The Corner

Piecemeal Amnesties in the States

While we watch the immigration show in Washington, we shouldn’t forget the states.

In Alabama, the ACLU, SPLC, and their comrades finally beat the state into submission, forcing it into a settlement that voids portions of the immigration law passed in 2011. The triumphant NYT editorial had a fitting headline: “Alabama Surrenders.” Perhaps most important for the open-borders groups, the state will pay them $350,000 in attorney’s fees and costs — great work if you can get it.

At the same time, some states are following in John Calhoun’s footsteps, passing legislation to subvert federal law. Governor Moonbeam in California has signed a bill establishing a special illegal-alien driver’s license and a measure restricting local police from handing over arrested illegal aliens to federal authorities. Eric Holder hasn’t announced whether he’s planning to sue the state. And FAIR has a new report out detailing the sanctuary policies in 103 local jurisdictions around the country designed to shield illegal aliens from law enforcement.

The open-borders lawsuits against Alabama, Arizona, and other states were based on preemption — the claim that Congress, with its plenary power over immigration, had determined what things were permissible to states, and that these states had gone beyond those limits. The courts erred in deciding where Congress had drawn the line, but the existence of such a line is indisputable. (That’s why the anti-enforcement crowd is categorically opposed to the SAFE Act, passed by the House Judiciary Committee — it would, among other things, clarify where the line is and explicitily give states more latitude.)

But if there are things states are preempted from doing in support of federal immigration law, there are also things states are barred from doing to undermine that law. Specifically, California’s Trust Act, the one prohibiting local police from cooperating with ICE in many circumstances, is clearly illegal. An administration that was committed to the constitutional requirement to “take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed” would not only be informing California of its intent to file a lawsuit, but would also be threatening to cut off law enforcement funding and to deny the state access to the National Crime Information Center database. But I guess the president didn’t know about that part of his oath of office.

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