The Feds v. Arizona: Comedy trumps comity

Bob Maistros Chief Writer, Reagan-Bush '84 campaign
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U.S. Assistant Attorney General Tony West and his team may or may not have a future in constitutional law.  But judging from the government’s brief in their suit to enjoin enforcement of S.B. 1070, Arizona’s infamous immigration bill, they might just have a future in comedy.

I mean, take a gander at this thigh-slapping summary of their case:

“Dissatisfied with the federal government’s response to illegal immigration, Arizona has sought to override … the judgment of the executive branch regarding how to balance competing objectives in implementing the federal immigration laws….

“Arizona’s policy will disrupt federal enforcement priorities and divert federal resources needed to target dangerous aliens .… (T)he policy it advances conflicts with federal objectives animating federal administration and enforcement of the (Immigration and Naturalization Act), and … it interferes with U.S. foreign policy objectives and foreign relations more broadly.”

LOL, as they say in online legal circles.  Oh, wait.  You’re missing the punch lines?  Allow me to translate:

“You, Arizona, can’t pass an immigration bill because you’ll interfere with the administration’s priority of not enforcing existing federal laws, not to mention pressure us to end the selective enforcement we do engage in.  And while states like you can’t set our immigration policy, we’re perfectly happy to let Mexico do so.”

That line of argument – more suited to Saturday Night Live than the federal courts – is the gist of Justice’s brief.  But it’s only the start of the comic relief to be found there.

Take the fuss the feds kick up about the hayseed Arizonans’ singular focus in the legislation:

“(T)he provisions of S.B. 1070 demand that Arizona pursue at all costs (emphasis added) a policy designed to deter unlawfully present aliens from moving into the state and to inspect, investigate, detain, and in some cases criminally sanction those already in the state.”

“At all costs?”  What?  Is the governor stationing snipers and setting up minefields on the border?  Planning Kristallnachts?  Readying roundups of every brown-skinned resident?

Of course not.  Rather, SB 1070 will:

“impede the federal government’s ability to provide measured (read: “lax”) enforcement of criminal sanctions so as to accommodate the many other objectives that Congress enacted into the immigration laws.”

Like?  “(R)econciling the complex and often competing interests of national security and public safety, foreign relations, and humanitarian concerns.”  In other words, finding excuses not to enforce the law against favored constituencies.

Meanwhile, the Administration claims to have:

“prioritized enforcement against dangerous aliens who pose a threat to national security and public safety, but Arizona’s indiscriminate approach will stand in the way of the federal government’s focused efforts to get the most dangerous aliens off the streets.”

Yeah, yeah.  It’s apparently true that stepped-up federal enforcement has helped keep the vicious drug wars on the Mexican border from creeping over to the Arizona side.  But that hasn’t stopped crime in general from moving inward.  Consider Bill O’Reilly’s report that 1100 illegal immigrants are currently locked up in Maricopa County (Phoenix area) jails charged with violent crimes – fully 15 percent of their prison population – along with continued reports of kidnapping in the area.

Moreover, providing a pass to non-violent illegals may make the Department of Homeland Security’s job easier.  But how is it working out for Arizona and similarly situated states (especially California) currently buried under the billions of costs from health care, education and welfare for illegals?  Exactly.

In fact, the administration’s biggest fear appears to be that more states are fixing to follow Arizona’s lead:

“The Supremacy Clause protects the federal system against the chaos that would result were states and localities across the country allowed to fashion their own immigration schemes … and subject the federal government to the demands of multiple enforcement priorities.”

What if more states were to insist that we carry out our responsibilities?  The horror!

The truth is, I favor a well-designed guest worker program to relieve some of the pressure on states – not to mention smoke out employers exploiting immigrants and domestic workers.  Yet to earn that opportunity, the federal government needs to build confidence in its ability to control the borders.

The administration won’t earn that trust with its insistence that:

“(i)mplementation of the law will damage the United States’ ability to speak with a single and authoritative voice to foreign governments on immigration matters and is already having negative effects on long-standing and vital international relationships.”

The brief bemoans joint initiatives ground to a halt by Mexican authorities and President Felipe Calderon’s lecture to a Joint Session of Congress (which came on the heels of an anti-Arizona pep rally with President Obama).

Funny, though – the Justice Department fails to mention the sizzling standup by Assistant Secretary of State Michael Posner, who in May informed reporters he had brought up the Arizona bill in discussions with those paragons of human rights and open borders, the Chinese, “early and often … as a troubling trend in our society.”
Clearly, the denizens of Justice aren’t the only ones with a taste for farce.  Unfortunately for them – and Democrats in Congress facing the voters this fall – the 64 percent of Americans who favor the Arizona law don’t appear to be in on the joke.

Bob Maistros was the chief writer for the Reagan-Bush ’84 campaign, a former Senate subcommittee counsel and a longtime public relations advisor for companies ranging from AOL to MTV to XM Satellite Radio. He now offers biting satire based on insights gathered at the front lines of headline-making corporate crises, political contests and the culture wars.