Heather Mac Donald posts: In enjoining Arizona’s landmark immigration law, U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton maintains the Obama administration’s carefully cultivated fiction: that what concerns the White House regarding S.B. 1070 is its effect on legal, rather than illegal, aliens. Almost nowhere in the government’s briefs or the judge’s ruling is the arrest and detention of illegal aliens addressed. This fiction is transparent, however. The real threat posed by S.B. 1070 was that it would disrupt the de facto amnesty that the executive branch has accorded to the vast majority of illegal aliens. It would start to implement congressional mandates and the public will that the immigration laws be enforced. For that reason, it had to be stopped.
So determined was Judge Bolton to follow the Obama administration’s political strategy regarding the law’s putative impact on legal immigrants that she exploited a drafting error in the law that Arizona had already acknowledged and repudiated. S.B. 1070 authorizes local law-enforcement officers to check the immigration status of individuals they have lawfully stopped, if they have reasonable suspicion that the individual is in the country illegally, and if the inquiry into immigration status is practicable. S.B. 1070 also required that “any person who is arrested shall have the person’s immigration status determined before the person is released.” Arizona stated in its brief and testified in court that the legislative intent behind that sentence regarding arrestees was that only people for whom there is already reasonable suspicion that they are in the country illegally would have their immigration status checked after arrest. The section does not apply to every arrestee.
Judge Bolton rejected that testimony, however, in order to buttress the White House claim that large numbers of legal aliens would be subject to immigration inquiries if S.B. 1070 went into effect. As the Justice Department portrayed it, and as Judge Bolton affirmed, massive categories of legal aliens by definition do not have proof of their legal status with them. If those legal aliens are now to be queried about their immigration status following every arrest in Arizona, they will be subject to undue harassment, the federal government and the judge concluded.