The Supreme Court has given its seal of approval to one of Arizona's much maligned immigration laws. Is Congress even relevant on this issue anymore?
Saying, "I told you so," is not becoming. So I won't say it.
But I will remind folks of all those columns I wrote about the need for states to do something proactive about the problem of illegal immigration since members of the United States Congress have repeatedly fallen down on the job.
Frankly, I stopped writing about it because I figured anyone who was interested in the topic had already formed an opinion and nothing I would write would change any minds. Also, because there was the hate mail I got after I refused to call people who enter this country illegally "undocumented workers."
To paraphrase Forrest Gump, "Illegal is as illegal does," to my mind -- period. But another reminder is in order: I've also written in support of the Dream Act which would allow the children of illegals who have known no other country to stay here and go to college or serve in our military. I'm not against LEGAL immigration at all.
Now, no less that the United States Supreme Court has ruled in favor of the state of Arizona and one of its groundbreaking laws designed to curb the tide of illegals flooding across its border with Mexico. The law at the center of the storm is called The Legal Arizona Workers Act (LAWA) and, in a nutshell, it penalizes employers who "intentionally or knowingly" hire illegal workers. It requires employers to check a potential employee's status with a free-of-charge federal data base called E-Verify. Repeat offenders who continue to hire illegals will have their business licenses revoked by the state -- permanently.
Remember all those naysayers who yelled about the gall of Arizona? They complained in voices dripping in sarcasm that states aren't allowed to pass laws that interfere with federal legislation. Arizona lawmakers shouted back -- "Yes we can!" They declared that if the federal government wasn't going to do something to protect their state and stem the tide of illegals flooding across the Mexican border, they would.
Arizona passed LAWA in 2007 and the world didn't fall apart. And the idea has already spread nationwide. Lawmakers in dozens of other states have also tried to devise their own variations on employer E-Verify legislation. In some instances the effort has fallen flat but legislatures in Mississippi and South Carolina were successful in passing the law. Alabama is on the verge of passing a similar bill too.
It doesn't take a genius to predict that now that the highest court in our land has given its seal of approval to the idea by declaring it constitutional, we will see a rush of other states following in Arizona's footsteps.
What's happening is a real slap upside the head to members of both the executive and congressional branches of government. Washington's complacency sparked a state's revolution.
One of the first pronouncements from president elect Barack Obama came as he prepared for a meet and greet with the president of Mexico. Obama promised the immigration problem was tops on his list. But, then again, President Bush made a similar pledge and he invoked his Texas ties and close relationship with another Mexican president as reasons why he would prevail. Neither was able to move a meaningful reform bill through Congress.
Just a few weeks ago, during a speech in the border town of El Paso, Texas, President Obama renewed his interest in addressing what he called the "11 million undocumented immigrants here in the United States." He appeased both sides in the long lasting debate.
"The overwhelming majority of these folks are just trying to earn a living!" And there was applause.
"But we have to acknowledge (some) have broken the rules. They've cut in front of the line." More applause. Mr. Obama also addressed "unscrupulous businesses" who take advantage of illegal immigrants and he embraced the E-verify system.
May I say, with all due respect -- blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. We have heard this lip service from presidents of both major political parties before.
I was raised in the great state of New Mexico, I gave birth to my daughter in Arizona and after spending more than a decade living in California I'm here to tell Washington bureaucrats -- Move over, your time has come and gone. Folks in states that border Mexico (and Canada and lots of others in between) are tired of reeling under the financial crush illegal immigration brings. They are tired of Washington's talk, talk, talk. They yearn for action.
Our state lawmakers have picked up your slack, they now know how to write laws that don't undermine federal laws (for example, Arizona's LAWA actively includes the federal E-Verify system) and there is a movement afoot you cannot stop.
Other Arizona immigration laws will likely be up before the Supreme Court fairly soon. They may not pass constitutional muster -- especially parts of SB-1070 which requires police, who are enforcing other laws, to questions a person's immigration status if there is a 'reasonable suspicion' the person is in the country illegally. It also allows the arrest of such suspects without a warrant. Maybe those actions are best labeled unconstitutional.
But the dam of inaction on immigration has been breached. There is no turning back. Washington, you have made yourself obsolete on this issue. I'm betting other issues you've sidestepped will be next.
Diane Dimond may be reached via her Facebook page or through her website: www.DianeDimond.com Her latest book is "Cirque Du Salahi" - the inside story of the so-called White House Gate Crashers - available on Amazon.com
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