The purpose of Arizona Bill SB 1070 was to provide a disincentive for unlawful aliens to remain in Arizona, and to increase the processes which identify unlawful aliens so that they can be dealt with by federal authorities. While immigration is a federal jurisdiction, many states have become frustrated with federal enforcement efforts, particular those states which share a border with Mexico. While federal law requires non-Americans over the age of 14 to register with the federal government after spending thirty days in the country and to keep documents on their person to indicate this, Arizona Bill SB 1070 added additional requirements, making the failure to adhere to the federal law a state misdemeanor (Arizona State Senate 2014). It is further a state crime for law enforcement officer of the state and subdivisions to obstruct any investigation or inquiry regarding the immigration status of an individual (Ibid).
Further crimes include hiring, transporting, harboring or concealing an unlawful alien or soliciting work and an unlawful alien (Arizona State Senate 2014). The most controversial provisions have been those that are alleged to be contravention of rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.As a result of concerns and protests, the Arizona SB 1070 Act resulted in constitutional challenges with regard to breach of civil rights. In July 2010, one day before the law was to take effect, a federal court upheld an injunction against those parts of the new law that were not in compliance with the U.S. Constitution. The injunction had been filed by the federal Justice Department. The main argument was that it was an intrusion by state law enforcement into a matter that was purely federal jurisdiction and enforcement. The injunction was a temporary measure as the court action unfolded. Those parts of the law which the injunction applied to included requiring an immigration status check for individuals stopped in the course of other police business, arrests without a warrant of persons under suspicion of being an unlawful immigrant, and criminalization of a failure to carry documents proving status for registered aliens (Ibid.).
Like the Arizona Law, New Jersey Attorney General Directive 2007-3 has similar provisions with regard to confirming the immigration status of those suspects of crimes. Both the Arizona law and the New Jersey directive provide for the primacy of federal law with regard to jurisdiction of immigration offences. The main difference is the legal vehicle which was used, a directive versus an actual statute. A further difference is that while in New Jersey the law enforcement officer merely inquires, whereas in Arizona the law enforcement officer had a legal right and requirement to confirm the immigration status of the individual stopped in the course of other law enforcement duties. It is easy to understand why the requirements in the New Jersey directive differ from the Arizona law, given that the entry point and number of illegal aliens has a very different profile. Arizona shares a border with Mexico, and many of the unlawful aliens are perceived to arrive from across the Mexican border. By contrast, immigrants and foreigners and New Jersey may come from any number of countries. It should be noted that the differences are not at the cause of the injunction, as the New Jersey directive was passed three years prior to the Arizona Bill SB 1070.
There are an estimated 12 million unlawful aliens in the United States (Markon & McCrummen 2010). For those states that are most affected, many in the population believe that immigration breaches are the cause of decreased jobs for Americans and increased crime, among other things. Further, they feel that the federal government has not been taking required effort to control unlawful immigration. It is for this reason that many states are considering similar laws, despite the controversy which has surrounded state actions against unlawful immigration.
- Arizona State Senate. (2010). FACT SHEET FOR S.B. 1070. Forty-ninth Legislature, Second Regular Session.
- Markon, J. & McCrummen, S. (2010). ‘Arizona immigration law SB 1070 – Judge blocks some sections’, July 29. Washington Post.
- Milgram, A. (2007). Attorney General. Law Enforcement Directive No. 2007 -3. State of New Jersey, Office of the Attorney General.