Arizona v. all of us

On the heels of July 4, when Americans often reflect upon our immigrant heritage, the Obama administration filed a lawsuit against Arizona’s controversial bill that for the first time requires local and state police officers to enforce federal immigration laws.For weeks, Arizona officials have been taunting President Obama and his administration by advocating that Arizona’s get-tough immigration law is just mirroring federal law. While federal immigration law enforcement in the post-Bush era is focusing on employers employing illegal aliens, Arizona has turned its enforcement attention to the person on the street.The reality is that when Gov. Jan Brewer signed Senate Bill 1070 into law, neither Arizona nor other states may enact legislation regulating who is a legal or illegal immigrant. At the end of the day, it is the federal government that decides who stays or goes, not 50 separate states. Presumably, that issue was settled in 1788 when the U.S. Constitution replaced the 13 colonies’ Articles of Confederation. According to Governor Brewer, swarms of illegal immigrants enter our borders everyday bringing drugs and guns to the United States. According to Arizona Sen. John McCain, illegal immigrants are bad drivers. The unspoken truth is that enforcement and deportations are up under the Obama administration as opposed to the Bush administration. Statistics show a significant acceleration in immigration enforcement, with over 387,000 immigrants deported since Obama’s inauguration — a fact ignored by the proponents of Arizona-type legislation.The lawsuit seeks to bar mandatory stopping and detention by Arizona police of innocent U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents arising from a “reasonable suspicion” that the person may be an illegal alien. The lawsuit claims that because the federal authorities may not be able to immediately verify lawful presence, the law will impose burdens on lawful immigrants and U.S. citizens who are stopped, questioned, or detained and cannot readily prove their immigration or citizenship status — including those individuals who may not have an accepted form of identification because, for example, they are legal minors without a driver’s license. This bill is not designed to protect Arizona citizens but to be more of a nuisance to any individual of multicultural descent. It does not solve problems, it creates them.With Tea Party activism springing up across the country, the surprise is that many conservatives are willing to sacrifice personal freedoms and expend huge sums of taxpayer money in the name of questionable security measures, including billion-dollar fences on our border. The answer clearly is that President Obama and Congress — particularly Sen. Judd Gregg, who in the past led on the immigration issue but who in recent times is missing in action — must focus on comprehensive immigration reform.Neither lawsuits nor legalizing racial profiling are the answer to our country’s broken immigration system, and are no substitute for comprehensive immigration reform.
Enrique Mesa Jr. practices immigration law in Manchester with George Bruno, former U.S. Ambassador to Belize. They may be contacted at

Categories: Opinion