Ostensibly in response to last week’s Supreme Court ruling on S.B. 1070, the Obama administration announced that it was terminating Arizona’s
287(g) agreements and would no longer provide the immigration status of the majority of illegal immigrants detained by Arizona law enforcement.
This means that most of those in our state illegally no longer have to fear federal immigration authorities because the Obama administration effectively is no longer enforcing immigration laws in Arizona.
It is not, mind you, doing this in other states. In fact, all other 287(g) agreements remain in place, but Arizona, ironically, bears a disproportionate brunt of illegal immigration in the United States.
Make no mistake about what the Obama administration, through its decision, is telling the people of Arizona:
First, the administration is not serious about enforcing immigration laws. Second, it doesn’t care about the rule of law and our system of government.
It is not a coincidence that the decision to stop working with Arizona law enforcement was timed to follow the Supreme Court’s decision upholding the most important aspect of S.B. 1070 - the right of state and local law enforcement to inquire about an individual’s immigration status when there is probable cause to do so.
Good people can disagree on what the solution is to the problem of illegal immigration both here in Arizona and across the United States. I happen to support strong enforcement of our existing immigration laws, strong border security and no amnesty.
Regardless, there is one thing we all should agree on: The president should not be able to pick and choose which laws to enforce and most certainly should not be able to sidestep a ruling by the Supreme Court.
This is exactly what the Obama administration is doing with its decision in Arizona - a political decision that has real consequences for Arizonans.
Illegal immigration has cost my state billions in additional government spending. It has done incalculable environmental damage to some of the most pristine desert territory in the world. It has cost several law enforcement officers their lives.
The consequences of illegal immigration are real, and the people of Arizona have paid a real price.
It was these consequences and the epic failure of the federal government to do something about it that brought about S.B. 1070 and other laws passed by the Arizona legislature.
These pieces of legislation were not driven by malice or a desire to gratuitously punish illegal immigrants, as some on the left believe. Instead, they were an attempt to address a real crisis taking place in Arizona - a crisis that the federal government was turning a blind eye toward and that this administration seems all too willing to let continue.
It is time for President Obama to open his eyes to the situation in Arizona. Now is not the time to play politics with an issue for which a failure to enforce the law has real repercussions for our state.
Solving the problem of illegal immigration will not be easy. Any time you have such economic disparity between two countries as you have between the United States and Mexico, illegal immigration is going to be a real problem. However, a lawless Arizona cannot and should not be the solution to this problem.
Yet the decision of the Obama administration to effectively cease enforcement of immigration laws in Arizona is tantamount to asking Arizona to cease law enforcement as well.
This situation is untenable and must change. I call on the Obama administration, and in particular our former governor and current Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, to put politics aside and work hand in hand with state and local law enforcement officials in Arizona to vigorously and fairly enforce our federal immigration laws.
It is what is best for Arizona and best for America.
Rep. David Schweikert is an Arizona Republican.