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Opinion

Supreme Court immigration ruling: A win for Arizona, a call to action for Congress

The Supreme Court handed Arizona a hard fought victory in upholding the most contentious part of its immigration law. All other portions might be found constitutional, it seems, if Congress would state so explicitly in federal law. The decision should serve as a clarion call to Congress.

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That is a serious oversight on the part of the court. By itself, it creates a major setback for those who want real enforcement and credibility to our immigration limits. But it gets worse.

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The court went further and inexplicably embraced the Obama administration’s claims of inherent and apparently unreviewable executive “prosecutorial discretion” (as it calls it), a series of memos that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) says authorize it to simply allow millions of illegal immigrants to apply to remain in the Unites States indefinitely.

In effect, the majority of the justices upheld (embraced, really) the administration’s incredible claim that when it comes to visa and border enforcement “we don’t have to, and states can’t make us.”

For citizens and taxpayers, this is a massive threat to national and community self-determination, not to mention fiscal health. A politician, as President Obama has just shown with his unilateral decision to stop deporting many illegal immigrants under the age of 30, can now use special immigration favors for partisan political gamesmanship at taxpayers’ expense.

The majority opinion dutifully nods to the incredible public safety and fiscal challenges posed by Arizona’s border crisis, but simply dismisses the problem as something that the state has no say in ultimately stopping.

This is both irresponsible and unsustainable: Decisionmaking has been divided between those who make the decisions and those who must absorb the consequences. Local communities must be empowered to assert reasonable control over their destinies. Without effective state-federal partnerships in immigration enforcement, our very viability as a national enterprise is at stake.

The court’s ruling puts the ball squarely back in Congress’s court. It is now up to Congress to reassert its intent that state and local governments act in partnership with the federal government in enforcing US immigration laws. Congress must also clearly define the limits of the executive branch’s discretionary authority over immigration enforcement and rein in its ability to nullify the laws Congress passes by simply refusing to enforce those laws.

The issue of local enforcement is not going away. The American people, who overwhelmingly favor the sort of enforcement strategy laid out in SB 1070, maintain the ultimate power to ensure that their elected officials enact and enforce immigration laws in a way that truly protects their interests.

Dan Stein is president of Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR).

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