The Arizona court ruling enjoining parts of Arizona’s S.B. 1070 is a major victory for all who respect and cherish the rule of law. True, Judge Bolton did not halt the entire law. But what she did do—enjoin S.B. 1070’s most dangerous and damaging provisions—was astonishing.
Federal courts do not easily second guess the wisdom of state legislators and governors after they debate, pass, and enact law. Nor should they. The courts give great deference to the will of the representative bodies in fashioning public policy. So, asking a federal court to throw out a law is a tall order and, appropriately, carries with it a major burden.
Judge Bolton’s decision this week was premised on her review of the entire case against S.B. 1070, which included the legal arguments of both sides and the sworn testimony of key law enforcement officials, such as Phoenix Police Chief Jack Harris. Harris explained in a lengthy affidavit that S.B. 1070 would severely hamper his ability to serve and protect the citizens of his community by burdening his officers and eroding trust in law enforcement. And he was not alone. Others testified that the ill conceived law directly conflicted with the legal protections offered to victims of crime and human trafficking, threatened U.S foreign policy, and dangerously stymied federal and state agencies. Judge Bolton came to her difficult decision only after she concluded that S.B. 1070 would cause the United States to “suffer irreparable harm” if its key provisions were not immediately blocked from taking effect. Her extraordinary decision underscores the force of the government’s case.
Perhaps that explains why the anti-immigrant restrictionists have been uncharacteristically sheepish in the wake of Judge Bolton’s decision. Don’t get me wrong. I didn’t expect them to offer cogent legal analysis or sound arguments in response. But I must admit I am surprised that the best they can come up with is the lame talking point that Judge Bolton’s well reasoned decision is merely a “bump in the road” for the “show me your papers” law.
Well, maybe so, but the “bump” appears to have knocked out the engine!
Even Kris Kobach, who is running for Kansas Secretary of State on a platform of anti-immigrant vitriol and boasts that he co-authored S.B. 1070 with Arizona Senator Russell Pearce, has hunkered down on Fox News and his facebook page. It’s hard to believe that just a few short weeks ago, the day after Arizona enacted S.B. 1070, Kobach spilled his pen on the op-ed page of the New York Times defending the law and belittling its opponents. . He condescendingly wrote,
Predictably, groups that favor relaxed enforcement of immigration laws… insist the law is unconstitutional. Less predictably, President Obama declared it “misguided” and said the Justice Department would take a look.
Presumably, the government lawyers who do so will actually read the law, something its critics don’t seem to have done. The arguments we’ve heard against it either misrepresent its text or are otherwise inaccurate.Well, Judge Bolton’s opinion shows she did read the Arizona law—word by ill conceived word—and concluded that S.B. 1070 is not an acceptable enforcement tool as Kobach claimed, but a violation of the Constitution.
Kobach and his restrictionist cohorts would be well advised to read the Constitution too. But that will have to wait. At the moment he is wiping the egg off his face.