Arizona Doubles Down

Arizona’s loud and peevish immigration saga continues, barely audible beneath the roar of election-year news coverage, but still there, nonetheless. Though its immigration story no longer dominates the news, there has been no shortage of developments in recent weeks. Far from being put off by months of bad publicity, rancorous public debate, labor shortages, and lost business, Arizona’s anti-immigration politicians are doubling down on their bet that they will be rewarded, eventually, at the ballot box.

In mid-August, on the same day the USCIS implemented a deferred action program to help young undocumented immigrants get work permits and avoid removal (deportation), Arizona Governor Jan Brewer proclaimed by executive order that none of the program’s beneficiaries would be allowed to get drivers’ licenses or other public benefits – nor would other illegal immigrants, for that matter. [See Brewer Bars Public Benefits for Illegal Immigrants, by Daniel Gonzalez and Yvonne Wingett Sanchez, The Arizona Republic, 15.Aug.2012.]

Toward month’s end, it emerged that a border security committee of the Arizona legislature wants to build a 200-mile border fence of its own – a sort of Maginot-Line-in-the-sand – “to complement the federal government’s border fencing program,” according to the Christian Science Monitor. [See New Border Fence: Arizona Plans its Own 200-Mile Fence, by Associated Press staff, Christian Science Monitor, 27.Aug.2012.] The Christian Science Monitor reports that Arizona has raised about a tenth of the $2.8 million it would take just to build the first mile of fencing, though state legislators hope more private donations will help defray the total projected cost of more than half a billion dollars.

On September 5th, over the objections of leading civil rights organizations, a federal judge allowed Arizona to implement the most controversial provision of its notorious homegrown immigration law, SB-1070: the so-called “show-me-your-papers” provision. [See Arizona Immigration Law Survives Ruling, by Fernanda Santos, New York Times, 06.Sep.2012.]  You may recall that, in June, the Supreme Court allowed this provision to stand, promising to revisit the issue only if it is applied in a way that violates the Constitution.

Now it’s up to Arizona police to implement the “papers, please” law in a way that won’t generate a whole new crop of civil rights litigation – a tall order by any measure. Some time in the next few months, we are bound of hear of this again – probably in the form of a deafening rush when the floodgates of litigation burst open.

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