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THEY STILL HAVE THEIR DREAM: LAWSUIT AGAINST DREAMERS WILL GO NOWHERE

By Gary Endelman and Cyrus D. Mehta

“The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends towards justice.” Dr. Martin Luther King
As if the non-recognition by the governors of Arizona, Nebraska, Texas and Mississippi of Obama’s Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program was not enough, a lawsuit filed by disgruntled ICE agents further reveals the misguided hate against a most vulnerable and sympathetic immigrant population in the US – young  people who entered the US before they turned 16, and who are not in a lawful status through no fault of their own.

The lawsuit, Crane v. Napolitano, has been filed by 10 ICE agents in a federal court in Texas who are being represented by Kris Kobach – the architect of the anti-immigrant state laws of Arizona and Alabama. It is being bank rolled by NumbersUSA, an anti-immigrant organization, which has been called a hate group. Even the head of the AFL-CIO has slammed the plaintiffs as not representing legitimate union grievances (as 9 out of the 10 plaintiffs belong to the ICE Union) but as “working with some of the most anti-immigrant forces in the country, forces that have long sowed division and destruction.”

The lawsuit alleges that the recent prosecutorial discretion policies enunciated in the Memo by ICE Director John Morton  and DACA command ICE officers to violate federal law. In essence, ICE officers, according to plaintiffs,  are required to remove non-citizens who are not here legally while DACA prohibits an officer from doing just that, which among other things, requires the individual to have entered the US under the age of 16;  been continuously residing in the US from June 15, 2007 until June 15, 2012, and was present on June 15, 2012;  is currently in school, has graduated from high school or obtained a GED or has been honorably discharged from the Armed Forces or the Coast Guard;  and is not above the age of 30. Also, the qualified individual should not have been convicted of a felony offense, a significant misdemeanor offense, or multiple misdemeanor offenses, and does not otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety.

The lawsuit invokes provisions from the 1996 Immigration Act. The complaint alleges as follows:  “8 U.S.C. § 1225(a)(1) [INA § 235(a)(1)] requires that “an alien present in the United States who has not been admitted…shall be deemed for purposes of this chapter an applicant for admission.” This designation triggers 8 U.S.C. § 1225(a)(3) [INA § 235(a)(3)] which requires that all applicants for admission “shall be inspected by immigration officers.” This in turn triggers 8 U.S.C. § 1225(b)(2)(A)  [INA § 235(b)(2)(A)] which mandates that “if the examining immigration officer determines that an alien seeking admission is not clearly and beyond a doubt entitled to be admitted, the alien shall be detained for a proceeding under section 1229a of this title.” The proceedings under 8 U.S.C. § 1229a [INA § 240] are removal proceedings in the United States immigration courts.”

Deferred action is neither recent nor radical. Widows of US citizens have been granted this benefit. Battered immigrants  have also known its sheltering arms.  Never has the size of a vulnerable population been a valid reason to say no. Knowing this, the extension of such relief to DACA applicants is less a leap into the unknown justified by some wild, lawless ideology than a sober reaffirmation of an existing tool for remediation in prior emergencies. Moreover, many EWIs are also eligible for adjustment of status under special provisions of the law, but they are not routinely detained under INA § 235(b)(2)(A).  While they may be entitled to admission beyond a clear doubt, such a determination is not been made upon the mere filing of the adjustment application. Moreover, this argument is clearly not applicable to individuals who enter the US on a valid visa and overstay, which is the case with many DACA applicants.

