U.S Politics — August 14, 2010 at 5:58 PM

Battle on the boarder

It has the ingredients of a battle royal. Observers knew it was a matter of time before swords were drawn and arrows start deploying. Political swords and arrows, that is. Duel: United States of America versus U.S Border States with Mexico. Contention: illegal land immigration from Mexico. The Border States assert that illegal land immigration from Mexico has gotten out of control, claiming it is responsible for high crime rates and over use of resources in the affected states.

Against this backdrop, expectation was high that soon one or all of the Border States would take drastic action on the matter. However, no one knew which state would make the first move to take matters in its hand. So, when on April 23, 2010 Arizona state governor, Jan Brewer, signed into law what is widely regarded as America’s toughest bill on illegal immigration Arizona became the first state to make that move.  Just like that, with the stroke of a governor’s pen, America’s battle on the border began in earnest, both sides digging-in and vowing to fight to finish.

Expectedly the law which aims to identify, prosecute and deport illegal immigrants sparked a firestorm of controversy. Lawsuits over its constitutionality and compliance with civil rights law were filed, including one by the United States Department of Justice that also asked for an injunction against its enforcement. Which side will prevail over the other? It depends on which political kaleidoscope you are viewing the conflict with.

No matter how the fray turns out, this is victory for all Americans because the controversy has brought to the fore what has, for too long, been ignored by previous administrations. American politicians have long danced around the nation’s immigration issue without any real intention of tackling it. Reason being that they (the politicians) consider it a hot button topic, too controversial, and a political dynamite. For fear of a political backlash, each previous administration had merely managed the situation without offering a real solution. With Arizona’s bold move the Obama administration cannot toe the line of its predecessors. It must act.

July 28, one day before taking effect, Federal District Judge, Susan Bolton, issued a preliminary injunction that blocked the most controversial aspects of the law from taking effect, thereby handing the federal government the first victory of the war. But make no mistake about it, the war is not over yet. This victory, by no means, connotes the end of hostility. It’s only a victory for the first battle. There are many more battles to come, and President Obama with his Justice Ministry know it, which is why no “Mission Accomplished” banner has been hoisted yet on a war ship.

The Arizona law commonly referred to as SB1070 essentially makes it a crime to violate some United States federal immigration statutes. It mirrors the U.S federal immigration law, which already requires U.S aliens to register and carry their documents on them (8 USC 1304(e) and 8 USC 1306(a)). SB1070 simply states that violating federal immigration law is now a state crime as well. Consequently, because illegal immigrants are by definition in violation of federal immigration laws, they can now be arrested by local law enforcement agents in Arizona. This is what the controversial section of SB1070 is all about.

SB1070 is designed to avoid the legal pitfall of “pre-emption,” which means that a state can not adopt laws that conflict with federal laws. By making what is a federal violation also a state violation, SB1070 avoids this problem. The law only allows police officers to ask about immigration status in the normal course of “lawful contact” with a person, such as a traffic stop or if they have committed a crime.

Estimates from the federal government indicate that more than 80 percent of illegal immigrants come from Latin America. No wonder the Hispanic community in America is strongly against this law. Their concern is that police officers in Arizona may deliberately target only Hispanics for enforcement. Their fear may not be unfounded since illegal immigrants in Arizona are reported to be responsible for murders and other serious crimes in the state.

Meanwhile, despite District Judge Bolton’s injunctions, Arizona has shown no sign of capitulation or retreat. In fact, its governor said she will appeal the judge’s ruling that struck down key provisions of the law. The judge held that Arizona State cannot mandate that police make a “reasonable attempt” to determine whether a person is legally in the U.S and then detain him if there is “suspicion” that he isn’t.

Support for the battle has been sharply divided along party lines. While most Democrats nationwide disagree with Arizona’s action, Republicans nationwide support the controversial law. This is also true in Arizona, a Republican state, where an interesting poll reported in the Arizona Republic Sunday July 25 states that overall Arizonans supports SB 1070. The poll showed that Republicans in Arizona support SB1070 by a margin of 80% and 10% against. On the other hand, 58% of Democrats oppose SB 1070 and only 38% of Democrats support it.

It is true in the United States, as provided in its constitution, that immigration is a federal matter and that states are prohibited from passing laws in matters that the constitution designates as federal government’s responsibility. But against a backdrop of murders and a severe high crime rate by illegal immigrants, do you blame Arizona State for taking action? Maybe if the federal government had done what it was supposed to do regarding immigration this battle could have been prevented.

Having said that, does this mean that the U.S federal government should have rolled over and let Arizona, or any other state for that matter, introduce laws in areas clearly designated as federal government’s? That will not be a good idea for obvious reasons. Had the U.S government not challenged Arizona then other states would have joined the party. As unhappy as most people are with the federal government for dropping the ball on immigration matters no one wants a situation where each fifty state has its immigration law. What type of country would that make the United States? Think about that.

Hopefully, the federal government and this congress will learn a lesson from this battle and start to pay more attention to its immigration responsibility. Ignoring it will not make it go away. Until we do something about it, it will remain, constantly starring us in the face. No more passing the buck. Let the immigration buck stop here in this congress and this administration. It can no longer be passed to the another administration or congress. Voter pandering at the detriment of the country is wrong and should stop.

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