Arizona's immigration law supposedly "would impose a 'distinct, unusual and extraordinary' burden on legal resident aliens that only the federal government has the authority to impose.” So asserted Federal District Judge Susan Bolton in her injunction of the new Arizona immigration law on Wednesday. “Given the large number of people who are technically ‘arrested’ but never booked into jail or perhaps even transported to a law enforcement facility, detention time for this category of arrestee will certainly be extended during an immigration status verification,” Ms. Bolton wrote in her decision.
But this reasoning makes little sense. Anyone -- no matter what their accent or looks -- who is "technically ‘arrested’" by police is required to show some type of ID. The minor exception is when the arrestee happens to be known to the police already. If unable to provide a basic ID, the police officer has no choice but to detain the individual until identification can be made. This is very basic. Police can't issue a ticket, even for a minor speeding offense, without being able to properly identify the person.
Despite the picture painted by Bolton, an immigration check for someone "technically ‘arrested’" imposes no more of a burden than the individual already faces. There are no more documents that are required or additional procedures under Arizona's immigration law. Any regular ID will do: a driver's license, a non-operating identification license, valid tribal enrollment card or other form of tribal identification, or "any valid United States federal, state, or local government issued identification."
But Judge Bolton provides another line of reasoning against the Arizona law, that "only the federal government has the authority to impose" these checks. This argument is just as bad, for federal law is routinely enforced by the states. Ironically, the typical conflict between the federal government and the states is that the federal government is trying to make states do something that they don't want to do. Here we have the reverse: a federal law that a state is happy to help enforce but that the present administration does not wish to enforce.
Congress passes federal laws and it is their intent that counts, not the wishes of the current president. If the Congress that passed the current immigration law had intended for states to stay away from enforcing this law, there is a simple solution: write in the law that enforcement is limited to the federal government. That never happened.
Judge Susan Bolton was -- not surprisingly -- appointed by a Democrat, Bill Clinton. Her decision shows just how important a judge's selection can be. Unfortunately, President Obama will appoint many more judges with similar left-wing leanings.
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John R. Lott, Jr. is a columnist for FoxNews.com. He is an economist and was formerly chief economist at the United States Sentencing Commission. Lott is also a leading expert on guns and op-eds on that issue are done in conjunction with the Crime Prevention Research Center. He is the author of eight books including "More Guns, Less Crime." His latest book is "Dumbing Down the Courts: How Politics Keeps the Smartest Judges Off the Bench" Bascom Hill Publishing Group (September 17, 2013). Follow him on Twitter@johnrlottjr.