You might remember the very controversial legislation against unauthorized aliens in Arizona. Arizona Governor Jan Brewer was launched into the spotlight when she signed this bill. The ruling of the 9th Circuit is important because it points to the exclusive control of the federal government of immigration.
In Valle Del Sol v. Whiting., No. 12-17152 (9th Cir. Oct. 8, 2013), the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that S.B. 1070 was void because it is vague and incomprehensible to a person of ordinary intelligence; and (2) it is preempted by federal law.
Setting aside the vagueness and incomprehensible nature of the law, the Court explained preemption. The 9th Circuit focused on three main arguments: (1) federal government’s exclusive control over immigration policy; and (2) how Arizona’s law conflicted with federal’s laws.
The 9th Circuit first commented on why the federal government has this control.
Federal control over immigration policy is integral to the federal government’s ability to manage foreign relations:
“Immigration policy can affect trade, investment, tourism, and diplomatic relations for the entire Nation, as well as the perceptions and expectations of aliens in this country who seek the full protection of its laws. Perceived mistreatment of aliens in the United States may lead to harmful reciprocal treatment of American citizens abroad.
It is fundamental that foreign countries concerned about the status, safety, and security of their nationals in the United States must be able to confer and communicate on this subject with one national sovereign, not the 50 separate States.”
Then, the Court explained why the federal government has exclusive control over immigration and not the states. The Court stated:
Congress did not, however, grant states the authority to prosecute [section] 1324 violations, but instead vested that power exclusively in the federal authorities. Thus, “the inference from these enactments is that the role of the states is limited to arrest for violations of federal law.”
Lastly, the 9th Circuit pointed to the conflict of laws of Arizona and federal statutes as follows:
- First, Arizona’s statute provided “additional and different state penalties.”
- Second, Arizona “conferred upon its prosecutors the ability to prosecute those who transport or harbor unauthorized aliens in a manner unaligned with federal immigration priorities.”
- Third, Arizona “criminaliz[ed] conduct not covered by the federal harboring provision.” Arizona also “criminalizes encouraging or inducing an alien to come to or reside in Arizona.”
As a side note, if you are interested in standing and organizational standing, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals discussed the standard and explained how plaintiffs had standing.