The Justice Department is preparing a lawsuit against Arizona’s controversial immigration law, likely to be filed next week. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told a South American interviewer last week that the Obama administration opposes the law because “the federal government should be determining immigration policy.” The idea that the administration seeks to uphold federal sovereignty in matters pertaining to immigration is hard to swallow.
U.S. law prohibits public universities from providing in-state tuition rates for illegal immigrant students, yet ten states currently allow undocumented students to pay in-state tuition. Numerous “sanctuary cities” deliberately subvert federal immigration policy by preventing local law enforcement and other officials from inquiring as to the immigration status of residents. Some have gone even further by providing undocumented immigrants with local forms of identification.
President Obama immediately voiced opposition to the Arizona law, which enforces federal law at the state level, but has made no rhetorical or legal challenge to state laws that work against federal immigration policy. Such pro-illegal immigrant practices existed well before January 2009, but Obama did not campaign on the need to abolish them for the sake of restoring immigration policy to the federal domain. In fact, when asked in a presidential debate whether he would “allow [sanctuary] cities to ignore the federal law regarding the reporting of illegal immigrants,” he refused to condemn sanctuary cities, commenting only briefly on the need for “comprehensive immigration reform.”
The notion that immigration policy should be handled at the federal level is a legitimate one, but it is difficult for the Obama administration to oppose Arizona’s law on these grounds since it has not lifted a finger in opposition to state-level policies that favor illegal immigrants. A different agenda is at work here.
Peyton R. Miller is the editor of the Harvard Salient and a Student Free Press Association Intern at THE WEEKLY STANDARD.