The debate over Arizona's SB 1070 is usually framed in terms of whether or not the States have the right to enforce US immigration policy.
But the question is really whether the federal government has the right and responsibility to enforce its own immigration laws—or whether it should defer to foreign governments, including Third World socialist dictators.
The Obama Administration's answer: foreign opinion comes first. This becomes abundantly clear when you look at the Obama administration's deference to foreign governments revealed in its legal arguments in the current litigation.
Needless to say, these governments have not been shy about meddling in an internal U.S. matter. Thus the government of Mexico expressed unusual interest in the debate over federalism and the separation of powers in the United States when it issued an amicus curiae brief [PDF] against SB 1070.
The Mexican brief opens by quoting Hines v. Davidowitz to the effect that "The Federal Government, representing as it does the collective interests of the [fifty] states, is entrusted with full and exclusive responsibility for the conduct of affairs with foreign sovereignties."
The brief argues: "Arizona's unilateral action burdens Mexico enormously by forcing its officials and citizens to respond to divergent requirements imposed by the different divisions of the U.S. government."
After the reciting the usual complaints that SB 1070 will lead to "racial profiling" and in turn "Promotion of Negative, Ill-Conceived Stereotypes" of Mexicans, it gets to the Mexican government's real objection: "SB 1070 Derails Efforts Towards Comprehensive Immigration Reform."
Of course, this is typically hypocritical. Right now, the Mexican government purports to be in full support of Washington's authority to enforce our immigration laws (or to be more specific, not enforce them). But just a few years ago, Mexican President Felipe Calderon expressed opposition to any "unilateral" action (in its own internal affairs!) by the U.S. federal government.
When the Bush Administration took a few baby steps forward towards enforcement in 2007, Calderon railed:
"In the name of the government of Mexico, I again issue an energetic protest against the unilateral measures taken by the Congress and the United States government that exacerbate the persecution and the vexing treatment against undocumented Mexican workers."
[Mexican President Assails U.S. Measures on Migrants, By James C. McKinley Jr., New York Times, September 3, 2007]
He went on:
"I have said that Mexico does not stop at its border, that wherever there is a Mexican, there is Mexico. And, for this reason, the government action on behalf of our countrymen is guided by principles, for the defense and protection of their rights." [Mexican President Assails U.S. Measures on Migrants, James C. McKinley Jr., New York Times, September 3, 2007]
You can bet all your pesos that Calderon would become much more upset at the U.S. government if it actually enforced its laws than he now is at Arizona.
Amicus curiae literally means "friend of the court." Unless the brief is filed by the US or state government, A U.S. court has no obligation to accept it. Given the Mexican government's hostility to America's rule of law, Arizona District Court Judge Susan Bolton should have rejected the Mexican government's brief.
But, needless to say, she accepted it before issuing her notorious injunction blocking SB 1070.
Mexico's opinion clearly influenced the Obama administration's decision to sue Arizona.
The Obama Justice Department's complaint explicitly cited Mexico's concerns, stating that SB 1070 will "interfere with vital foreign policy and national security interests by disrupting the United States' relationship with Mexico and other countries." [Justice Department sues over Arizona immigration law, Josh Gerstein, Politico, July 7, 2010]
Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg's amicus curie against Arizona on behalf of the State Department also cited Mexican concerns:
"S.B. 1070 thereby undermines the diverse immigration administration and enforcement tools made available to federal authorities, and establishes a distinct state-specific immigration policy, driven by an individual state's own policy choices, which risks significant harassment of foreign nationals, is insensitive to U.S. foreign affairs priorities, and has the potential to harm a wide range of delicate U.S. foreign relations interests."[U.S. v. Arizona - Exh 1 to Motion for Preliminary Injunction - Affidavit of James Steinberg, (PDF)]
This State Department brief cites opinion polls of Mexicans opposing the law—but it does not seem to be at all concerned that polls show that Arizonans and Americans are overwhelmingly in favor of SB 1070.
According to State's Steinberg, SB 1070, "necessarily antagonizes foreign governments and their populations, both at home and in the U.S., likely making them less willing to negotiate, cooperate with, or support the United States across a broad range of important foreign policy issues."
Additionally it "has provoked broad-based criticism and concern among U.S. allies in the Western Hemisphere, by human rights experts, and in numerous intergovernmental forums. Nor can such criticism be readily dismissed."
As to be expected, Steinberg's brief cites the concerns of Felipe Calderon and the United Nations. But even more outrageously, it also lists Bolivia's Evo Morales, and a joint statement by Bolivia, Venezuela, and other South American countries, "claiming it could lead to the legitimization of racist attitudes and the latent risk of violence."
Morales, it should be remembered, praised protestors who threatened to burn down the US Embassy and then kicked out the US Ambassador less than two years ago.
This is to say nothing of Chavez who has completely cut off ties with America, calling it "the greatest terrorist in world history" and predicting that "Yankee empire will fall. It's already falling, It will disappear from the face of the earth." [Hugo Chavez kicks off Russia visit with emotional speech at a Moscow University, Russia Today, September 10, 2009]
Do these leaders sound like people sound like our "allies" who would be willing in any circumstance to (as Steinberg puts it) "negotiate with or cooperate with" the United States?
Obviously, the United States should not go out of its way to antagonize foreign governments. But, even more obviously, the rantings of anti-American dictators should not affect our immigration policy.
If the Obama administration's attack on Arizona tells us anything, it is that our president is more in tune with and concerned about Third World socialist dictators than he is about his own constituents.
"Washington Watcher" [email him] is an anonymous source Inside The Beltway.