The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) has filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court, urging it to overturn an earlier federal appeals court decision which declared Arizona S.B. 1070 to be unconstitutional. The brief represents 55 members of the U.S. House of Representatives, 2 senators, and 65,000 Americans who have signed on to the ACLJ Committee to Protect America’s Border.
What is Arizona S.B. 1070?
Under the Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act, any alien 14 years of age or older who is not carrying the registration documents required by federal law is committing a state misdemeanor crime. Heavier fines are mandated for anyone engaging in cross-border human trafficking. All immigration crimes must be prosecuted to the full extent permitted by federal law.
The law also requires Arizona police to ask for a person’s immigration status during any lawful stop, detention, or arrest, if there is reasonable suspicion that the person is an illegal alien. This is the part of the law that has caused the current constitutional controversy on the basis of possible racial profiling. However, in arguing against the constitutionality of Arizona S.B. 1070, the federal government has conceded that the law itself does not involve racial or ethnic profiling.
Why was Arizona S.B. 1070 enacted?
In 2010, an estimated 460,000 illegal immigrants lived in Arizona. This is 5 times the number of illegal immigrants from just 20 years ago. This is because the border crossings in Arizona are remote and difficult to patrol. Even so, the Tucson Border Patrol Sectors has had the greatest number of arrests by the United States Border Patrol.
Arizona also has a very high crime rate, with Phoenix alone having a kidnapping every day. Bullets from the Mexican Drug War sometimes cross the U.S.-Mexico border, and many Arizona locals have experienced violence associated with drug trafficking.
Arizona S.B. 1070 attempts to address the issue of illegal immigration in a stronger way than U.S. federal law currently allows. Many who support the bill believe that crime in Arizona will decrease if illegal immigration can be decreased.
The ACLJ’s position on Arizona S.B. 1070
The ACLJ holds that states have the constitutional authority to take legislative action to protect their borders and their citizens. The state’s legislative actions cannot exceed the standards of federal law, but should be allowed to complement it for enforcement purposes. These kinds of state laws should not be preempted by the federal government.
According to the ACLJ’s argument, if there is conflict between Congressional immigration policy and Administrative priorities, Congressional immigration policy should come first. To this end, the ACLJ amicus brief argues that the decision to overturn Arizona S.B. 1070 by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit should be reversed on the basis of “Congress’s clear and manifest intent to welcome state involvement in the enforcement of federal immigration law.”