But wait, say the critics, obviously officers will be able to trump up charges on anyone they suspect of being here illegally, just so they can harass them and try to have them deported. Theoretically that is a possibility, and if that happened, it would be wrong, and should be dealt with sternly. But it is profoundly insulting to Arizona officers to assume that this necessarily would be rampant. The justices indicated that the state deserves the benefit of the doubt and should be allowed to implement the law.
At the end of the day, this ruling is important to both federal and local law enforcement agencies, and to the citizens and legal immigrants they protect. It affirms that police and sheriffs may, and may be required, to ask offenders about their immigration status, and that immigration status is not something that anyone is entitled to keep secret, like your religion or your favorite color.
This should put a stop to the wave of predatory lawsuits that have been launched by advocates (with official encouragement from the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security) for illegal aliens against police and sheriffs who dare to ask about immigration status, but unfortunately it won’t. Not satisfied that even criminal illegal aliens should be identified and deported, or that local officers should be allowed to help federal immigration agencies do their job, we can expect to see legions of civil rights attorneys and activists descend on Arizona, desperate to prove that racial profiling is occurring. They will be manning hot lines, hosting public forums, soliciting stories of abuse, and combing through arrest reports in an effort to prove that checking immigration status is synonymous with racial profiling.
This activity may embolden some illegal aliens to stick it out, but most of them will get the message that their options are more limited now, and their situation more tenuous. Thanks to Arizona’s court-tested E-Verify law, it is now much harder for them to find a job. Under a state law passed years ago, illegal aliens cannot collect many social services or obtain a driver’s license. Now many more illegal aliens will not want to risk arrest and removal by driving without a license, breaking traffic laws, or using false documents.
Arizonans will not have to wait for federal agents to find and remove them, because the illegal immigrants will continue filtering home on their own. After the E-Verify law passed in 2007, the size of the illegal alien population in Arizona declined by 17 percent, and this seems to have continued ever since. Now that the Supreme Court has provided a road map for permissible state immigration legislation, others are sure to try to replicate this successful formula. In the absence of Congressional action, further state movement along these lines is the most promising antidote to the Obama administration’s minimalist enforcement policies.