If it is unconstitutional and odious for state and local cops to
enforce federal immigration laws, then why hasn't the Obama
administration sued dozens of Chicago collar counties and towns to stop
them from doing it?
Suburban counties and some major suburbs here
check the immigration status of anyone who has been booked, even for
minor crimes. Even more surprising, this is done under the blessing and
encouragement of ... the Obama administration.
The so-called 287(g)
program allows local law enforcement agencies to check the immigration
status through an extensive Department
of Homeland Security database of anyone who has been incarcerated
and to hold anyone who has an immigration problem.
and Customs Enforcement calls the program, authorized under the Immigration
and Nationality Act, just "one component under (an) umbrella of
services and programs offered for assistance to local law enforcement
officers." ICE says the program allows state and local law enforcement
agencies to give federal agencies valuable assistance by preventing
"criminal aliens" from being released back into the community.
at least 67 state and local law enforcement agencies have signed up for
the controversial program, including those in Lake, McHenry, DuPage,
Will and Kane counties, and the department hopes to expand it nationwide
within three years.
So, obviously, the idea of state
and local cops helping enforce federal immigration laws is not in itself
unconstitutional in the eyes of the Obama administration. Then why is
it suing Arizona?
The administration, to justify this obvious inconsistency, can point to
a difference in the Arizona law and the 287(g) program: The latter
applies to those already incarcerated. The Arizona law gives state and
local police the discretion to check immigration status before arrest
That's not much of a difference upon which to
base a constitutional challenge. But if that's the difference that the
Obama administration uses to explain why it's suing Arizona but not
participants in the 287(g) program, then it ought to explain why it
treats Arizona and Rhode
Island differently. Rhode Island handles illegal immigrants the
same as would the Arizona law, but Obama is suing only Arizona. Rhode
Island state troopers routinely check the immigration status of drivers
who are stopped for traffic violations and other minor offenses, as
would the Arizona law.
But Attorney General Eric
Holder and the White
House have issued no condemnations of Rhode Island. No lawsuits
have been threatened or filed against Rhode Island. How can this be? Raw
politics. Arizona is Republican; Rhode Island is Democratic.
Obama administration was joined by Philadelphia
Mayor Michael Nutter in explaining why states can't help enforce
federal immigration laws: "We should not have a patchwork of immigration
policy for every state. ... That's insane."
What's insane is the
Obama administration's uneven and hypocritical application of the law
and the 10th Amendment, which says: "The powers not delegated to the
United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states,
are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people." If the
federal government chooses not to exercise its powers, does it forfeit
that power to states and the people? If the political party controlling Washington
fails to enforce immigration laws, are states that are unduly burdened
required to sit mute?
As the immigration battle illustrates, the
reach of federal powers may be the country's most perplexing issue. Can a
state overrule federal law by legalizing same-sex marriages? Should gun
control or regulation of medicinal marijuana be a state or a federal
power? Should abortion
policies be set by democratic debate at the state level, as it did
prior to Roe v. Wade -- the U.S.
Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion? Can Cook County and
Francisco establish their own immigration policies by declaring
their jurisdictions "sanctuaries" for illegal immigrants?
years, the 10th Amendment -- a part of the Bill of Rights designed to
protect individuals from federal abuses -- has been regarded as the
Constitution's appendix, ignored until it becomes troublesome. But the
10th Amendment can no longer be ignored. We're in for a blizzard of 10th
Amendment cases, including whether the federal government can require
every American to buy health insurance. Arizona is just the start.
For additional reading, check out the posts to this column, which also was published in the Chicago Tribune.