Preemption means that the state of Arizona is allegedly stepping on federal toes with their immigration law. The feds are arguing SB1070 is unconstitutional because federal law overrides it, according to the supremacy clause; they further assert that only the federal government is capable of and lawfully allowed to pursue immigration enforcement. It seems the judge, Susan Bolton, is having a hard time reconciling that line of attack (via the Washington Post):
Bolton, a Democratic appointee, also questioned a core part of the Justice Department's argument that she should declare the law unconstitutional: that it is "preempted" by federal law because immigration enforcement is an exclusive federal prerogative.
"How is there a preemption issue?" the judge asked. "I understand there may be other issues, but you're arguing preemption. Where is the preemption if everybody who is arrested for some crime has their immigration status checked?"
The DoJ's stance that immigration enforcement is strictly the purview of the federal government was their primary argument today:
"The regulation of immigration is unquestionably, exclusively, a federal power," Kneedler told a rapt courtroom.
The state pushed back on this assumption:
Lawyers for Brewer argued with equal force that the legislation, scheduled to take effect July 29, is a legal expression of a sovereign state's right to secure its borders against a tide of illegal immigration. The federal government, the lawyers said, has failed to act.
"We keep hearing that we can't really do anything about these illegal aliens -- Arizona should just deal with it," said John J. Bouma, Arizona's lead attorney. "Well, the status quo is simply unacceptable."
Mr. Kneedler also argued that the law is detrimental to foreign relations:
He added that the Arizona law might lead to police harassment of U.S. citizens and is threatening to harm vital cooperation along the border with Mexican authorities, who have strongly condemned the law. "These are very concrete harms, very substantial foreign policy concerns," he said
Brewer's lawyer, Mr. Bouma, shrugged off the foreign policy claims:
"Foreign outrage doesn't make the law preempted," he said. He accused the Obama administration of ignoring requests from Brewer and numerous other governors for more help in securing the border.
"You can't catch them if you don't know about them," he said. "And they don't want to know about them."Today marked the opening salvo on this highly charged issue, but there is no doubt there will be more to come. Although the judge seems to be questioning the main point of the federal case, it doesn't mean Arizona and Brewer have won yet.
It is, however, a promising start for the beleaguered state.