President Obama Sends Mixed Signals on Arizona's Law

Hypocrisy in the Justice Department

justice departmentSince its inception, Arizona officials have argued that their immigration law merely reflected the current policies of the federal government. This was not accidental. Arizona legislators knew that if and when their immigration bill had passed, Constitutional challenges were likely to emerge from liberal organizations like the ACLU and La Raza. So in order to protect themselves, they crafted SB 1070 using federal immigration policy as a template. By doing this, they tried to eliminate the risk of conflict between the state and federal governments.

As similar as Arizona's law was to federal policy, a certain Chinese-American woman, interviewed by the New York Times, saw things differently. She told the Times that while aboard a train in New York, federal agents woke up her Mexican boyfriend to question him about his citizenship. When he confessed to being undocumented, they arrested and detained him there on the spot. She told the Times, "At least in Arizona, you have to be doing something wrong to be stopped."

Technically, she is right. Arizona's law specifies that either an arrest or a Terry stop must be made before local law enforcement can inquire about one's legal status. In fact, if local police did the same thing in Arizona that federal agents did in New York, Arizona would be vulnerable to a lawsuit. The point is simple. Racial profiling is wrong whether it's done by Arizona's police or federal agents.

So the million dollar question is, why did the Obama Administration file a lawsuit against Arizona when their own policy advocates the same thing? One could say that Obama's lawsuit was filed on Constitutional grounds and that Arizona's law preempts the right of the federal government to determine immigration policy. The argument could certainly be made, but only if Arizona's law is different from the federal policy in such a way as to obstruct the job of federal agents.

Arizona's Law Mirrors Current Federal Policy

According to SB 1070, Arizona's law enforcement officials cannot deport undocumented immigrants, nor can they demand that the federal government deport them. In other words, Arizona's law itself has no teeth. It is merely a tool at the disposal of the federal government when they need an extra set of eyes and ears on the ground. It has yet to be determined how this preempts the federal government's right to determine immigration policy. Since nobody is forcing the federal government to deport undocumented immigrants, the Constitutional grounds for the U.S. Justice Department to file a lawsuit against Arizona seems flimsy.

More surprising is the claim by Attorney General Eric Holder that the Justice Department might pursue an additional lawsuit against Arizona on the grounds of racial profiling. Essentially, the feds will wait for Arizona to make their first mistake so they can file a racial profiling lawsuit.

The question should be asked: how is it that federal agencies can racially profile a Latino sleeping on an Amtrak train, but make a big ordeal over Arizona's law that requires wrongdoing before law enforcement officers can act? If the Justice Department is priming themselves to sue Arizona, shouldn't they be suing themselves first?

It's About Winning in November

Many believe that the Federal Government is posturing before the November elections. The reasoning is simple. The legal groundwork for suing Arizona is flimsy. First, Arizona's law is a premeditated facsimile of federal policy, thus the right of the federal government to determine immigration policy has not been preempted. And second, the very institution that is laying the groundwork to sue Arizona for racial profiling lawsuit has a time-tested practice of racial profiling themselves. This suggests that Obama's lawsuits against Arizona is not really about preempting government or racial profiling.

Recent polls indicate that President Obama's popularity is near 40% and our primary elections suggest an anti-incumbent mood throughout the country. Obama is running around the country on the taxpayer's dime stumping for Democrat candidates because they are worried they may lose control of Congress. By suing Arizona, it is thought that President Obama planned to rally the Hispanic vote for November.

However, people haven't easily forgotten Obama's campaign pledge to solve the immigration problem. Even fringe groups like Voces de la Frontera have criticized Obama calling his failure to enact comprehensive immigration reform a "tremendous disappointment." In the two years of his presidency, Obama has done nothing discernible on immigration reform other than file a lawsuit that is likely to be overturned on the basis of past precedent.

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