By Teresa Welsh |
Arizona's frustration with our nation's dysfunctional immigration system is understandable. But its restrictive "show me your papers" immigration law is unconstitutional and un-American.
The U.S. Constitution protects and safeguards our most fundamental rights—the rights that are the bedrock of our freedom and democracy. Each of us has the right to be treated equally and fairly, and to not be discriminated against on the basis of the color of our skin or the accent with which we may speak.
Arizona's law violates these precious Constitutional protections. Already, in Arizona and other states with "show me your papers" laws, U.S. citizens who don't happen to carry proof of their birth in the United States in their back pockets are being treated with suspicion and are facing arrest and detention until they can convince law enforcement authorities of their citizenship. This racial profiling and assault on personal freedom and security is both unconstitutional and un-American.
The U.S. Constitution was also written to safeguard and protect our fundamental character as a nation of united states. In areas where it is important for states to determine their own policies, the Constitution protects states' rights. But in areas where it is important that our nation speak with one voice, the Constitution prohibits states from taking matters into their own hands.
Immigration is one of those areas involving our country's relations with foreign countries and nationals where our nation needs to speak with one voice. Just as states cannot sign their own treaties with, or declare war on, other countries, so too states cannot enact their own immigration laws. If they could, the resulting patchwork of 50 different state laws would lead to confusion, conflict, and chaos.
Other nations would retaliate and treat U.S. citizens unfairly as they travel, work and study abroad. Citizens and immigrants alike would flee from one state to another, seeking freedom from discriminatory laws. Businesses would leave states where their workers and visiting foreign managers were subject to intrusive police demands for "papers."
The United States could not survive as two nations—one slave, one free. Neither can the United States accommodate two sets of immigration laws—one that requires the Department of Homeland Security to enforce the laws that Congress enacts, and the other that requires all of us, citizens and immigrants alike, to "show me your papers."
About Jeanne Butterfield Special Counsel at the Raben Group
Jon Feere Legal Policy Analyst at the Center for Immigration Studies
Russell Pearce Former Arizona State Senator and Author of SB 1070
Raúl Grijalva U.S. Representative
Luis Gutierrez U.S. Representative
Tamar Jacoby President of ImmigrationWorks USA