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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

“Whoever wins SB 1070 debate, we all lose”

Ever since the Arizona legislature passed Senate Bill 1070, a piece of legislation designed to combat illegal immigration in the state, it has been a matter of when, not if, the federal government would challenge its legality. That long-anticipated legal battle officially got underway July 6, when the White House filed a contesting suit in Phoenix federal court.

This is not the first Arizona immigration law to come under legal scrutiny. A 2007 law that fined businesses for employing illegal immigrants is slated to appear before the Supreme Court sometime this year. That law is also being disputed on the grounds that it subverts federal authority, though the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has already upheld it.

These two laws are destined to determine how the immigration debate is conducted into the future. If the Supreme Court rules that Arizona is in the right and has the authority to police their own borders and citizens, then there will be virtually no legal ground for federal immigration reform advocates to stand on. States will be able to make their own laws on how best to combat illegal immigration, and these laws could vary greatly from state to state. What is perfectly permissible in, say, California might suddenly be illegal in New Mexico.

To allow such conflict between states erodes the power of the federal government to an untenable point, one where they are constantly fighting against opportunistic states taking liberties with their newfound power. To do so hamstrings the ability of the United States to effectively and universally present a front against a very real problem that, not matter how much we may wish it to, isn’t going anywhere.

How can we expect immigrants to follow the law if they are unclear as to what the laws are or where they apply? How can we expect law enforcement officers to fairly apply the standards of law that can change on the whim of a state legislature?

The simple answer to all these questions is that we cannot. Immigration is a nationwide problem and thus must be dealt with on a nationwide level, and only the federal government can, and should, deal with this issue.

There are those that say that only those states that share a border with Mexico should be allowed to craft immigration policy. After all, the perspective of a lawmaker or legislator in New Hampshire just isn’t suited to this issue, right? In that case, we should give Gulf states unquestioned authority to regulate oil drilling in the United States, since they are the ones closest to the issue. It is when we get caught up in this sort of sectionalism, this overarching regional loyalty in the stead of national allegiance that we begin to see why, despite the persistent problem, immigration reform has still eluded us on a national level.

If we as a country fail to present a clear and unified plan to combat illegal immigration and reform the system as a whole, then we forfeit any hope we have of solving the problem in a constructive manner. If we allow states, such as Arizona, to pass fundamentally flawed laws such as SB1070 as a means of filling the void left by the lack of necessary federal reform, then the fight will always be about righting what is wrong in the present, not addressing the problems we will face in the future.

Will SB1070 promote racial profiling in the state of Arizona? I don’t know. And despite what talking heads and politicians on both sides of the political spectrum say, they don’t either.

Until the law is put into action and we have time to see how it is applied, such widespread generalizations are impossible. But every moment the federal government and Arizona waste bickering over this law is time lost in the greater whole of the debate.

What this country needs — what Arizona needs — is proactive work to combat a real problem, now and into the future. The last thing anyone needs is more reactionary legislation that amounts to little more than jockeying for political capitol leading up to an election cycle. Regardless of what reforms you think need to be enacted or how politicians should go about doing that, we can all agree that a political pissing match will not solve the immigration issues this state, and this nation, face.

— Luke Money is a journalism junior. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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