Today, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) heard oral arguments in Arizona v. US. The statement of the case as presented to SCOTUS was as follows:
Arizona enacted the Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act (S.B. 1070) to address the illegal immigration crisis in the State. The four provisions of S.B. 1070 enjoined by the courts below authorize and direct state law-enforcement officers to cooperate and communicate with federal officials regarding the enforcement of federal immigration law and impose penalties under state law for non-compliance with federal immigration requirements.
The question presented is whether the federal immigration laws preclude Arizona’s efforts at cooperative law enforcement and impliedly preempt these four provisions of S.B. 1070 on their face.
The outcome of this case, as well as the “Obamacare” case heard a few weeks ago, will greatly influence the role of states’ rights and federal powers. A transcript of the arguments in Arizona v. US can be found on the Scotusblog.com, while the audio version will be posted on Friday. The briefs for both sides and all of the amici briefs can be found here. There is excellent commentary about today’s arguments by Scotusblog.com. Five key points people should know about this case are made by Immigration Impact.
NPR reporters interviewed people of all persuasions out on the streets in D.C. while the court was in session. Of particular interest were the comments of Europeans who are used to cross-border movement, whereas the Justices asked counsel for Arizona about whether states could seal their own borders or recognize the identification documents issued in other states, [such as Washington], that do not require proof of legal status.
As a Seattle immigration lawyer and Chair of the Washington Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, my colleagues and I hear daily about cases involving people arrested by local law enforcement agencies, who because of the federal ICE Secure Communities and Criminal Alien Programs, are referred to ICE for removal proceedings through the detainer process. Although Washington does not have the same state laws enacted by Arizona and other states, existing federal programs already result in thousands of lawful permanent residents and undocumented individuals being referred to ICE by virtue of their contact with local law enforcement because of these two nationwide federal programs. Immigration lawyers deal daily with the fallout of these state and federal programs. My colleagues see many people picked up for low level offenses or no offenses at all – just being in the wrong place at the wrong time, or trying to report crimes in their communities only to be arrested. Most are in mixed status families, only to end up being separated from their US citizen spouses and children.
According to ICE’s statistics for FY 2011 ending on September 30, 2011, 319,000 individuals were removed, up from 245,601 in 2007. This does not include Mexican interior repatriation or border removals/returns or voluntary departures or returns. Of the 319,000 people removed in 2011, ICE reports that 216,698 were “criminal aliens.” But only 87,547 of the 216,698 individuals were convicted of “felonies and misdemeanors” including homicide, sexual offenses, drugs and DUI, with drug and DUI offenders being the greatest number of people removed as “threats to national security or public safety”. What about the other 129,151 “criminal aliens”? Who were they? Safety and national security risks such as those driving without proper ID? Broken tail lights? Shoplifters? Those accused of crimes but not convicted? Those driving under the influence of accents or brown skins? Anyone who comes in contact with the criminal justice system through the Criminal Alien Program or Secure Communities, whether charged or not, and whether convicted or not, can end up in removal proceedings and be classified as a criminal offender if ICE places a detainer for transfer to their facilities, even if local law enforcement decides not to prosecute for a local offense. ICE defines “criminal offender” as an alien convicted for one or more crimes, immigration fugitives (i.e., have outstanding orders of removal) or those previously removed or returned. Therefore, those not convicted of any crimes at all may be part of the 216,698 “criminal offenders”, or they are part of the 73,399 people not labeled as criminal offenders.