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LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Federal suit against Arizona is full of holes

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The article on the Department of Justice suit against Arizona does not adequately cover the legal issues involved in the case ("Justice files lawsuit against Arizona immigration law," Web, News, July 6). As a result, readers probably do not have an adequate idea of which side is likely to prevail. Accordingly, I offer the following comments.

To start, the Justice Department's foundation position appears to be that the Arizona immigration law is unconstitutional under the supremacy clause (Article 1, Section 8) of the Constitution because the federal government has pre-eminent authority to regulate immigration matters. Thus, the argument follows that no state may enact laws dealing with illegal aliens. That argument, however, is not likely to prevail.

Under Supreme Court case law, a state may enact laws affecting illegal immigration so long as they are not in actual conflict with any valid federal statute (see Edgar v. Mite Corp., 1982). Under this law of the land, a state may enact laws about immigration matters, and those state laws are constitutional if the state law is not in actual conflict with a valid federal statute under the test set forth in the Supreme Court Edgar case. Thus, the question becomes whether the Arizona immigration law is in "actual conflict" with one or more valid federal statutes.

In the present case, the Arizona law mirrors federal statutory law. In substance, it is nearly the same as the applicable federal law in that it aids in the enforcement of the federal law. Accordingly, one would be hard-pressed to assert that the Arizona law is in conflict with federal law.

Furthermore, the Arizona law does not appear to run afoul of the interstate commerce clause of the Constitution because it involves a reasonable exercise of the state's police power. It is hardly a burden to the enforcement of federal immigration law when it aids, rather than hinders, the federal law.

All things considered, the Department of Justice's case against Arizona appears to be slim, but one can never fully predict how the presiding judge will rule.

HARRISON E. MCCANDLISH

Alexandria, Va.

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