Also, Kobach’s lawsuit conveniently omits to mention INA § 103(a)(1), which charges the DHS Secretary with the administration and enforcement of the Act, which in turn implies that the DHS can decide when to and when not to remove an alien. He also fails to mention INA 274A(h)(3)(B), which excludes from the definition of “unauthorized alien” any alien “authorized to be so employed . . . by the Attorney General.” After all, 8 CFR 274a.12(c)(14),  which authorizes the grant of employment authorization to one who has been granted deferred action, has been around for several decades. The only new thing about DACA is that the guidance memorandum set forth criteria for the grant of deferred action, and work authorization under 8 CFR 274a.12(c)(14).Congress too has recognized “deferred action” in § 202(c)(2)(B)(viii) of the REAL ID Act as a status,  which can allow an alien to receive a driver’s license.  This stands in marked contrast to the stated refusal of the Republican gubernatorial quartet noted supra to allow issuance of state driver’s licenses. Texas Governor Perry apparently does not realize that current Texas law already allows deferred action beneficiaries who have an employment authorization document to get a one-year Texas license.

There is a direct conflict between these Governors and the provisions of the Real ID act that, as of January 1, 2013, will sanction issuance of state driver’s license to deferred action grantees, This has been brought out vividly in Nightmare in Arizona: Governor Brewer’s Nonsensical And Mean-Spirited Executive Order Against Dreamers, and is a classic example of conflict pre-emption that is constitutionally impermissible under Arizona v. United States, 132 S. Ct. 2492, 183  L.Ed.2d  351 (2012). Whatever state executives may think, when confronted with the expressed intent of Congress in the Real ID Act, their opposition to deferred action having state driver’s licenses must give way. State law cannot “stand as an obstacle to the accomplishment and execution of the full purposes and objectives of Congress.” Hines v. Davidowitz,  312 U.S. 52, 67 (1941). We suggest that the enemies of Dream Act relief tread softly and with great care. Gary Endelman & Cynthia Lange, The Perils of Preemption: Immigration and the Federalist Paradox, 13 Bender’s Immigr. Bull. 1217 (Oct. 1, 2008).

We refer our readers to the excellent Immigration Impact blog on why Kobach and the plaintiffs will likely lose. One compelling argument that the blog makes is that the court will dismiss for lack of jurisdiction since a federal case cannot be made out of a difference of opinion between government employees and their superiors. The blog’s author Ben Winograd draws this apt analogy: “ICE agents hauling the head of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) into court is like a law clerk suing a judge for writing a decision with which she disagrees—or Kobach’s own subordinates in Kansas seeking an injunction requiring him to perform his actual job as Kansas Secretary of State. It’s just not how the legal system works.”

We propose further suggestions why the law suit may have no merit. We now revive the argument that we made in The Tyranny of Priority Dates that the courts will most likely give deference to the administration’s interpretation of INA provisions in the event that it grants benefits, such as work authorization, through executive action. Indeed, in the recent past, another restrictionist group filed a similar law suit against an administrative measure, which failed. In Programmers Guild v. Chertoff,  08-cv-2666 (D.N.J. 2008), the Programmers Guild sued DHS challenging the regulation extending Optional Practical Training from 12 months to 29 months for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) students. The plaintiffs in seeking a preliminary injunction argued that DHS had invented its own guest worker program without Congressional authorization. The court dismissed the suit for injunction on the ground that DHS was entitled to deference under Chevron USA, Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc. 467 U.S. 837 (1984). Under the oft quoted Chevron doctrine, courts will pay deference to the regulatory interpretation of the agency charged with executing the laws of the United States when there is ambiguity in the statute. The courts will step in only when the agency’s interpretation is irrational or in error. Similarly, the Supreme Court in Nat’l Cable & Telecomm. Ass’n v. Brand X Internet Servs., 545 U.S. 967 (2005), while affirming Chevron, held that if there is an ambiguous statute requiring agency deference under Chevron,  the agency’s interpretation will also trump a judicial decision interpreting the same statute. The court in dismissing the Programmers Guild lawsuit discussed the rulings in Chevron and Brand X to uphold the DHS’s ability to extend the student F-1 OPT regulation. Programmers Guild appealed and the Third Circuit also dismissed the lawsuit based on the fact that the Plaintiffs did not have standing. Programmers Guild, Inc. v. Chertoff,  338 Fed. Appx. 239 (3rd Cir. 2009), petition for cert. filed, (U.S. Nov. 13, 2009) (No. 09-590). While the Third Circuit did not address Chevron or Brand X – there was no need to – it interestingly cited Lorillard v. Pons, 434 U.S. 575, 580 (1978), which held that Congress is presumed to be aware of an administrative interpretation of a statute and to adopt that interpretation when it reenacts its statutes without change. Here, the F-1 practical training regulation was devoid of any reference to the displacement of domestic labor, and Congress chose not to enact any such reference, which is why the Programmers Guild lacked standing.

