Today the Supreme Court granted Arizona an appeal regarding decisions made by lower courts against its Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act (SB 1070). The high court is expected to hear the state’s case versus the federal government’s Department of Justice some time in April, with a verdict expected by June.
Arizona is arguing the merits of SB 1070 which the Obama administration seeks to quash. The Department of Justice contends that illegal immigration is under federal jurisdiction and that individual states should not create their own unique laws, or more so their own version of foreign policy. Arizona argues that The Department of Homeland Security’s ICE Agents (US Immigration & Customs Enforcement) are not doing enough to crack down on the approximately 12 million illegal immigrants in the country.
According to CNN, Arizona officials stated that half of illegal border crossings take place in their state. In its brief submitted to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the Department of Justice wrote that about 25% of its ICE Agents are deployed to the southwest border, including 300 agents in Arizona. Across the country, ICE Agents are responsible for deporting an average of 900 illegal immigrants a day.
The Circuit Court ruled to prevent several of SB 1070’s provisions including requiring local police officers to detain those they suspect to be in the country illegally without warrants or to question one’s citizenship while conducting other law enforcement duties. Another blocked condition of the Act is to make it a state-level criminal offence for an illegal immigrant to seek employment.
To a political layman, such as myself, the jurisdiction and process of detaining illegal immigrants is a tad confusing. On the one hand, ICE administers the Law Enforcement Support Centre (LESC). According to its website, the LESC’s role is to “provide timely customs information and immigration status and identity information and real-time assistance to local, state and federal law enforcement agencies on aliens suspected, arrested or convicted of criminal activity”. More recently however (2008), ICE developed its Secure Communities program that focuses on arresting and removing illegal immigrants who are responsible for other crimes, namely violent ones. When local law enforcement arrests someone for crimes like aggravated assault, they submit the suspect’s fingerprints to the FBI who in turns submits it to ICE’s database which potentially identifies whether the suspect is an illegal immigrant. Since the Secure Communities program began, the number of removed illegal immigrants responsible of other crimes increased by 89% whereas the number deported not charged with other crimes decreased by 29%.
What do you think? Should immigration laws solely be under federal jurisdiction or should states be able to form their own legislation? This would make for a great debate inside a university classroom between public policy and political science students or perhaps even around the table at your local coffee shop.