The examination of recently passed laws in the state of Arizona has naturally led to increased discussions about immigration in the United States. It is a very complicated issue and probably deserves more than just a blog post, but here are some things that may clarify the issue.
The tenth amendment to the United States Constitution states that any law not created by the federal government can be created by any particular state as long as it does not conflict with an existing federal law. This is, effectively, what Arizona lawmakers were basing their immigration law upon. The issue, which recently faced the United States Supreme Court, is that there is a question as to whether or not they even have the right to make such a law or if it is stepping on the toes of the federal government.
The Supreme Court did decide that there were some parts of SB 1070 (the name of the Arizona immigration law in question) that were not constitutional, but the pith of the law was upheld. The “Papers Please” policy enables law enforcement in Arizona to ask for documentation that proves that one is in the United States legally. Many critics of this law simply see it as an opportunity to profile ethnic groups, particularly Hispanics, and that it amounts to racial oppression.
The political climate in Arizona is very indicative of the feelings of the United States as a whole. Like many issues faced by a two party system it becomes a binary choice. Either you are pro-immigration or anti-immigration. Granted, immigration is not so simple as to be boiled down into a yes or no question, but this is how the issue is popularly considered. This division of the question into yes or no could easily lead to the inference that people are either prejudiced or not, however this is a logical error. While it may be true for some, the real argument is about the proper way to go about developing immigration policy.
The important thing to realize is that these laws passed in Arizona might indicate the start of a trend and other states may begin to pass similar laws. The Obama administration’s decision to stop pursuing deportations as avidly as before–an ironic decision considering that the current administration is rather infamous for the amount of deportations it has conducted–would be at odds with these laws. This conflict is an excellent illustration of the fact that current immigration laws in the U.S. are inadequate to regulate immigration. None of these laws are really permanent until congress acts and passes an immigration reform act.