Or is it?
We haven’t heard the phrase “state sovereignty” featured prominently in discussions about HB56, the harsh anti-illegal immigration law the Alabama Legislature passed last year. But with a federal appeals court beginning oral arguments today in the legal challenges against the law, the “state sovereignty” phrase is bubbling up across the United States.
Two separate challenges to HB56 — one by immigrant-rights and civil-liberties groups, another by the Department of Justice — are before the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, as are challenges against Georgia’s immigration law. But amicus briefs filed by attorneys general of nine other states are bringing the “state sovereignty” issue directly into this Alabama discussion.
As Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt told The Associated Press, he joined the amicus brief because “the case involves an important federalism and state sovereignty issue.”
Or, as a spokesperson for Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi said, “The attorney general supports defending the ability of each state to decide for itself how to protect its citizens from the crime and costs associated with illegal immigration.”
In other words, it seems the states that have filed briefs in support of HB56 are just as interested in their ability to do as they wish as much as they are in the premise that Alabama’s efforts to curb illegal immigration within its borders are legal.
For a moment, recall how proponents of the harsh 2010 illegal-immigration law passed by Arizona said the federal government’s failure to adequately address immigration and manage the Mexican border was to blame. At that time, the issue wasn’t state sovereignty — it was doing what the federal government had failed to do, they said.
In varying ways, that argument has carried through to those states, such as Alabama and Georgia, that have passed similar laws. Since Washington wouldn’t adequately stem the flow of illegal immigrants, we will, states have said.
Yet, some of the attorneys general for the nine states that have filed an amicus brief on behalf of HB56 — Arizona, Georgia, Florida, Idaho, Kansas, Michigan, Nebraska, Oklahoma and South Carolina — have been quick to use the “state sovereignty” card as at least a partial basis for their support.
Again, how convenient.
Without question, immigration is a federal issue. The federal government issues visas. The federal government handles deportations. And, without question, the federal government has not managed immigration issues or border security in recent decades as it should have. The need for immigration reform that’s fair, efficient, economically feasible and morally sound is real.
How better this nation would be if state lawmakers would put as much effort into forcing Washington to do its job with immigration instead of passing version after version of Alabama’s mean-spirited HB56.