After Arizona
Looking at the Supreme Court’s decision about S.B. 1070.


What do you make of today’s Supreme Court ruling? What does it mean for Arizona and the rest of us? What is the state of immigration policy today? We asked some experts.

Days after the March 2010 murder of Cochise County rancher Rob Krentz, I was reporting a story from southeast Arizona along State Route 80, which straddles the New Mexico state line. Police lights appeared in my rearview mirror, and I pulled over to meet a deputy for the Hidalgo County (N.M.) Sheriff’s department. He half-grinned as he told me he’d clocked me at six miles per hour over the speed limit.

I knew what the grin meant: “We’re stopping everybody we don’t recognize, especially guys wearing Oxford shirts in ranch country. Hope you don’t mind the profiling.” I didn’t.

After he ran my license and found everything to be okay, we chatted about the recent passage of S.B. 1070. He told me the law had already had an impact. In that notorious smuggling area known as the Chiricahua Corridor, illegal immigrants and drug mules have a choice. They can stay on the Arizona side or jump east over onto the New Mexico side.

The deputy said the traffic had shifted significantly to New Mexico since the bill’s passage. In other words, it was working at the border — and remember, critics maintained it would have no impact on border crossings.

I heard the same message from Keith Graves, who worked for ten years as district ranger for the Coronado National Forest in Nogales, then for the Secure Border Initiative. He said the law began having an effect even before it was passed, because “it was getting highlighted in the news and that frightened them away.”

The lesson here is the same one we’ve learned from the beginning of our illegal-immigration nightmare: If you don’t enforce the law, they will come. Now, in spite of the Supremes’ ruling, it’s being reported that President Obama is going to decline many of the calls from Arizona reporting illegal aliens.

He took an oath to uphold the law. November can’t come soon enough.

— Leo W. Banks is a writer in Tucson.

The Supreme Court decision was a big victory for those of us who have long warned that state and local government overreach on immigration issues was not only bad policy, but unconstitutional. I was surprised neither by the decision nor by the fact that it was not a close vote, with both Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Kennedy voting with the majority. What the Court has said in essence is that it is the federal government’s responsibility to both enact and enforce immigration policy. Congress has abdicated that responsibility in refusing to pass immigration reform. Congress could in one fell swoop virtually eliminate illegal immigration if it passed free-market-based reform that provided employers with a legal way to obtain willing workers in jobs that Americans have shunned or in which there are not enough Americans with the requisite skills. Illegal immigrants don’t sneak across the border because they are too lazy to apply for legal permits to work; they do so because those permits are not available to those who do not have close relatives already here or are from countries whose quotas do not adequately satisfy economic demand.

While the Court struck down three of the four provisions being challenged as unconstitutional, backers of S.B. 1070 should read carefully the reasoning that allowed the one remaining provision to go forward. The Court did not declare this section of the law constitutional; rather, it said, in effect, that since the Ninth Circuit had enjoined the law from being enforced, the constitutional challenge at issue had yet to be established, namely whether the law would lead to unconstitutional discrimination. Arizona would be wise to ensure scrupulous adherence to the section of the law that prohibits racial profiling — a provision that was added after the initial passage of the law, thanks in part to efforts by the Center for Equal Opportunity.

— Linda Chavez is chairman emeritus of the Center for Equal Opportunity.