In the ICE agents’ case against DACA, the same arguments can be forcefully made. In the event that the court finds jurisdiction, a similar argument can be made that the DHS be given deference in interpreting INA § 103(a)(1), which would allow the DHS Secretary to set forth policies regarding the exercise of prosecutorial discretion as in the Morton Memo and under DACA. Surely, the “body of experience” and the “informed judgment” that DHS brings to the Dream Act provide its interpretations with  “ the power to persuade.” Skidmore  v. Swift  & Co., 323 U.S. 134, 140 (1944). As Justice Elena Kagan famously noted when she served as the Dean of the Harvard Law School, the increasingly vigorous resort to federal regulation as a tool for policy transformation by all Presidents since Ronald Reagan has made “the regulatory activities of the executive branch agencies more and more an extension of the President’s own policy and political agenda.” Elena Kagan, Presidential Administration, 114 Harv. L. Rev. 2245, 2246 (2001).  Kobach and his clients might profitably peruse Randolph J. May, Defining Deference Down: Independent Agencies and Chevron Deference, 58 Admin. L. Rev. 429 (2006) if they really want to know why they are wrong.  Writing for the Brand X majority, Justice Thomas noted that, in Chevron itself, the Supreme Court deferred to the reversal by the Reagan EPA in 1981 as to the meaning of “statutory source” in the 1977 Clean Air Act amendments. Id. at 440, n. 66.   If  Kobach does not know if the DHS has the power to act, or what the constitutional wellsprings of the DACA memoranda are, we suggest that the Supreme Court does. The very notion of Chevron-deference is “premised on the theory that a statute’s ambiguity constitutes an implicit delegation from Congress to the agency to fill in the statutory gap.” FDA v. Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp., 529 US 120, 159 (2000).  That is precisely what the DHS has done. Moreover, INA § 274A(h)(3)(B) provides authority to the Executive Branch to grant employment authorization  to whomever it wants. Deferred action has also been around for decades, and Congress has been aware of this administrative benefit, which it recognized when enacting the Real ID Act. Until now, Chevron, and Brand X in particular, have been feared by the immigration bar and immigration advocates for its negative potential as a legitimization of government repression. Yet, it has a positive potential by enabling the Executive to expand individual rights and grant benefits sua sponte. We do not need to live in fear of Brand X. We can make it our own – at least in this law suit challenging DACA.

It is also worth mentioning that while the lawsuit may argue that there is no express Congressional authorization for the Obama Administration to implement such measures, the President may act within a “twilight zone” in which he may have concurrent authority with Congress. See Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer, 343 U.S. 579, 635 (1952) (Jackson, J., concurring). Unlike Youngstown Sheet and Tube Co. v. Sawyer, where the Supreme Court held that the President could not seize a steel mill to resolve a labor dispute without Congressional authorization, the Administration under through the Morton Memo and DACA is well acting within Congressional authorization. In his famous concurring opinion, Justice Jackson reminded us that, however meritorious, separation of powers itself was not without limit: “While the Constitution diffuses power the better to secure liberty, it also contemplates that practice will integrate the dispersed powers into a workable government. It enjoins upon its branches separateness but interdependence, autonomy but reciprocity.” Id. at 635. Nativist lawyers look in vain for explicit authority in the INA that supports DACA relief. They can stop searching:

