If the Supreme Court upholds the constitutionality of Arizona's immigration enforcement law, Sen. Charles Schumer, chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Immigration, says he will introduce legislation that bars all states from enforcing their own immigration laws. Republican members boycotted the subcommittee hearing where the Democratic senator from New York made the announcement Tuesday morning. Republican Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona called it "political theater." Schumer said it's not the first time Republicans have refused to sit down to discuss the issue.
The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments Wednesday on the Arizona law, SB 1070, which requires public officials to actively identify illegal immigrants and makes it a crime for them to look for work. The Obama administration seeks to have parts of the law set aside. Five other Republican-dominated states?Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, South Carolina and Utah?have used the Arizona model in passing their own laws. A Court ruling is expected in June.
Pointing out that Congress has already made clear its opposition to state laws on immigration, Schumer said in a statement:
?It is simply too damaging to our economy and too dangerous to our democracy to have 50 different states be permitted to take their own direction when it comes to immigration policy. [...] The Supreme Court should find the Arizona law unconstitutional, but if it doesn?t, Congress will be ready. States should be barred from taking immigration enforcement matters into their own hands and imposing penalties as they see fit. This has always been a role of the federal government. It is impractical to have a patchwork of different immigration laws across the country.?
The senator's proposal would prohibit states from imposing their own civil or criminal penalties for immigration law violations and bar them "from detecting, apprehending or detaining violators of immigration law, unless they have been authorized and trained to do so as part of a federal enforcement effort." His bill would also seek to override the Supreme Court's decision in Chamber of Commerce v. Whiting. The ruling allows states to establish their own immigration employment verification requirements and penalties.
"Immigration has not and never has been an area where states are able to exercise independent authority," Schumer said at the hearing. "States like Arizona and Alabama will no longer be able to get away with saying they're simply helping the federal government ... to enforce the law when they are really writing their own laws and knowingly deploying untrained officers with the mission of arresting anyone and everyone who might fit the preconceived profile of an illegal immigrant."
Only Schumer and Democrat Richard Durbin of Illinois showed up for the hearing, in which testimony included that of the author of SB 1070, former Arizona state Sen. Russell Pearce.
Schumer's proposal has no chance of clearing the deadlocked Senate or the majority-Republican ruled House. But the move would reinforce the sharp difference between the immigration views of Republicans and those of most Democrats. Latinos are especially hostile to the state laws, not least because their enforcement adds another layer to racial profiling by law enforcement. And yet Republicans can't figure out why they have such a tough time attracting more Latino voters. Perhaps it would help if they would put away that sharpened stick with which they keep poking them in the eye.