On Monday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upheld a preliminary injunction against certain key provisions of Arizona’s SB 1070, the decision can be found here. The Ninth Circuit’s decision was based upon the fact that SB 1070 likely violates the federal government’s exclusive authority to enact and enforce immigration law, the negative impact on foreign relations, and the dangers of states enacting their own conflicting regulations.
Foreign relations and immigration are the exclusive purview of the federal government. Arizona’s SB 1070 directly conflicts with the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), as enacted by Congress. “By imposing mandatory obligations on state and local officers, Arizona interferes with the federal government’s authority to implement its priorities and strategies in law enforcement. . . As a result, Section 2(B) interferes with Congress’ delegation of discretion to the Executive branch in enforcing the INA.” Where the federal government has called for discretion, many of SB 1070’s provisions are mandatory, and therefore clearly in conflict with the INA. States are allowed to participate in immigration enforcement “only under the close supervision of the Attorney General.” No matter how upset the Arizona public is over what they see as Congress’ inability to create a workable immigration policy, they must express that through their representatives at the federal level.
The double edge sword of this federalism argument can be seen in the recent actions of the state of Utah. Utah has recently attempted to enact a more holistic reform focused not only on enforcement, but also on providing legal right to work for certain immigrants within Utah. Although the legislation may be used as a guide for federal reform efforts, on its own the Utah legislation is equally as violative of federal law as Arizona’s SB 1070, although not nearly as repugnant.
Worse than no fix at all would be a patchwork of immigration laws, such that immigrants would have to consult an attorney even when moving within the United States. Although Congress must do more to fix our broken immigration system, the Ninth Circuit decision reinforces that the federal government alone has the power to do that.