Don't Trust the Feds to Be Better Than Arizona.

Arizona has been in the news since the state passed its crazy immigration-enforcement bill, SB 1070, which criminalizes undocumented presence and gives police the power to stop people for looking "illegal." The Obama administration recently announced it would sue the state for usurping the federal government's constitutional power to regulate immigration, and it may not have to wait long for a decision. Yesterday, the Supreme Court agreed to hear a case involving a strikingly similar law in -- you guessed it -- Arizona.

The Justices granted cert to Chamber of Commerce v. Candelaria, a challenge to an Arizona law that penalizes employers for hiring undocumented workers and requires them to use the E-Verify system to check immigration status. The central question -- whether the state is stepping on the federal government's toes -- is nearly identical to the issue raised in most of the lawsuits that have been filed against SB 1070; how the Justices rule in Candelaria will almost certainly determine the fate of any of the SB 1070 cases.

As I've remarked before, most of the legal challenges to SB 1070 focus on who has the right to regulate immigration -- not whether the law violates civil rights. In the short term, I think this is the right strategy to get the law overturned, but the working assumption of civil-rights lawyers who have brought these lawsuits is that the federal government will be more benevolent in its approach to immigration. But if the Obama administration's surprising step-up in deportations and the militarization of our Southern border are any indication, it's not a safe one.

-- Gabriel Arana

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