Arizona Immigration Law: Violation of the 14th Amendment

When Arizona recently passed a law making it a crime to be an illegal immigrant and requiring law enforcement to investigate when they have any probable cause to suspect people are here illegally, the act has highlighted this extraordinary gray area of American law. Immigration has always been a federal issue and a matter of civil rather than criminal law. It is not technically a punishable crime to be here illegally. Whether Arizona has a right to make it a crime will be argued in the American courts.

As for empowering law enforcement to investigate immigration status, if probable cause means finding a current driver’s license issued by another nation in the wallet of a murder suspect or hearing him blurt out “Please don’t ship me back to Mexico,” that’s reasonable. If probable cause means realizing a person stopped for speeding looks Hispanic or has the last name  ”Martinez”,  that’s unreasonable, and not to mention a violation of the 14th amendment of the U.S. Constitution.  Additionally, this law pales next to other proposed state and local laws that are in some cases obviously unconstitutional.

In Arizona, state Senator Russell Pearce, a prime mover behind Arizona’s first foray into immigration law, is proposing a change in law so that babies born in the United States whose parents cannot prove they are here legally are not granted citizenship. Whether or not Senator Russell thinks this is a great idea, this is unconstitutional.

The 14th Amendment of the U. S. Constitution states: “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.”   An attempt to pass a state law saying children born in Arizona to illegal immigrants are not citizens is a cynical waste of time, an attempt to pander to the emotions of anti-immigrant voters without doing a thing to deal with any real problems.

Arizona immigration law has become a tipping point for other states looking to pass laws involving social services, firearms.  And in Nebraska this week, residents in the town of Fremont will vote on a law that would make it illegal to hire illegal aliens and force employers to use the federal E-Verify system to check the status of applicants. It would also become illegal to rent apartments to illegal aliens, which will increase the rate of homelessness.

The issue in Fremont, Nebraska,  a town heavily dependent on the meatpacking industry is that the Hispanic population has grown from 165 in 1990 to nearly 2,000 now, in a town of about 25,000.  The growth is contributed to manufacturing plants like Fremont Beef and Hormel, unemployment is less than 5 percent; however some residents point to the Hispanic population as a source of growing crime and increased demand for social services.

Oklahoma is looking at passing tougher penalties for illegal immigrants caught with firearms.  South Carolina is considering passing a law making it illegal to hire workers on the side of the road. In addition, state immigration legislation is also being considered in Idaho, Utah, Missouri, Texas, North Carolina, Maryland, Minnesota, and Colorado.  Who’s next?  Get in line.

What the other states are witnessing around the country is that the public’s patience is wearing out with the federal government’s failure to enforce immigration laws and protect the interests of American workers and taxpayers.

The problem with some of these newly proposed laws are that it’s already illegal to hire illegal immigrants, most large businesses already use E-Verify™ and the some of the manufacturing plants are located outside of the city limits and is unincorporated. Some of these newly proposed laws would have no effect on the factories and could discourage landlords from renting to any Hispanics, Asians, and other immigrants, leaving families homeless.

In my humble opinion, Americans need immigration laws that make sense, and we need them enforced.  However, we don’t need grandstanding politicians pushing for meaningless and unconstitutional laws that violate the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.    It’s a waste of our time, energy, and funds.   Finding real solutions will demand all of those resources, and it’s being wasted on passing unconstitutional laws.