Appellate Court Renders Arizona Immigration Law Unconstitutional

Finally, the verdict is in. The United States Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled against the State of Arizona and blocked the most contentious parts of their immigration enforcement law from going into effect. This ruling asserts the federal government’s authority over immigration and has determined that it is unconstitutional for states to take immigration matters into their own hands. As you may recall, last July a Federal District Court Judge, Susan Bolton, issued an injunction blocking parts of the law just days before it would have gone into effect, an act that was followed by Arizona’s Governor, Jan Brewer, filing an appeal to have the injunction lifted for the law to be implemented. Now, even after the appeals court rejected the state’s position and indicated that the state had overstepped its authority, State Senator Russell K. Pearce, a Republican who is the principal sponsor of the law, has defiantly said that he will put the issue to rest until it is ultimately decided by the Supreme Court. “This battle is a battle of epic proportions,” he said in a statement suggesting he was not surprised by the ruling. “It is about a state’s right to enforce the laws of this land and protects its citizens from those who break our laws.” The Governor, along with Tom Horne, Arizona’s attorney general, have also vowed to keep fighting for the law. “I believe the Ninth Circuit decision will be overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court, and I pledge to make every possible effort to achieve that result,” said Mr. Horne.

As it were, the law would have made it illegal for immigrants not to carry their immigration papers, and would have required the police to question people about their immigration status if they had been stopped and if the officers found reasonable suspicion that they were illegal immigrants. Because the law was viewed as an open invitation for racial profiling, critics of the law, who have constantly held protests and filed lawsuits to strike it down, were thrilled with the ruling. An A.C.L.U. Immigrant’s Rights Project representative, Omar Jadwat, said: “One of the reasons we have a judiciary is so that mobs don’t rule, so that when the Legislature oversteps its bounds there is someone to stop them.” The President of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, David Leopold, said that the appellate court decision signaled “in a loud and clear voice, that Arizona’s effort to regulate immigration law and policy directly violates the Constitution and will not stand.”

Because this appellate court ruling establishes a legal precedent that clearly prohibits states from enacting laws aimed at enforcing immigration, it is now up to the other states that followed in Arizona’s footsteps by drafting up immigration bills of their own to reevaluate their position. Even though Florida lawmakers’ intent of implementing a strict enforcement-only bill has received a lot of backlash from critics and the private sector, they must now come to terms with the fact that their stubborn push for this kind of bill is inherently unconstitutional and will likely be stopped form ever taking effect. For that reason, the Florida legislature should abandon their draconian pursuits and opt for another issue to divert all of their energy and resources to and fill their policy agenda.

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