When State and Federal Immigration Laws Conflict, Something Has to Give

Law Firm Newswire



Miami, FL (Law Firm Newswire) January 16, 2015 – In 2005, Arizona passed a state law cracking down on smugglers who illegally transported men, women and children across the U.S. border. But on November 8, Susan Bolton, a federal judge, struck the law down in U.S. District Court.

The law was originally intended to curb one of the largest, most active immigrant smuggling hubs in the nation. Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio relied on the law to use racial profiling in his well-publicized crackdown on undocumented immigrants, which set off a tidal wave of human rights lawsuits.

When the 2005 law was partnered with stringently tough state statutes, it produced some interesting results — the most important of which was a steep decline in Arizona’s immigrant population. Some of these results were celebrated by legislators and Arizona citizens. But almost all of them were achieved through racial profiling and allegedly brutal enforcement of rules that violated basic human rights.

“The main reason for the federal judge to rule as she did was that the state law enacted in 2005 was in direct conflict with the federal government’s laws relating to immigration,” outlined Larry Rifkin, an experienced Miami immigration lawyer. “And a second law has also sparked outrage in Arizona’s civil rights community. The Obama administration filed a lawsuit that ultimately limited SB 1070 — the Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act — in 2012.”

Both the immigrant smuggling law and SB 1070 made their way through the U.S. court system, with the latter eventually reaching the U.S. Supreme Court. In Arizona v. United States, Supreme Court Justices ruled against several quarrelsome policies but upheld the section requiring police to check a person’s immigration status. That requirement is still in effect.

“Right now, Arizona’s standing on illegal immigration enforcement is anyone’s guess. The state is poised at a juncture: they have to deal with the ruling and determine how to move forward. If nothing else, immigration reform, on many levels, remains a difficult creature to manage,” said Rifkin.