Monday, April 20, 2009

Goldwater Institute: Sanctuary cities--or scofflaws?

Clintby Clint Bolick
Rarely are proposed statutes models of clear and precise writing. But H.B.2331, sponsored by Reps. Tom Boone and Sam Crump, is exactly that. It provides that Arizona cities and counties "shall not enact an ordinance or resolution that in any way limits or prohibits the lawful enforcement of the United States immigration laws."

border fenceThat such a law is necessary owes to the decisions of some municipalities--at one time including Phoenix--to prohibit police officers from questioning suspects about their immigration status or from providing information about suspected illegal immigrants to federal authorities.

Immigration is perhaps our state's most divisive issue. Personally, I favor significant reform of immigration laws. But it is one thing to advocate reform, and quite another for elected officials who take an oath to uphold the law to refuse to enforce existing laws or to obstruct such enforcement.

That's one reason why since law school I've never run for public office: I know I'd have a problem enforcing certain laws, and I probably would end up having to sue myself over something. My ideals lend themselves more to suing elected officials than to being one.

The Arizona Republic reports that Rep. Ben Miranda objects to the bill because it dictates law-enforcement priorities. No it doesn't. Local law-enforcement agencies would continue to be free to prioritize immigration-related crimes or crimes against people and property. Indeed, we are in the midst of a healthy and vibrant debate over which emphasis better promotes public safety.

The bill removes from the discretion of cities and counties--which are, after all, created by and subject to state law--only the power to thumb their nose at immigration laws. If we are to be a nation governed by the rule of law, such a step, regrettably, is necessary.
Clint Bolick is director of the Goldwater Institute Scharf-Norton Center for Constitutional Litigation.
Learn more:
Arizona Legislature: HB 2331

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