Senate Dems pushing bill to block Arizona immigration law if Supreme Court upholds it
Senate Democrats are pushing new legislation aimed at nullifying Arizona's
controversial immigration law -- just in case the Supreme Court, which hears the
case Wednesday, upholds the policy.
The proposal, announced Tuesday by Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., would stand
virtually no chance of passing in the Republican-controlled House. But it marks
the latest preemptive challenge by Democrats to a high-stakes Supreme Court
The immigration case arrives at the high court Wednesday just weeks after the
justices heard arguments in the multi-state challenge to the federal health care
overhaul. Though the justices are not expected to rule in that case until
summer, President Obama had cautioned the "unelected" judges against overturning
his landmark domestic policy accomplishment -- claiming such a move would be
Schumer's fallback option on the Arizona immigration case holds a similar
message. If the high court upholds the law, the congressional proposal would be
a direct rebuke to that decision.
"Immigration has not and never has been an area where states are able to
exercise independent authority," Schumer said Tuesday at a Capitol Hill hearing,
where he announced he would introduce the proposal should the Supreme Court
"ignore" the "plain and unambiguous statements of congressional intent" and
uphold the Arizona law.
He said the proposal would only allow states to arrest illegal immigrants if
they are operating under an "explicit agreement" with Washington and are being
supervised by federal officials. Plus he said the proposal would preempt state
governments from enacting their own employment verification laws.
"States like Arizona and Alabama will no longer be able to get away with
saying they're simply helping the federal government ... to enforce the law when
they are really writing their own laws and knowingly deploying untrained
officers with the mission of arresting anyone and everyone who might fit the
preconceived profile of an illegal immigrant."
Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., objected to the hearing Tuesday and suggested
Democrats were trying to influence the court.
"I will not participate in today's hearing because it is strictly political
theater. The timing of the hearing just one day ahead of the Supreme Court's
review of the law suggests that its purpose is either to influence the court's
decision or to garner publicity," he said in a statement. "The Supreme Court
will decide the case on its merits and that is how it should be."
The Supreme Court case on Wednesday will have national implications, though
Arizona is the only state directly involved. Several other states, including
Georgia and Alabama, have followed Arizona's lead in implementing their own
individually tailored immigration laws.
The Obama administration challenged Arizona on the grounds that its
immigration law was a flagrant state overreach.
"Congress vested the Executive Branch with the authority and the discretion
to make sensitive judgments with respect to aliens," Solicitor General Don
Verrilli argued in the government's brief.
"The decision to admit, detain or remove a particular alien depends not only
on resource constraints, but on numerous other considerations that call for a
decisionmaker to exercise sound judgment on behalf of the nation as a whole,
according to a single standard."
Verrilli argued that Arizona tried to "interpose its own judgments on those
"For each state, and each locality, to set its own immigration policy in that
fashion would wholly subvert Congress' goal: a single, national approach."
But Arizona argued that the current system is broken, and that the state is
paying an unfair price for that failure.
"Arizona shoulders a disproportionate burden of the national problem of
illegal immigration," attorney Paul Clement argued in his brief. He argued that
enforcement attention in California and Texas has turned the Arizona border into
a funnel for illegal immigrants, with a third of illegal border crossings
"This flood of unlawful cross-border traffic and the accompanying influx of
illegal drugs, dangerous criminals and highly vulnerable persons have resulted
in massive problems for Arizona's citizens and government," Clement said.
The attorney described Arizona's law as a response to an "emergency
situation" -- with illegal immigrants soaking up millions of state dollars in
health care and education, posing safety risks to ranchers and cutting into the
state's job market.
Two of the key statutes, which have been blocked and will be at issue in
Wednesday's arguments, are provisions to bar illegal immigrations from seeking a
job and to require law enforcement to check the immigration status of anyone
they suspect of being in the country illegally in the course of a routine
A ruling from the Supreme Court is likely to come this summer, in the thick
of the presidential election year -- it could either bolster what has been a
bold move from the Obama administration's Justice Department to intervene in
state issues ranging from immigration to voter ID laws, or stop the
administration in its tracks and open the floodgates to even more state laws
that challenge federal authority.
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