“The Government of the United States has broad, undoubted power over the subject of immigration…”
Thursday marked the end of a historic week for the Supreme Court. Although immigration was on the undercard last week, the court’s decision in Arizona v. United States was long overdue and its implications are far-reaching.
The 5-3 decision brought clarity to an issue that has perplexed states like Utah for a very long time, and it reaffirmed that the responsibility to reform immigration is to be exclusively shouldered by Congress. States must defer.
In what will go down as textbook political spin, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer declared “victory” for her state’s challenged law. In reality, the decision invalidated three of the four challenged provisions of SB1070 and found the remaining provision was not yet ripe for the court’s evaluation.
Brewer’s characterization of this decision as a “victory” is like the Oklahoma City Thunder declaring “victory” after losing to the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals based on the fact that the Thunder get to play again in 2013, and who knows what will happen next year? Arizona’s attempt to regulate immigration was broadly dispatched.
The Constitution of the United States (Article VI Clause 2) specifies that federal law “shall be the supreme law of the land” and states shall be bound by federal law. This section of the Constitution is referred to as the supremacy clause because it establishes that federal law trumps state law.
The issue in this case was whether a state could supplement federal immigration law with its own laws. The answer was crystal clear: States are not welcome.
So it’s settled. Even though states bear the burden of a flawed and outdated immigration system, Congress is in charge. Well, at least we now know the rules.
In Utah, we saw this coming. On Nov. 11, 2010, community and civic leaders signed The Utah Compact, which declares five simple principles to guide Utah’s immigration discussion. Since then, thousands of Utahns have followed suit and signed the Utah Compact.
Worth noting is the first declared principle of the compact entitled “Federal Solutions.” It states that immigration is a federal policy issue and urges Utah’s federal delegation to lead Utah efforts to reform immigration.
Now is the time to double down on this approach. Utah’s federal delegation must develop a united and comprehensive approach to fix our nation’s broken immigration system. It is not enough for each member of our federal delegation to have an opinion on how to proceed; we need a united strategy that the governor, state legislators and Utahns can get behind.
We need leadership from our federal delegation.
After clarifying the federal government has exclusive power to regulate immigration in the United States, the Supreme Court added, “With power comes responsibility.” Well stated.
Sens. Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee, and Congressmen Rob Bishop, Jim Matheson and Jason Chaffetz bear responsibility to represent Utah’s interests in immigration reform. They, and the 530 other members of Congress, have both the power and responsibility to meaningfully address this critical issue.
States (the governor and Utah’s Legislature) have neither the power nor the responsibility to solve this problem.
This article was written by Timothy M. Wheelwright, a partner at Kuck Immigration Partners and chair of the Salt Lake Chamber Immigration Task Force. It was originally featured in The Salt Lake Tribune.