The Obama administration has announced that it intends to sue Arizona over its new law that will allow the state to assist in the enforcement of federal immigration laws. The stated goal of the lawsuit is to block implementation of the popular Arizona law before it takes effect on July 29. The unstated - but perhaps more important - objective of the administration is to intimidate other states where similar legislation is being considered.
The Obama administration's position on immigration policy is clear. The administration's goal is a sweeping amnesty for millions of illegal aliens and the virtual dismantling of all meaningful immigration-related enforcement. Not only is immigration enforcement not a priority for the current administration, but it is a threat to their overall political strategy that must be attacked aggressively.
A lawsuit brought by the U.S. Department of Justice is no idle threat. This administration is working in concert with amnesty advocates such as the American Civil Liberties Union to try to make Arizona's defense as burdensome and costly as possible. Even if Arizona ultimately prevails - as many legal scholars believe the state will - victory is unlikely to come swiftly or cheaply.
For Arizona, which is saddled with an estimated $2.6 billion a year fiscal burden as a result of the federal government's refusal to enforce immigration laws, the cost of mounting a legal defense may be worth it. The problem of illegal immigration has become so acute in Arizona that residents seem ready to stand behind state leaders even as the costs of a legal defense mount.
In filing suit against Arizona, the administration is delivering an only slightly veiled and deeply troubling message to other states: Enforcing immigration laws locally may be right for your state; it may be popular with the voters; you even may prevail in the end. But we would rather fight you - American citizens - than fight illegal immigration. Upping the ante appears to be the latest strategy not only of the Obama administration, but also of others who want to prevent enforcement of immigration laws. In the case of the illegal-alien advocacy network, the threat is explicit, not implicit. "Local legislation is going to end up costing taxpayers millions of dollars," warned Ali Noorani, who runs the National Immigration Forum, an amnesty advocacy group.
Those threats are playing out in Fremont, Neb., where local voters approved an immigration-enforcement ordinance by a 57 percent to 43 percent margin on June 21 over the objections of the mayor and many on the City Council. Many local officials were not against the ballot measure per se but were concerned about the cost of defending the will of the people against the deep pockets of foundation-supported groups that oppose immigration enforcement.
"I do caution everyone that voted for this that there will be a cost to pay," said one opponent on the Fremont City Council after the vote. "It's going to be very costly for the city while this is litigated," warned another council member. Their concerns are not unfounded. No sooner had the votes been counted than the ACLU announced its intent to sue the city. "Our intention is to make sure the law does not go into effect for even one day," said a spokeswoman for the Nebraska ACLU.
Whether in Arizona or Fremont, whether instigated by the Obama administration or advocacy groups, lawsuits over local immigration-enforcement policies appear to have less to do with the pursuit of justice than with raw intimidation for partisan gain. In the process, justice and protection for ordinary citizens harmed by unenforced immigration laws become collateral damage as political interests are pursued through the courts.
In the end, many local governments will have little choice but to endure the expense of a court battle as the costs of providing basic services to illegal aliens escalate. The decision of the Obama administration to bleed the taxpayers of Arizona signals that before Americans can protect themselves against the harmful effects of mass illegal immigration, they will have to fight a very costly battle with their own government.
Dan Stein is president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform.
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