Today, the Supreme Court released their decision on the Arizona Illegal Immigration law. The part of the law that got the most press was the provision where Arizona police could request immigration documents in the course of "legal contact" (traffic stops, mainly, but also criminal investigations and such) and all departments were required to request immigration information before allowing any arrested person for whom there was cause to believe they were in the country illegally. Other provisions, though, specified exactly what the police were supposed to do if they did, indeed, find an illegal alien.
Per the Supreme Court decision, all the enforcement provisions were "preceded" by current Federal Provisions. The documentation check provision was left in place, pending some future challenge. So, the police in Arizona can check your immigration status, but if you're an illegal alien, they can't actually do anything about it.
I'm not going to discuss whether the decision was right or wrong Constitutionally. I tend to think it's right, on paper, but wrong based on facts on the ground. What I want to look at, though, is why it was necessary in the first place.
It is simply true that border states have bigger trouble with illegal immigration than non-border states. This is especially true along the southern border, meaning Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California. These illegal aliens often really are just looking for opportunity, but any job they take is one that could have been filled by a legal resident. Any housing they occupy, any medical or other social service they receive drains resources that could have been used by a legal resident. Whatever your "empathy" for illegals, you have to see that allowing them in is detrimental to those who play by the rules.
Additionally, many of these illegals are criminals. Well, they're all criminals; that's what "illegal" means. But, more specifically, these are criminals in the sense of committing other active crimes- robbery, murder, kidnapping, smuggling, slavery, and so forth. These people are not only here illegally, but they are actively preying on others here and most of their victims are legally here.
All of this is to say that our Federal Government has a responsibility to control the border as much as possible, and to punish those who violate it. Even the best behaved illegal alien is drawing from a limited pool of resources which would be better spent on legal residents. For the Federal Government to do nothing, or, worse, to grant amnesty and a "path to citizenship" is a betrayal of that responsibility, and a blow against those who would follow the law. It encourages illegals while discouraging legal immigration.
The States are writing laws, like the one in Arizona, because the Federal Government has decided to do nothing. This is real harm from which citizens and resident aliens deserve protection, and the Federal Government is not protecting them as it should. States like Arizona and Texas believe they have little or no choice; they must do something because someone has to, and the Federal Government isn't.
It is my hope that Arizona will go back to the drawing-board and find a way to re-write the enforcement provisions of their law to pass Supreme Court muster. Until then, I guess they'll have to be satisfied with issuing the illegals in their state Strongly Worded Letters.