Congress …may not have expressly delegated authority to…fill a particular gap. Yet,it can still be apparent from the agency’s generally conferred authority that Congress will expect the agency to speak with the force of law when it addresses ambiguity in the statute…even one about which Congress did not actually have an intent as to a particular result.   United States v. Mead, 533 U.S. 218, 229(2001)

Finally, one cannot separate the vitriol against DREAMers in states like Arizona and the law suit challenging DACA. They emanate from the same xenophobia against immigrants without being able to see that the deserving beneficiaries of DACA are out of status for no fault of their own, and even if one pinpoints the blame on their parents, the reason for such a huge undocumented population is because of a broken immigration system that does not provide sufficient avenues to legalize oneself. This law suit challenging DACA, along with the opposition to DACA by the Arizona and other states, essentially challenges the federal government’s authority to exercise prosecutorial discretion. We think this is a losing proposition. In the Arizona v. USA decision, the Supreme Court acknowledged the federal government’s role in exercising prosecutorial discretion, where Justice Kennedy writing for the majority in that decision noted, “A principal feature of the removal system is the broad discretion exercised by immigration officials…Federal officials as an initial matter, must decide whether it makes sense to pursue removal at all.”  Kobach wants the Dreamers kicked out; neither he nor his ICE agents get to make that call; it is up to DHS to decide when, or whether, to initiate such an enforcement campaign.  Heckler v. Chaney, 470 U.S. 821, 835 (1985).  The reason is not hard to figure out;   inherent in the exercise of discretion is the bedrock truth that there is simply “no law to apply.” Citizens to Preserve Overton Park v. Volpe, 401 U.S. 402, 410(1971). The good sense and fundamental decency of the American people, guided by the continuing truth of the Constitution, will have to make due. It has served us pretty well so far.

Dreaming in Arizona: Can Prosecutorial Discretion Co-Exist With Show Me Your Papers?

By Gary Endelman and Cyrus D. Mehta

In our blog, From Madison to Morton: Can Prosecutorial Discretion Trump State Action In USA v. Arizona?, we speculated whether the federal government’s ability to decide not to remove certain non-citizens from the US would be its trump card in Arizona v. USA, 567 U.S ___ (2012). A few days prior to Arizona v. USA, the Obama administration announced deferred action for young persons via a June 15, 2012 memorandum, which will prevent the deportation of over a million people who fell out of status of no fault of their own while Arizona’s SB 1070 aims at driving away these very people through an attrition policy. These young people who will benefit under administrative deferred action would have otherwise been eligible under the DREAM Act, which narrowly failed to pass Congress in December 2010.

We were almost correct. In a 5-3 ruling (with Justice Kagan recusing), the Supreme Court invalidated most of the provisions of SB 1070 on the grounds that they were preempted by federal law such as criminalizing the failure to carry registration documents (section 3), criminalizing an alien’s ability to apply for or perform work (section 5(c)), and authorizing state officers to arrest a person based on probable cause that he or she has committed a removable offense (section 6). On the other hand, the Supreme Court, 8-0, narrowly upheld section 2(B), the “show me your papers” law,  which requires state officers to make “a reasonable attempt….to determine the immigration status” of any person they stop, detain, or arrest on some other legitimate basis if “reasonable suspicion exists that the person is an alien and is unlawfully present in the United States.” Section 2(B) further provides that “[a]ny person who is arrested shall have the person’s immigration status determined before the person is released.”

Before we analyze the Court’s narrow upholding of section 2(B) and how it would impact the federal government’s prosecutorial discretion policies, the following extract from Justice Kennedy’s majority opinion acknowledging the federal government’s ability to exercise prosecutorial discretion is worth noting:

A principal feature of the removal system is the broad discretion exercised by immigration officials…… Federal officials, as an initial matter, must decide whether it makes sense to pursue removal at all. If removal proceedings commence, aliens may seek asylum and other discretionary relief allowing them to remain in the country or at least to leave without formal removal….

