United States District Judge Susan Bolton showed good judgment in issuing a preliminary injunction on the key and most controversial parts of Arizona's misguided immigration law. It is a step in the right direction, although other onerous provisions of the law were left intact.
Her ruling halts the implementation of the "reasonable suspicion" section of the act that would require police to arrest and detain suspected illegal immigrants without a warrant. Many civil rights advocates have argued that this provision gives a green light to state-sanctioned racial profiling, violating the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment.
Immigration is an issue that is uniquely and unequivocally reserved for federal law, and Judge Bolton's ruling expressed skepticism about the constitutionality of Arizona's law. We cannot have a patch work of fifty different immigration policies passed independently by fifty different states--we are one United States of America and there must be one immigration policy guiding our nation. The Constitution sets forth a clear separation of powers between states and the federal government; in fact, in 1941, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the state of Pennsylvania's "Alien Registration Act" could not require Chinese residents to register and carry identification cards with them. [Hines v. Davidowitz]
Historically, in times of economic recession, anti-immigrant legislation has incited racial fear, backlash, and legal discrimination against immigrants. We should learn from past mistakes and seek comprehensive immigration legislation that unites our nation, not policies that divide us.
The battle is far from over. Heightened tensions over Arizona's immigration laws are another indication of the racial polarization in the country. Proponents of Arizona's anti-immigration legislation intend to appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court. At least 20 states are considering passage of Arizona-like anti-immigration laws. This is shaping up as a key dividing line as we approach the 2010 mid-term elections.
Comprehensive immigration reform is needed now more than ever before. Clearly our immigration policy is broken. It must be fixed. The federal government must quickly move to enact legislation and stem the trend of individual states setting misguided immigration policies that should be under the purview of the federal government. There is no time to waste.