On one hand, a state’s police has every right to verify a person’s immigration status if that person is detained for another reason (and then, presumably, turn the offender over to federal immigration officials if that person is illegal). This is extremely important, as it affirms that the state can, to a degree, take action to remove an illegal alien that commits a crime within the country, rather than prosecute him/her at the expense of the local taxpayers and “hope” that the feds will do something about that individual at some point in the future.
In other words, if a person is caught breaking into a house, the local police can demand that that person produce his/her proof of lawful citizenship, much like a local police can demand identification in order to run that person’s name through a national database to determine if he/she has a criminal history, outstanding warrants, etc. Before, local police were not allowed to ask for proof of immigration status, as that was considered the sole jurisdiction of the federal government.
On the other hand, SCOTUS has ruled that a state has no right to enforce laws that fall within the jurisdiction of the federal government (including state prosecution of those who hire illegals)–even if the federal government has made it abundantly clear that it is not interested in enforcing federal law in certain situations. In other words, this ruling affirms the “right” of the federal government to enforce the law in a prejudicial manner.
This is deeply troubling in several respects, most especially for those who believe that states should retain their sovereignty–as long as that sovereignty does not entail violating the Constitutionally-guaranteed rights of a citizen, of course. On a micro level, this is tantamount to homeowners being told that they have NO RIGHT to defend their homes if someone breaks in–no right to use their own weapons, no right to hire private security, nothing. Defense of their private property is left to the sole discretion of publicly-financed law enforcement, and the homeowners have to trust that police will arrive in time to apprehend the criminal.*
Forget for a moment what you were taught in school**: this is the fundamental reason why the Civil War occurred–slavery aside, when the Union army invaded the South, citizens were forced to choose between their state and their country. They had to decide if their loyalty to the corporate body, if you will, superseded their loyalty to their home within that corporate body. We know what happened–the Union won, and the states were forced to relinquish some of their sovereignty to preserve the integrity of the country as a whole. Don’t get me wrong, I’m very glad that the Union won the Civil War and slavery was officially ended, but it is a mistake to assume that the Confederacy was completely in the wrong just because they lost, especially when the deeper philosophies of State Sovereignty vs. Federal Sovereignty are considered.
If you look back through this country’s history, both before the Civil War and afterwards, these battles between State and Federal occur constantly. As you can see by this current fight over illegal immigration, the battle still continues. I’ve written before about what increasing federal power is doing to the economies in the states, and what I said earlier bears repeating: today’s SCOTUS ruling has affirmed the supremacy of the federal government at the expense of the sovereign state in matters of law enforcement, even though the federal government has been proven to enforce their own laws with extreme prejudice. Think long and hard about what that means for the future of this Constitutional republic.
Fortunately, there are solutions: exercise the vote in both local and national elections to elect people that believe in the preservation of the balance between state and federal power. Stay informed of what they do to keep them accountable. Governments don’t change very quickly, but they do change.
Remember this: America was founded to be a nation of adults, independent and proactive. Don’t passively assume that the government will take care of everything, because that leaves the door wide open for your rights to be curtailed to the point that they no longer exist. We are not serfs or peasants to be lorded over by royalty or tyranny. We have fought many wars to escape that existence and to prevent being sucked back into it, but we cannot win if no one knows or cares enough to fight anymore.
So take responsibility.
*If you cannot see the inherent problems in that philosophy but want to understand them, then ask me in the comments and I’ll explain. If you will not see the inherent problems in that philosophy because it conflicts with your immutable worldview, then this blog is not for you. Go away.
**History in public schools, a.k.a. social studies, is taught in a condescendingly simplistic and incredibly biased manner, which infuriates me because it leaves students wholly ignorant and apathetic about the fundamental truths upon which this country was built, but that’s another post for another time.
UPDATE: The Department of Homeland Security REFUSES to comply with the SCOTUS ruling regarding the right of state law enforcement to verify immigration status:
The Obama administration said Monday it is suspending existing agreements with Arizona police over enforcement of federal immigration laws, and said it has issued a directive telling federal authorities to decline many of the calls reporting illegal immigrants that the Homeland Security Department may get from Arizona police.
What we have here is a severe case of runaway executive branch, and a divided legislature dominated by petty tyrants in the Senate to do anything about it. Lord willing, that will change come November.
Update: More analysis of the ruling from Professor Jacobson of Legal Insurrection, including excerpts of the dissents authored by Scalia, Alito, and Thomas. There’s also an interesting take on the political meaning of today’s ruling, courtesy of Mr. Rush Limbaugh:
If you’re the Supreme Court and you’re gonna strike down Obamacare, you’d go ahead and protect Obama in a previous ruling so that you save the court’s image.” The theory being that they gave Obama most of what he wanted on Arizona ’cause they’re gonna skin him alive when it comes to health care. Who knows.