Blogger face-off: The Arizona lawsuit and the fate of immigration reform

The Hill invites two established bloggers from either side of the political spectrum to sound off on a designated topic in original commentary each Saturday. This week, two Arizona-based bloggers -- Michael Bryan of BlogForArizona and Christopher Cook of Modern Conservative -- take on the latest developments in the Arizona immigration law. Is the Department of Justice suit against Arizona wise, and will it help or hurt President Obama's push for comprehensive immigration reform?


Can't have immigration reform without reining in Arizona law

by Michael Bryan

The federal lawsuit to enjoin enforcement of SB1070 is absolutely essential to any hope of comprehensive immigration reform. Congress cannot address America's immigration problems unless it remains in control of America's immigration policy. If SB1070 is allowed to stand, Arizona (quickly followed by the other states) will effectively wrest control of America's immigration policy from the federal government. The resulting chaos would be a disaster for America and end any hope of fixing our broken immigration system. For a full analysis of the federal lawsuit against SB1070, see BlogForArizona.com (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4).

If unchecked, the passionate and misguided rush of many states, led by Arizona, to legislate their own preferred solutions to our national immigration problems will quickly lead to the creation of 50 different immigration policies, all conflicting with and undermining any effort to reform national policy. Bringing suit to prevent Arizona from creating its own immigration policy is therefore necessary to keep Congress in the driver’s seat. Without Congress behind the wheel (no matter how tardy or misguided you think their navigation), America’s immigration policy would lack any consistent direction as the states all scramble to seize the wheel.

Arizona’s SB1070 promotes a single-minded focus on what it terms “attrition through enforcement,” and discounts all other facets of immigration policy. Its solitary goal is to identify and detain as many undocumented aliens as possible in the hope of deporting them and of discouraging others from attempting to immigrate. Despite its allure to anti-immigrant demagogues, this hard-line immigration policy is not, and should not be, America’s immigration policy. Our nation’s policy must take into account a complex mixture of many, often-competing, goals; international relations, national security, trade considerations, labor policy, humanitarian responsibilities, and constitutional constraints are all essential considerations in immigration reform.

It is easy and attractive to blame lax enforcement for America’s current immigration problems; if our “leaky border” were the sole cause of these problems, then they could be easily remedied by sealing the border and rounding up the “invaders.” Sadly, complex phenomena are seldom amenable to simple solutions. In fact, brutal fixes such as Arizona’s SB1070 invariably create more problems than they solve. Any remedy to our admittedly inadequate current policy requires careful consideration and a national perspective. Like it or not, only Congress has the legitimacy, institutional capacity, and constitutional authority to strike a balance between the competing claims of 50 state legislatures and the diverse goals of immigration policy.

Critics who denigrate Obama’s efforts to retain federal control of immigration need to explain their intransigence in cooperating on comprehensive immigration reform. Demanding the establishment of a “secure border” before any negotiations toward a new national policy can proceed is merely an excuse for obstructing any progress whatsoever.

The states cannot fix immigration on their own. That way lies chaos. Obama is wise to stop Arizona’s folly before it can spread to other states.

Michael Bryan, an attorney in Tucson, founded BlogForArizona.



We see a very focused agenda: Prevent effective border enforcement

by Christopher Cook

The federal government could have reacted a number of different ways to the passage of SB 1070.

Positive: "Hey, thanks for having our backs, Arizona."

Neutral: **sound of crickets**

Negative: "See you in court, sonny."

So, did they choose wisely, or poorly?

In terms of the legal wisdom, the two big questions are standing and merit.

The federal government usually has standing to stop encroachment on what it considers to be its own regulatory authority. There are some disagreeing viewpoints, but it is highly unlikely that any court would refuse to take this case on standing grounds alone.

On the merit side, things are a lot less clear. In the end, the court will decide (Obvious Guy says), but here's something to think about:

The federal government has drug laws, and states have drug laws. This is an "overlapping area of enforcement," but that's not usually a problem. Conflicts are avoided because both the feds and the state agree that policing drug activity is a good thing.

By filing this suit, the federal government certainly appears to be sending the message that they do NOT think that policing immigration violations is a good thing. They didn't have to file this suit. They chose to.

Yes, the court may eventually find that the suit has merit. But in the meantime, here is what the country is hearing:

"The federal government has pre-eminent authority to regulate immigration matters. Of course, we have no intention of actually doing anything about illegal immigration, and if anyone else tries to, we'll sue you."

Legally meritorious? Maybe. But are these actions politically wise?

From a public opinion standpoint, the answer is a resounding NO:

Voters by a two-to-one margin oppose the U.S. Justice Department’s decision to challenge the legality of Arizona’s new immigration law in federal court. Sixty-one percent (61%), in fact, favor passage of a law like Arizona’s in their own state, up six points from two months ago. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that just 28% of voters agree that the Justice Department should challenge the state law.

Rasmussen also finds, in spite of Dana Milbank's declaration of Arizona as a "pariah state," that only . . .

26% of voters are embarrassed by Arizona and its behavior. Sixty-two percent (62%) are not.
However, 59% are embarrassed by the nation’s Political Class and its behavior.

Unless the goal is strictly to mobilize the hard-left base, the DOJ suit does not seem very politically wise.

Will it help or hurt Obama's push for comprehensive immigration reform?

Does he care?

Think back, if you will, to the way Obamacare was rammed through:

The bill was strongly opposed, and opposition grew the more people learned about it. Legislators did not read the bill, and the very suggestion that they should was met with scorn. Obama, Pelosi, and Reid were dismissive, almost brutish at times. Much of it is not supposed to take effect for years, and yet the way they crowed about the urgency, you'd have thought it was the declaration of war the day after Peal Harbor.

It really did appear as though this quaint notion of the "consent of the governed" was just kind of in their way.

It's a pretty safe bet that it will be the same way with comprehensive immigration reform. It's odd behavior, though, because it is hard to see how their disregard for legislative procedure, state sovereignty, and public opinion can possibly help them.

And yet, they don't seem to care.

If the Department of Justice were actually interested in justice, they would not have dropped the slam-dunk case they had against the Black Panthers for voter intimidation. (Actually, since the voter intimidation was on Obama's behalf, and since they're probably going to need the New Black Panthers for the same purpose in the next two elections, maybe we shouldn't be surprised.) If Attorney General Eric Holder were really interested in the merits of the Arizona law, he might have taken the time to actually read it, which he was forced to admit he had not done.

Similarly, the threats of an executive order declaring amnesty, Obama's comments to Senator Kyl, and the Arizona lawsuit don't really indicate an interest in anything "comprehensive." Instead, we see a very focused agenda: Prevent effective border enforcement. Regularize as many illegal immigrants as possible. And just like with healthcare, they seem like they're in a great rush to make this happen.

At times, it almost appears as if Obama is operating out of a playbook that says to ignore public opinion and electoral realities, and simply to push the country as far to the left as possible, as fast as possible. So no, it does not appear that the suit will help, but it also doesn't seem like that bothers them much.

Obama and Pelosi asked a lot of Democrats to fall on their swords for Obamacare. Will they do the same with immigration "reform"? And, given his off-putting and agenda-driven behavior over the last 18 months, one has to wonder—is Obama himself falling on his sword for something?

Phoenix-based Christopher Cook is a writer for and president of ModernConservative.com, AnyStreet.org, and WesternFreePress.com.