The federal government has failed to stem our nation's illegal-immigration and border-security problems, and as a result, state and local governments have been forced to bear the responsibility and costs associated with this dereliction of duty. Because of that, Arizona earlier this year passed and signed into law the Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act to better equip its law enforcement officers to protect citizens and legal immigrants residing in the Grand Canyon State.
Although opponents have spun the intent and effects of the bill, in actuality, the Arizona immigration law mirrors federal law, which already requires aliens to register and carry their documents with them. Arizona's law simply states that violating federal immigration law is a state crime as well. Because illegal immigrants are by definition in violation of federal immigration laws, under the new provisions, they can be arrested by local law enforcement in Arizona.
Despite these facts, the Department of Justice under the Obama administration has sued Arizona. In the lawsuit challenging the Arizona statute, Justice officials argue:
"Although states may exercise their police power in a manner that has an incidental or indirect effect on aliens, a state may not establish its own immigration policy or enforce state laws in a manner that interferes with the federal immigration laws. The Constitution and the federal immigration laws do not permit the development of a patchwork of state and local immigration policies throughout the country."
A patchwork of immigration enforcement? While I would argue the Arizona law does not constitute a patchwork of immigration enforcement, it appears the administration's definition is limited in scope, for if a patchwork were its primary concern, the Obama administration would be suing sanctuary cities as well.
Under current law, it is illegal for state and local governments to prevent their police forces from communicating with federal immigration enforcement authorities. Nonetheless, many local governments have adopted "sanctuary city" policies that explicitly prevent their police officers from cooperating with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents.
When local governments refuse to share information with federal immigration authorities, police departments often arrest criminal aliens only to release them without ever checking their immigration status. As a result, instead of being deported, many of those aliens move on to commit additional - and sometimes more serious - criminal offenses.
Although sanctuary cities deliberately disregard our nation's immigration law by refusing to hand over illegal immigrants to federal authorities, they have hypocritically begged to be reimbursed for the cost of jailing illegal immigrants. The Obama administration has not challenged these illegal policies in court, and it has doled out millions of taxpayer dollars to sanctuary cities to compensate for the cost of jailing illegal immigrants. In fact, in 2010, nearly $63 million has been awarded to 27 jurisdictions widely considered to be sanctuary jurisdictions, according to the Center for Immigration Studies. Apparently, if you are a sanctuary city, you can have your cake and eat it, too.
Rather than limited federal dollars being awarded to those jurisdictions that make a mockery of our nation's immigration laws, these funds should be allocated only to those local law enforcement agencies that cooperate with the federal government. To this extent, I have authored legislation that would prohibit sanctuary cities from receiving both Justice and Department of Homeland Security funds, but this is beside the point.
If the administration is serious about making sure we have a uniform immigration policy, it needs to go after sanctuary cities - this would be consistent policy. However, Justice has stated that it will not prosecute sanctuary jurisdictions. Rather, the administration has rewarded sanctuary jurisdictions with federal dollars set aside for the same policies they deliberately ignore.
As a result of these actions, we can gather that the Obama administration's definition for patchwork of immigration enforcement is limited to those who seek to enforce federal immigration law and does not encompass those who seek to undermine it.
For the sake of consistency and the safety of our communities, it is time to end the double standard.
Rep. Gary G. Miller is a Republican from California.
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