By Russell Pearce
Opponents of immigration enforcement are calling the temporary injunction against parts of Arizona's anti-illegal-immigration law a death blow to state enforcement. The Mexican American Legal Defense Fund called it a “warning to other states” that want to enact similar legislation.
As the author of the new law, SB 1070, I can honestly say that July 29, when the pared-down law went into effect, was a victory.
Many key provisions are still in effect. Local police have more power to enforce immigration laws. Sanctuary cities are outlawed. Illegal day laborers are likely to be arrested and the employers' trucks that pick them up impounded.
And I am confident the entire law will be upheld.
Already, illegal immigrants are taking notice. Even before the law went into effect, NPR and Reuters reported that undocumented immigrants, including entire families, were moving out of the state. The day after the ruling, CNN reported, “some of the estimated 500,000 undocumented immigrants who went to Arizona are leaving the state.”
This is the strategy of SB 1070: attrition through enforcement. Arizona has made it clear through our policies that illegal immigrants are not welcome, and they are self-deporting from the state.
Judging from media portrayals, one would think this law is the only time that a state has taken up immigration legislation. But this is just the latest bill in Arizona’s string of attrition-through-enforcement legislation.
It began in 2004, when 56 percent of Arizona voters — including 47 percent of Latinos — voted for Proposition 200, which barred illegal immigrants from receiving public benefits. In 2006, voters approved four anti-illegal-immigration and pro-English ballot initiatives. The year after, then-Gov. Janet Napolitano signed the Legal Arizona Workers Act, requiring all employers to use E-Verify to ensure that they do not hire illegal immigrants.
The battles over these laws did not draw as much national attention as SB 1070, but Arizona still faced media campaigns, lawsuits and temporary injunctions. All the laws were eventually enacted.
Even the liberal 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which is to rule on SB 1070 in November, upheld the legal workers act.
Rather than serve as a warning to other states, our immigration law has inspired people across the country, who are fed up with the federal government's inaction, to follow our lead. Lawmakers in 20 states have now introduced similar legislation. Nine state attorneys general signed an amicus brief in support of Arizona.
The more opponents attack our immigration law, the longer it stays in the national spotlight. This looks likely to be a major issue in the midterm elections. It's almost a prerequisite that any gubernatorial candidate in a Republican primary support SB 1070. Even Democratic candidates, like Roy Barnes of Georgia, support the law.
Poll after poll shows that the majority of Americans support the Arizona law. The day after the injunction, a Rasmussen poll found that 59 percent of American voters wanted an Arizona-style law in their state, while only 32 percent did not.
Despite critics’ claims that SB 1070 interferes with federal law, it actually mirrors federal law, empowering local law enforcement to assist federal authorities. No one denies this. Instead, the court ruled that the law will “impermissibly burden federal resources and redirect federal agencies away from the priorities they have established.”
The “priorities” are not to arrest, detain, prosecute or remove illegal immigrants unless they have already committed serious crimes in addition to illegal presence.
These critics would rather wait for another American to become a victim of crime before they enforce our laws. The only thing that conflicts with federal immigration law is the Obama administration's intentional policy not to enforce it.
With the American people and the Constitution on our side, the temporary ruling of an activist judge will not keep Arizona from prevailing in our fight against illegal immigration.