Arizona Immigration Law Decision – Was it the Right Call?

By YeOldeScribe ~ May 27th, 2011 @ 3:43 am

When we first heard the news today that the Supreme Court upheld the immigration law reform package today on a 5-3 decision, we were stunned. But upon taking a closer look at what was actually being discussed, things started to become much more clear.

For those of you following the situation loosely (like we were), here’s what you need to know: This decision is not what you think it is. When people talk about Arizona immigration law, they typically make the mistake of referring to “the” Arizona immigration law, as if there is only one. While there may be there is only one that is garnering a large amount of media attention, it would be folly to assume that an issue as complex as immigration could be covered by just one law.

Granted, the Arizona law which mandated that police officers ask for proof of citizenship for anyone who “looks un-American” is definitely one of the more famous laws to come out of the copper state, but that’s not the law that was upheld by the court today. That law isn’t even in front of the court yet (although there’s no doubt in our minds that it will be one day – right now it’s still being debated in lower federal courts).

The law which was ruled legit today is much more tame – and yet three justices still argued for its unconstitutionality. According to, here’s what the law actually does:

“Arizona passed the Legal Arizona Workers Act in 2007, allowing the state to suspend the licenses of businesses that ‘intentionally or knowingly’ violate work-eligibility verification requirements. Companies would be required under that law to use E-Verify, a federal database to check the documentation of current and prospective employees. That database had been created by Congress as a voluntary, discretionary resource.”

People arguing against the law – including none other than the President of the United States himself are saying that the states are stepping on the toes of the Federal government and over-stepping their ground by being more stringent. However, we don’t see this as a bad thing really.

First, it’s certainly not unconstitutional. There are many state and local laws that are more stringent than Federal laws. Take minimum wage, for example. There’s a big difference between what the federal government says minimum wage is and what it is for some states and cities. For example, the Federal minimum wage is $7.25, but in Washington state the least you can make is $8.67 – a $1.42 increase over the national rate. But if you’re living in San Fransisco, you’d be making (at a minimum) a whopping $9.92 – or $2.72 over the national rate. Yet this doesn’t get ruled unconstitutional. California is a prime example of another instance where the national requirement pales in comparison to the state’s – auto emissions. California has better clean air standards for vehicles than anywhere else in the country to help combat smog and pollution. While those laws have been challenged, they’ve mostly been upheld.

The same principle applies here. In fact, there’s even less of an argument to be made for the plaintiffs here. Arizona is using a program the Federal government created and maintained – they’re just making it mandatory for businesses to use rather than it being optional as it currently is.  So Arizona isn’t stepping on the Federal government’s toes – if anything, they’re using those toes to help stomp out unethical hiring practices. This isn’t a cause for concern.

Okay, you’re saying, so the law may be constitutional. But does that make it right? Our answer here may surprise you, but we say it is for two reasons. First, the people of Arizona have decided this law is needed, and as long as it’s not unconstitutional, the states have rights to pass their own laws. The citizens elected the people they did for a reason, and those people are expected to pass laws in accordance with the beliefs they campaigned on. And unlike Wisconsin’s scenario of the Budget Repair Bill, the Arizona law is supported by a majority of people in the state. Which brings us to our second point: it’s up to Arizona to decide how to combat illegal immigration, and it’s needed in that state. Living in Wisconsin, our writer (and many of our readers) don’t have any experience with illegal immigration, because the Canadians mostly stick to their side of the log fence border. But in Arizona, illegal immigration is no laughing matter. It’s a serious problem costing the state millions if not more every year, and as long as what they’re doing is constitutional, then they not only have a right to create more stringent laws to combat illegal immigration, they have an obligation to do so.

In short, this law cannot even be compared to the larger one which gets all the media attention. That one is clearly unconstitutional and should be struck down in a heartbeat. But this law is just taking a tool the Federal government provides freely and forces businesses to use it in order to combat a problem that costs the state a lot of money. We see nothing wrong with this, and are actually encouraged that the government is taking these steps to help combat illegal immigration.

In other words: Good call, Arizona. But please fix that other law before the Supreme Court strikes it down…

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