Our View: Immigration Ruling a Mixed Bag

June 25, 2012
US Supreme Court
dbking / Foter

Today’s 5-3 immigration decision is not the end of America’s illegal immigration crisis.  It is not even the beginning of the end – but perhaps it is the end of the beginning.

On its face, the Court’s decision to strike down several components of the hotly debated Arizona law known as SB 1070, including one making it a crime for illegal aliens to seek employment, would appear to be a victory for the open-borders lobby.

But the central provision of the Arizona law – the component allowing state police to inquire whether or not the suspects they stop are in the United States legally – was upheld, vindicating the most controversial element of the much-maligned statute.

News of the ruling prompted CNN’s John King to ominously warn viewers that the so-called “notorious ‘show me your papers’ provision” that survived the legal challenge remained a “gateway to racial profiling.” And that’s too bad.

That’s because the driving force behind the Arizona law, contrary to what the open-borders lobby and people like Mr. King suggest, was not and is not racism.  It was not fueled by animosity toward any particular country, religion, or suspicion toward any particular ethnicity.

No, the Arizona law – like immigration enforcement laws passed in other states like, say, Colorado – is a product of one thing and one thing only:  The failure of the federal government to address America’s illegal immigration crisis for almost thirty years.

President Reagan signed the Simpson-Mazzoli Act into law in 1986.  That “comprehensive” piece of legislation provided amnesty to most illegal aliens who entered the United States before 1982 in return for promises of stricter enforcement going forward.

The amnesty became a reality, but as we all know those promises about stricter enforcement turned out to be empty.

In the nearly three decades since, the population of illegal aliens in the United States has swelled to between 12 to 20 million.  Meanwhile, Members of Congress and Presidents of both political parties have ignored the burgeoning illegal alien problem, fearful of the political consequences that open support for outright amnesty or a demand for impartial enforcement of the law might invite.

In the meantime, the social and fiscal costs associated with educating, providing health care for, and in some cases incarcerating those 12 to 20 million illegal aliens have been borne largely by the fifty states.  And we’re not talking about chump change.  Some estimates have put the annual cost to states somewhere near $100 billion.  So it’s easy to understand why taxpayers in Arizona and elsewhere, fed up with Washington’s dawdling, demanded that their state and local officials do something about it.

In the end, today’s Supreme Court ruling on the Arizona law, like our current broken immigration system, leaves both sides of the debate less than satisfied.  But the majority’s decision to affirm a role for the states in the enforcement arena is a notable, albeit qualified victory for border security advocates.

And who knows?  The specter of each state operating its own individual immigration enforcement framework might be just the incentive that Washington policymakers need to get off the dime and finally begin to put an end to three decades of immigration lawlessness.

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