Arizona's Attempt to Enforce Federal Immigration Law: "Force Multiplier," or "Ball and Chain"?

Engage Volume 11, Issue 3, December 2010

December 23, 2010

Margaret D. Stock

In recent years, as immigration has become a seemingly intractable political issue in the United States Congress, state and local legislatures have shown increasing interest in passing immigration legislation of their own. State and local enforcement of American immigration laws is thought to be helpful to federal authorities that lack the resources to enforce U.S. immigration laws fully by themselves; one scholar who has authored many state and local immigration-related laws has argued that state and local regulation of immigration can be
a “force multiplier” for the federal government. And indeed, the federal government has traditionally sought assistance from states in enforcing immigration laws where states do so voluntarily and subject to federal direction and control. In 2010, however, Arizona’s Senate Bill 1070 went well beyond the traditional boundaries of federal and state immigration cooperation to become the most widely publicized attempt by a state to expand its involvement in enforcement of federal immigration laws. SB 1070 makes certain civil and criminal violations of federal law into Arizona state crimes as well, thereby allowing unauthorized immigrants who enter Arizona to be charged criminally and prosecuted by the State of Arizona while they also potentially face civil and criminal prosecution by the federal government. Arizona’s law goes well beyond previous attempts by the states to regulate immigration. At the urging of the U.S. Department of Justice, a United States district court judge partially enjoined enforcement of SB 1070 in July 2010, and the preliminary injunction remains in place at this writing, pending the resolution of an appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Whether Arizona’s law will stand or fail is likely to turn on whether the law is deemed to enhance or impede federal efforts to carry out immigration enforcement objectives.

Arizona's Attempt to Enforce Federal Immigration Law: "Force Multiplier," or "Ball and Chain"?