On the eve of a Supreme Court hearing on Arizona's controversial immigration law, Senate Democrats on Tuesday announced an effort to circumvent a ruling by the court that upholds the law.
Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., third-in-line in the Democratic leadership, announced a bill that would essentially strike down the key components of the Arizona law. The court is scheduled to consider the law on Wednesday.
"Immigration has not and never has been an area where states are able to exercise independent authority," Schumer said Tuesday, noting that he would introduce the bill should the Supreme Court "ignore" the "plain and unambiguous statements of congressional intent."
Schumer's proposal would restrict states to arresting illegal immigrants only if they are operating under an "explicit agreement" with federal officials. It would also bar states from passing certain employment verification laws.
"States like Arizona and Alabama will no longer be able to get away with saying they're simply helping the federal government ... to enforce the law when they are really writing their own laws and knowingly deploying untrained officers with the mission of arresting anyone and everyone who might fit the preconceived profile of an illegal immigrant," Schumer said.
Senate Republicans fired back that Democrats were trying to politicize the court's deliberations. Republican Whip Jon Kyl of Arizona, for example, called Tuesday's announcement "political theater."
"The timing of the hearing just one day ahead of the Supreme Court's review of the law suggests that its purpose is either to influence the court's decision or to garner publicity," Kyl said in a statement. "The Supreme Court will decide the case on its merits and that is how it should be."
Arizona has been followed by other states that have enacted their own immigration laws, such as Alabama. The Obama administration is challenging Arizona's law by claiming that only Congress can enact such laws.
"For each state, and each locality, to set its own immigration policy in that fashion would wholly subvert Congress' goal: a single, national approach," Solicitor General Donald Verrilli has argued in court documents.
Arizona officials argue, however, that the state bears a disproportionate burden in trying to police its border with Mexico and that federal inaction forced the state to adopt the new law.
Two key components of the Arizona law prohibit illegal immigrants from seeking employment, and require law enforcement officials to check the status of anyone suspected of entering the country illegally.
by RTT Staff Writer
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