Court should strike down Arizona law

The following editorial appeared in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel on April 25:

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments over Arizona's controversial immigration law. Initial reports indicated the justices weren't buying the Obama administration's arguments against a provision that requires police officers to check the immigration status of people they think are in the country illegally.

We hope that's not the case. We think that provision and others in the law need to be struck down, and we hope the court upholds the primacy of federal law and agencies in dealing with immigration.

If it doesn't, expect more states to move in Arizona's direction and invite racial profiling and an assault on personal freedoms.

The frustration of Arizona and other states, especially those on the nation's borders, with federal immigration policy is understandable. And it's a mess not only for the states but also for the 11 million undocumented workers estimated to be in the United States. Although the influx of undocumented workers seems to be turning around, there is still a problem that the federal government has not yet dealt with.

Former President George W. Bush made a noble effort with a sound proposal, as have others. They've gotten nowhere. But all that means is that President Barack Obama and Congress need to do their jobs and fix this problem.

It does not mean that states should try to supersede federal policy with their own laws, especially when they are as repulsive to American values as Arizona's.

Supporters of the law argue that it merely allows local law enforcement to cooperate more closely with federal authorities and that it expressly prohibits racial profiling.

They're being disingenuous. In addition to the "show me your papers" provision in the law, other provisions that have been blocked by lower courts include: requiring all immigrants to obtain or carry immigration registration papers, making it a state criminal offense for an illegal immigrant to seek work or hold a job and allowing police to arrest suspected illegal immigrants without warrants.

That goes beyond just cooperating with federal authorities; that's an attempt to take over federal policy. It also puts too much onus on the undocumented worker and not on employers that hire the worker.

And although the law tries to guard against racial profiling, what do supporters think will be the practical effect of a law that allows officers to detain people merely when they suspect that person may be in the country illegally? How many citizens - immigrants or not - carry with them proof of their citizenship? "Show me your papers" smacks too much of authoritarian regimes that like to keep their thumbs on their citizens.

Arizona does not need this law; the United States does not need this law or others like it.

We hope the justices strike down this offense to American values.

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