Post by Randall Ryder
Earlier this year, the state of Arizona passed a new immigration law that generated a tremendous amount of controversy. The Governor of Nebraska recently said he would strive to pass a similar law in his second term. Will more states pass immigration laws?
Under the Arizona’s law, police are required to check the citizenship or residency status of anyone they suspect to be an illegal immigrant. Under federal law, immigrants are already required to register with the government and carry their paperwork with them. Critics of the bill argued the law essentially sanctions racial profiling, and unfairly targets Hispanic individuals. At the same time, the bill did have a slight majority of support among the nation, with 51% of people nationwide indicating they supported the law.
In July, a judge agreed with the critics and blocked key provisions of the law. The judge expressed concerns about illegal aliens being swept up by local police, and also expressed concerns the law treads on federal authority to handle immigration. The Governor of Arizona had promised to appeal the judge’s decision and the issue may ultimately land before the Supreme Court.
Although immigration is still a hot topic, it is unclear whether more states will try and enact similar laws. For one, the Arizona law is essentially in limbo right now—the legality of it has not been decided. It seems unlikely that other states would enact their own law patterned after a law that may or may not be legal. The Arizona law seems to fall under criticism on two major grounds: racial profiling and perhaps an undue invasion on federal authority.
Even if a state could draft a law that has the same purpose as the Arizona law, but does not tend to lead to racial profiling, the state would still face questions about whether immigration is a state or federal issue. Up to this point, caselaw seems fairly straightforward that immigration is federal, not state issue.
In addition, given the immense public backlash against the Arizona law, some politicians could be leery about offending their constituents or alienating their supporters. At the same time, some politicians might be interested in trying to pass a law for that same reason—to rally support among voters. The bottom line, however, is that Arizona’s law is an unknown quantity at this point, which makes it seemingly unlikely other states will follow suit until there is clarity on the issue.