COMMENTARY | The battle over Arizona's controversial illegal immigration law is now being fought in the highest court in the land. The Supreme Court of the United States is hearing arguments from the Obama administration and Arizona's Attorney General as to whether the bill in question is constitutional. Liberal and conservative judges have been hitting Solicitor General Donald Verrilli with very tough questions that cast doubt on the assertion that he has made that Arizona reached outside its jurisdiction in allowing its state police to run immigration record checks and to arrest suspected illegal immigrants without warrants. Justice Sonia Sotomayor, appointed by President Obama, told Verrilli that he should see his argument is "not selling very well." This, along with questioning from Justice Kennedy and Chief Justice Roberts seems to imply that the court is going to decide in June to allow Arizona to enforce their law.
While proponents of the idea of states' rights may be pulling for Arizona to win this round, there is a potential for considerable damage to the power of the federal government to control and enforce immigration. Article I of the Constitution gives Congress the exclusive power over immigration legislation. To give Arizona purview over immigration in their state would be a major conflict of Section 8 of Article I.
Even further damage would be done to the Constitution by the provision of Arizona's law that allows for suspected illegal immigrants to be arrested without a warrant. The fourth amendment of the Constitution gives clear guidelines for arrest, search and seizure, one of them being a judicially signed arrest warrant. In bypassing that requirement, the Arizona law in question would be circumventing The Bill of Rights.
The crux of the Obama administration's argument against the law is that Arizona's bill takes a much too heavy hand with an issue that has many complexities. The reason that the federal government was given the authority to police immigration is that it is in the unique position to balance both the needs of the United States and the human rights of any person who crosses the border, illegally or otherwise. It's that complexity that must be remembered and carefully traversed when handling issues of immigration; and that's a job best handled by those who the Constitution gave the power to.