News / USA

Arizona Immigration Law Causes Constitutional Clash

TEXT SIZE - +

The Obama administration's decision this week to try and block a controversial new law in Arizona targeting illegal immigrants sets the stage for an important legal and constitutional clash between the federal government and one of the 50 U.S. states.  

At issue is a new state law in Arizona that goes into effect later this month requiring police to check a person's immigration status if the officer has reason to believe the individual is in the country illegally.

The law was passed after years of frustration in Arizona in dealing with an estimated 460,000 illegal immigrants and amid complaints that the federal government was not doing enough to protect the border with Mexico.

The Justice Department decision to try and block the Arizona law in court sets up a classic constitutional confrontation between the power of the central government in Washington and the rights of individual states to act on their own behalf.

Richard Friedman is an expert on constitutional law at the University of Michigan Law School.

"I mean I do think that this conflict is characteristically American that is of the United States and of our constitutional structure," said Richard Friedman. "We have state governments, which have general authority to regulate the affairs of the people within their states.  And then superimposed on top of them is the federal government, which is supreme but only with respect to matters that are entrusted to it."

Under the U.S. Constitution, the federal government in the form of the Congress and the president are empowered to provide for the national defense, conduct foreign policy and raise money to fund government spending.  But the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution says that any powers not delegated to the central government are reserved to the states, and that has led to some legal clashes throughout history.

Expert Richard Friedman says most constitutional scholars believe that the power to regulate immigration rests with the federal government, not the states.

"The federal government is supreme within its proper jurisdiction," he said. "In other words, if a particular subject is one on which Congress can regulate, then federal law is the supreme law of the land and any state law that interferes with that is invalid.  And immigration has long been understood to be a matter for federal law.  So the question really is whether the state law obstructs with or conflicts with or interferes with federal law."

Several civil rights groups are also challenging the Arizona law in federal court, arguing that the statute could lead to racial profiling by police on the lookout for suspected illegal immigrants.  Arizona officials counter that the law includes language that forbids racial profiling and argue that the law will not have a discriminatory impact.

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer dismissed the Justice Department's lawsuit as a massive waste of taxpayer money and said her state was forced to act because the federal government has failed to protect the country's borders.

American University legal expert Steve Vladeck says supporters of the Arizona law welcome the legal and constitutional showdown about to play out in the federal courts.  

"From the moment that the Arizona legislature passed this law, part of the goal was to provoke this exact response-the federal government suing to stop the law," said Steve Vladeck. "I think the whole issue here is whether the states have the power to take these kinds of measures against undocumented immigrants, and so I think the entire plan was to force the federal government to take a position one way or the other."

Several other states are also considering laws targeting illegal immigrants and a recent Pew Research Center national poll found that more than 60 percent of Americans approve of the Arizona law.  Political experts believe immigration could be a potent issue in this year's midterm congressional elections.

Conservative legal analyst Colby May of the American Center for Law and Justice says many states are closely watching the legal battle over the Arizona immigration law.

"And until, in fact, the federal government shoulders its responsibility and does what the American people have been urging it to do for quite some time, which is control the border, you are still going to find lots and lots of folks coming in illegally into the United States and states are going to feel pressure in their social services and in education and in so many other ways that they are probably going to feel a need to react and do something," said Colby May.

The court battle over the Arizona law will likely play out over the next several months at least, and many legal experts predict that the issue will eventually find its way to the Supreme Court, which has the final word on interpreting the U.S. Constitution and settling legal conflicts between the states and the central government in Washington.

You May Like

Wikipedia Proves Useful for Tracking Flu

Technique gave better results than Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Google’s Flu Trends More

Turkish Law Gives Spy Agency Controversial Powers

Parliament approves legislation to bolster powers of intelligence service, which government claims is necessary to modernize and deal with new threats Turkey faces More

Video Face of American Farmer Changing

Average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Face of American Farmer is Changingi
X
Mike Osborne
April 18, 2014
The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid