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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Federal inaction leads to disastrous AZ immigration law

Tucson’s sweltering 100 degree temperatures can definitely put a damper on outdoor activities. So while you’re sitting in your bedroom trying to escape the mid-afternoon heat, don’t let the hum of the air conditioning lull you to sleep. Brush up on current events instead. Take illegal immigration for instance. Although it is often an issue reserved for the federal government, states have begun to tackle the issue on their own.

In a not-so-stunning 5-3 decision, split along ideological lines, the Supreme Court upheld the Legal Arizona Worker’s Act. LAWA empowers Arizona’s courts to suspend or revoke the business licenses of employers who knowingly or intentionally hire undocumented immigrants.

With the state’s unemployment rate hovering at about 9 percent, this decision has been lauded as a victory for the jobless. The law tackles the issue of illegal immigration at its heart: employment. Supporters of the measure argue that the threat of penalization will dissuade businesses from employing undocumented workers.

Arizona Senate President Russell Pearce, who sponsored the LAWA legislation in 2007, spared no time in attempting to politically capitalize off the Supreme Court’s decision. In a statement published by the Sonoran Alliance, a conservative blog, Pearce paints himself as the knight in shining armor here to save American workers from the  “”profits-over-patriotism crowd.”” Unsurprisingly, the law has become overwhelmingly popular in Arizona. After all, who in their right mind can object to preserving jobs for Americans amid a recession? Not even those good-for-nothing, bleeding-heart liberals could balk at such a sensible proposition, right?

LAWA may seem reasonable on its face, but is actually far more sinister than its proponents will lead you to believe. Now that it has been given a stamp of approval by the highest court in the land, the floodgates have opened up to allow state copycat laws.

Revoking the licenses of businesses that employ undocumented immigrants not only saddles employers with the responsibility of immigration enforcement, it will cause employment discrimination against Hispanic Americans and other minority groups. With the threat of a “”business death penalty”” hanging over their heads, employers will be reluctant to employ applicants who look and sound foreign.

LAWA would also require businesses to use the national E-Verify system to check the citizenship status of prospective employees. However, under federal law, E-Verify is strictly voluntary as it is prone to error. According to the Office of the Inspector General and the U.S. Government Accountability Office, the system is riddled with name-inconsistencies and out-of-date citizen status codes. With participation in E-Verify made compulsory in Arizona, the likelihood of legal immigrants being denied employment could increase tenfold.

The Obama administration contends that the law undermines the Immigration Reform and Control Act, which preserves the federal government’s exclusive ability to impose civil or criminal sanctions on businesses that employ unauthorized aliens. But border states like Arizona can attest to the fact that IRCA, enacted more than 20 years ago, has done little to stymie the growth of the illegal immigrant population, which swelled to an all-time high of 12.5 million people in 2007.

Given this brute fact, is it surprising that states like Arizona, Colorado, Mississippi and Pennsylvania are attempting to regulate illegal immigration by introducing similar legislation? The federal government has completely dropped the ball on this issue. For the past decade, gridlock and political jockeying in Washington, D.C., pushed the issue of immigration and border security to the far reaches of the government’s agenda.

In the absence of decisive action at the federal level, disastrous state laws like LAWA will continue to gain popularity. Let’s hope Washington politicians offer more than lip service to the need for comprehensive immigration reform.

— Nyles Kendall is a political science senior. He can be contacted at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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