A New Look at the Federal Suit Against Arizona’s Immigration Law
Several Supreme Court cases may hold the key to Arizona’s defense against Washington’s overreach.
October 5, 2010 – by Ronald Rotunda
A new Arizona law requires police engaged in a lawful stop or arrest to ask about a person’s legal status if there is reasonable suspicion that the person is an illegal alien. This law forbids racial profiling, but understandably, many Americans of Hispanic descent are worried that the law will target them unfairly. Meanwhile, other states are proposing similar laws. And the Department of Justice is suing Arizona, claiming its law is unconstitutional, while the State Department has reported to the United Nations that this law interferes with human rights.
Is the federal government right that it is unconstitutional for Arizona to enact a law that supports federal law, which already forbids illegal aliens from entering our country? The answer is not as simple as it seems. Normally, there is no problem when state law helps (rather than hinders) federal law. Immigration is a little different because of a special clause in the Constitution giving the federal government power to establish a “uniform Rule of Naturalization.” Some people argue that this clause means that the federal government has the “exclusive power” to regulate in this area. That is not exactly true.
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