms of disaster relief. NCLR also holds that SB-1070 will “foster discriminatory animus against and harassment of Latinos, compromise the physical well-being of many in the Latino community, and lead to an increase in racial profiling and other civil rights violations against Latinos.”

SB-1070 Will Frustrate The Enforcement Of Anti-Hate Crime Laws
(Anti-Defamation League -ADL)

Close cooperation between local law enforcement and minority communities is “essential” to the proper enforcement of hate crime laws. ADL’s biggest concern is that SB-1070 will “eviscerate” the local enforcement of federal and state anti-hate crime laws. According to ADL, this is because SB-1070 will create an “underclass of people who have no meaningful access to police services out of fear that their perceived immigration status…will subject them to higher law enforcement scrutiny.” ADL predicts that Latinos will be “deterred” from serving as witnesses, seeking protection, and reporting hate crimes — which leaves the entire community they live in “victimized, vulnerable, fearful, isolated, and unprotected by the law.”

SB-1070 Will Hurt U.S. International Relations
(United Mexican States)

One of the most highly criticized amicus briefs that was filed belonged to the Mexican government. However, while their complaints have largely been dismissed by America’s right wing, Mexico did raise a valid point: the U.S. is sending mixed messages to the rest of the world. Mexico understandably points out that “there needs to be one cohesive, consistent and controlling United States voice” on immigration. Mexico accuses Arizona of “impos[ing] its own independent and conflicting requirements” and “impinging upon the US-Mexico bilateral agenda and obstruct[ing] the bi-national collaboration to tackle immigration and border problems.” “Mexico cannot effectively cooperate or engage in meaningful bilateral relations with the U.S. when states are permitted to interfere with the sovereigns’ bilateral efforts,” states the amicus brief.