Home > Uncategorized > Immigration Law Suits Benefit Attorneys But Few Others

Immigration Law Suits Benefit Attorneys But Few Others

I was reading reactions to the Arizona immigration law being shorted with a temporary injunction and the snowballing impact it has on similar legal efforts by other states and municipalities.
What struck me was the legal costs these states and cities must drain on their public treasuries. No dollar figures here. But the fight to take matters into their own hands with their own peculiar ways of addressing the problem as they see it is costing them as much money as the financial burden of providing illegal immigrants with public services. That’s probably a stretch but consider the plight of Fremont, Neb.:

In a special election last month, voters approved an ordinance barring illegal immigrants from renting a home and requiring employers to verify the legal residency of anyone they hire.

That ordinance was also supposed to go into effect Thursday. But it was suspended Tuesday in the latest step on a legal journey every bit as convoluted as the road to implementation in Arizona.

The trail began twisting in 2008, when the Fremont City Council narrowly rejected the measure. That prompted activists to launch a petition drive for a special election, which the state Supreme Court ordered over the objections of city officials. Ordinance 5165 — which city officials argued would unconstitutionally pre-empt federal immigration law — passed with 57% of the vote. But within weeks, it was met with lawsuits filed by the ACLU and Mexican American Legal Defense Fund.

As Thursday’s implementation date drew near, Fremont officials warned that the measure could be ruinously expensive, estimating that simultaneously implementing it and defending it in court could cost the town of 26,000 as much as $1 million.That landed the issue on the City Council’s agenda yet again.

Tuesday night, the council voted unanimously to suspend the ordinance, citing the pending legal challenges and the cost of defending them.

The tortured history of the ordinance has deeply divided the people of Fremont.

“I’m so disappointed that a law like this could have passed here,” said Mario Martinez, a Mexican American who lives in Fremont with his wife and young child. “I always thought in this day and age laws are meant to prevent discrimination, not encourage it.”

But Larry Gitt, who has run an electrical company in Fremont for 30 years, said the ordinance was about upholding the law, not targeting Latinos.

“Everybody I talk to has no problem with legal immigration,” Gitt said. “I don’t see why people can’t interpret where illegal is illegal.”

The msnbc.com reported the extent of anti-illegal immigration laws:

During the first half of 2010, lawmakers in all 50 states introduced 1,374 bills and resolutions seeking in some way to restrict or eliminate illegal immigration, according to data compiled by the National Conference of State Legislatures. Lawmakers passed 319 of them, in 44 states. (Five of those were vetoed.)At that rate, states would approve nearly 650 immigration measures over the full year — nearly double the 353 approved last year and a 17-fold increase since 2005, when just 38 such measures passed, the conference said.

The legislatures in at least five states — Michigan, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and South Carolina — are considering full statewide crackdowns modeled on the Arizona law, and lawmakers in at least 18 other states have said they are preparing similar bills. Most of the new laws are more limited, applying restrictions like employment verification and requirements for drivers licenses.

That’s just at the state level. Hundreds of local communities have passed or are considering measures like Fremont’s.

Just a  guess on my part but appears the only segment of society gaining anything of value in this debate are the litigating attorneys.

One of the complaints I hear regularly from readers is that the federal government does not take action against “sanctuary cities.”

The website Ohio Jobs & Justice PAC: Sanctuary Cities, USA, defines these generally as policies:

“(i)nstructing city employees not to notify the federal government of the presence of illegal aliens living in their communities. The policies also end the distinction between legal and illegal immigration–so illegal aliens often benefit from city services.”

It also claims a 1996 federal law, the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act, “requires local governments to cooperate” with Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

This means nothing but I read the amended law and could find no such reference. If there is, there are no sanctions or penalties against sanctuary cities. I think that argument is a ruse. I could be wrong.

The website listed the cities in each state documented as “sanctuary cities.” Among the Mexican border states, California had 30, Arizona 4, New Mexico 4, and Texas 13. in each case, the largest cities were sanctuary havens and the smaller ones were high in Hispanic population. Sanctuary cities in other states were enacted for humanitarian reasons in many cases.

My conclusion is the larger cities have greater priorities in fighting crime than reporting those illegal immigrants involved in minor offenses they stumble across to ICE. With a few isolated cases in San Francisco involving Hispanic gangs, most illegals involved in felonies are reported by law to the feds by the big city cops.

The conflict posed by sanctuary cities on one side and the Arizona law on the other puts local law enforcement officers in a legal pincher movement between upholding oaths of ethical training standards and state and local laws. One of the plaintiffs in the Arizona suit made such an argument.

Here is a sample of the flurry of lawsuits as reported in the msnbc.com report:

Arizona: A new law imposes citizenship requirements for tuition loans and teaching degrees.

Indiana: A new provision of the state code requires proof of legal residence to obtain a driver licenses.

Iowa: As part of an occupational safety law, the Legislature requires every person, firm or corporation employing migrant laborers to keep on file a work permit for migrant laborers prior to their employment.

Kansas: A new law makes it illegal to knowingly employ an illegal immigrant.

Massachusetts: A new law bars illegal immigrants from receiving state benefits.

Minnesota: As part of a mental health care law, the Legislature declared undocumented noncitizens and immigrants ineligible for general assistance medical care.

Mississippi: A new law bars illegal immigrants from receiving state unemployment benefits.

New York: A new law requires that college students must be U.S. citizens to receive certain scholarships and financial aid packages.

Oklahoma: A new law requires any illegal immigrant to submit to DNA testing for law enforcement identification purposes upon arrest.

South Carolina: A new law restricts illegal immigrants from receiving state higher education assistance.

Tennessee: A new law requires county jails to report illegal immigrants in their custody to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Virginia: A new law prohibits state funds from being spent on legal services for illegal immigrants.

Washington: A new law requires that people receiving disability benefits be legal residents of the United States.

The result:

(T)he Center for Public Policy Studies, a nonpartisan research institute at California State University-Stanislaus, projected in a report on state immigration measures last year that the increasing number of state and local laws — and the lack of clear guidance from the federal government — could lead to an explosion of lawsuits that would put a measurable strain on court caseloads.

“The complicated nexus of federal, state and local immigration law, policy and practice is likely to lead to numerous unanticipated consequences for local trial court operations and policy,” the authors concluded.

But the prevailing opinion of lawmakers remains:

To Walter Bailey, a member of the Summerville, S.C., Town Council, the lack of a clear nationwide immigration policy is precisely why local governments should wade in, not hold off. Bailey has introduced a measure closely mirroring the Fremont ordinance because, he said, “I don’t think the federal government or the state is doing anything at all to control illegal immigration.”

As I have said repeatedly, the priorities of states and the federal government are not on the same page and 100% enforcement in the interior and at the border is impossible.

It’s not that the Obama administration is not enforcing existing immigration laws. They are in whopping numbers. The Washington Post:

The Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency expects to deport about 400,000 people this fiscal year, nearly 10% above the Bush administration’s 2008 total and 25% more than were deported in 2007. The pace of company audits has roughly quadrupled since President George W. Bush’s final year in office.

Rhetoric, politics and the race card dominates this debate. That’s unfortunate. A reading of the 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act convinces me there is adequate legislation on the books. We don’t need new laws. Money and priorities prevent us from enforcing those we do have.

Comprehensive immigration reform is a joke. The only issue not already addressed in law is what to do with the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants now residing in the country. That’s where the policy debate should focus.

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