News / USA

Arizona Immigration Law Causes Constitutional Clash

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

Mali's Female Basketball Players Rebound After Islamist Occupation

Islamist extremists ruled northern Mali for most of 2012, imposing strict Sharia law, and now some 18 months later, the region is slowly getting back on its feet More

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

Many Chinese-made products go unsold, for now, with numerous Vietnamese consumers still angry over recent dispute More

Koreas Mark 61st Anniversary of War Armistice

Muted observances on both sides of heavily-armed Demilitarized Zone that separates two decades-long enemies 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.
Students in Business for Themselvesi
X
Mike O'Sullivan
July 26, 2014 11:04 AM
They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid