A federal appeals court on Monday upheld an injunction against Arizona’s controversial illegal-immigration enforcement law that requires police officers to check immigration status during traffic stops and routine arrests. The United States sued the state after the measure was enacted last April, saying that immigration law falls squarely within federal purview. The decision sets up a battle that almost certainly will go to the Supreme Court.
Arizona argued that it has had no choice but to pass laws on immigration because Congress has failed to enact any changes that would stop the flow of illegal immigrants into the state. The Obama administration has been pushing back on claims that the border is overrun, stating that both its enforcement tactics at the border and elsewhere are more stringent than those of any previous administration.
The administration has impressive enforcement statistics to present to lawmakers in showing that their efforts are working, but the White House has a long way to go before convincing some Republicans on Capitol Hill that illegal immigration is under control.
The decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit cited the Arizona law’s broadly worded and sometimes conflicting requirements for police officers to act as immigration-enforcement officers. The court said the sweeping nature of Arizona’s law is in conflict with the narrow leeway Congress granted state officers under the law: They can aid in federal immigration enforcement “only under particular conditions.”
The extent to which Congress needs assistance from states in enforcing immigration law should be interpreted narrowly, the court said, noting that states do “not have the authority to remove immigrants; removal is exclusively the purview of the federal government.”
The appeals court said the United States is correct in asserting that the country would face “irreparable harm” if the Arizona law were allowed to go into effect. Among the harms cited by the court are “constitutional infringement” and violations of “the requirements of federal law, especially when there are no adequate remedies available.”
This article appears in the April 11, 2011, edition of National Journal Daily PM Update.