Discretion in the enforcement of immigration law embraces immediate human concerns. Unauthorized workers trying to support their families, for example, likely pose less danger than alien smugglers or aliens who commit a serious crime. The equities of an individual case may turn on many factors, including whether the alien has children born in the United States, long ties to the community, or a record of distinguished military service. Some discretionary decisions involve policy choices that bear on this Nation’s international relations. Returning an alien to his own country may be deemed inappropriate even where he has committed a removable offense or fails to meet the criteria for admission. The foreign state maybe mired in civil war, complicit in political persecution, or enduring conditions that create a real risk that the alien or his family will be harmed upon return. The dynamic nature of relations with other countries requires the Executive Branch to ensure that enforcement policies are consistent with this Nation’s foreign policy with respect to these and other realities.

 Arizona v. USA, supra, Slip Op. at pages 4-5.

It is indeed unfortunate that despite noting the role of the federal government in formulating immigration policy, the Court did not, at least for the moment, invalidate 2(B), which essentially legalizes racial profiling. See US v. Brignoni-Ponce, 422 US 873 (1975) (Mexican ancestry on its own cannot be an articulable fact to stop a person). The Court was obviously mindful of concerns relating to racial profiling, but the case that the United States brought against Arizona is more about whether federal immigration law preempts 2(B) and the other provisions of SB 1070. Both conservative and liberal justices did not think so since 2(B) was not creating a new state immigration law as the other invalidated provisions did. All that 2(B) does is to allow Arizona police officers to determine if someone was unlawfully present in the context of a lawful stop by inquiring about that person’s status with the federal Department of Homeland Security, and such communication and exchange of information has not been foreclosed by Congress.

The question is whether 2(B) will interfere with the federal government’s dramatic new prosecutorial initiative to not deport over a million young undocumented people if they met certain criteria. The June 15 memorandum on deferred action directs the heads of USCIS, CBP and ICE to exercise prosecutorial discretion, and thus grant deferred action, to an individual who came to the United States under the age of 16, has continuously resided in the US for at least 5 years preceding the date of the memorandum and was present in the US on the date of the memorandum, and who is currently in school, or has graduated from school or obtained a general education certificate, or who is an honorably discharged veteran of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States. Moreover, this individual should not be above the age of thirty and should also not have been convicted of a felony offense, a significant misdemeanor offense, multiple misdemeanor offenses, or otherwise poses a threat to national security or public safety. This directive further applies to individuals in removal proceedings as well as those who have already obtained removal orders. The grant of deferred action also allows the non-citizen to apply for employment authorization pursuant to an existing regulation, 8 CFR § 274a(c)(14).

Even though the new deferred action policy has not been implemented, the memorandum instructs ICE and CBP to refrain from placing qualified persons in removal proceedings or from removing them from the US. How does this very explicit instruction to ICE and CBP officials square with Arizona’s section 2(B)?  While Justice Scalia, who fiercely dissented and blasted the Obama administration from the bench, saw no need for preemption of any of Arizona’s provisions based on the federal government’s ability to exercise prosecutorial discretion, the majority, fortunately, were more mindful of this factor. Suppose a young DREAMer who prima facie qualifies under the deferred action program was stopped for jaywalking in Tuscon, and the Arizona police officer had a reasonable suspicion that her presence was unlawful, would it be reasonable for the police officer to detain this person even though she would not ordinarily be detained for the offense of jay walking? Even if the Arizona officer could query ICE about her status, how long would it take for ICE to respond? Moreover, even though she may qualify for the deferred action program, how would ICE be able to tell if there is no record of her application at all? DHS has yet to even create an application process, but it has instructed its officers from immediately refraining placing such persons in removal proceedings or removing them from the US. Even once an application is lodged, it may take weeks or months before the DHS is able to grant deferred action. While this person should not be apprehended by the federal government under its deferred action policy, Arizona could potentially hold her.

But not for long.The majority explicitly held that 2(B) should be read to avoid the hold of a person solely to verify his or her immigration status. The Court noted in connection with the jaywalker hypothetical, “The state courts may conclude that unless the person continues to be suspected of some crime for which he may be detained by state officers, it would not be reasonable to prolong the stop for the immigration inquiry.” Slip Op. at 22 (citation omitted). Even in a case where a person is held in state custody for a non-immigration offense, the Court cautioned that the delay in obtaining verification from the federal government should not be a reason to prolong that person’s detention. The Court also suggested that 2(B) ought to be “read as an instruction to initiate a status check every time someone is arrested…rather than a command to hold the person until the check is complete no matter the circumstances. Slip Op. at 23. This temporal limitation harkens back to the Court’s rationale for justifying warrantless stops by roving patrols in the border regions with Mexico in Brignoni-Ponce:

The intrusion is modest. The Government tells us that a stop by a roving patrol “usually consumes no more than a minute.” Brief for United States 25. There is no search of the vehicle or its occupants, and the visual inspection is limited to those parts of the vehicle that can be seen by anyone standing alongside…(citation omitted) . According to the Government ;”[a]ll that is required of the vehicle’s occupants is a response to a brief question or two and possibly the production of a document evidencing a right to be in the United States.  422 US at 880.

Finally the Court noted that its opinion did not foreclose other preemption and constitutional challenges as the law as interpreted and applied after it goes into effect. This is particularly the case if delay in the release of a detainee flowed from the requirement to check their immigration status. Indeed, it is only if such status verification took place during a routine stop or arrest and could be accomplished quickly and efficiently could a conflict with federal immigration law be avoided.

As for Justice Scalia, who concurred with the majority on 2(B), but also dissented as he would have upheld all of the other provisions, it is ironic that he is willing to have Arizona add to penalties imposed by Congress but not willing to let the President, a co-equal branch whose role in federal immigration policy is certainly less subject to challenge than that of the states, relieve the harsh impact of such penalties for a discretely delineated protected class. It is also ironic that theAdministration is actively moving ahead to find an administrative solution to our broken immigration system by granting DREAM act relief while Arizona seeks to uphold its right to put in place an enforcement mechanism it may not seek to enforce, if only to avoid further constitutional challenge.

It does not require a crystal ball to imagine that 2(B), if enforced,  will cause mayhem for young DREAMers and their ability to remain in the US through further administrative remedies, despite the Court’s narrow upholding of the provision. It will be difficult, if not impossible, for ICE to communicate with certainty to overzealous Arizona officials like Sheriff Joe that a young person who qualifies for the deferred action program is not unlawfully present. In fact, such a person continues to be unlawfully present even though he or she may qualify for deferred action presently, prior to the filing of the application. Moreover, even after an application is filed, it is not clear how long DHS will actually take to grant deferred action and such a person will still remain unlawfully present during the pendency of the application. Although the grant of deferred action stops unlawful presence for purposes of the federal 3-10 year bars to reentry, it is not clear whether the Arizona definition of lawful presence would recognize someone who has an outstanding removal order but who has also been granted deferred action.  This situation, and many others, such as a potential US citizen being detained for being suspected of being unlawfully present, will result in further challenges to 2(B), which hopefully, the next time around, will be successful.

The Court upheld 2(B) because there was no evidence that Arizona was yet enforcing it. Indeed, for all practical purposes, it had yet to go into effect. Given the natural judicial reluctance to fray the bonds of federalist comity, the Supreme Court stayed its hand for now so that state courts could determine whether SB 1070 could be consistently administered within the straitjacket of the Supreme Court’s ruling. So, in this sense, the issue was not ripe for a determination on pre-emption.  When will this change? How many will have to suffer the consequences before the Supreme Court will act? For this reason, knowing what the future will bring, the nation and its liberties would have been better served if 2(B) had been invalidated.   It is hard to imagine how Section 2(B) can survive if and when Arizona tries to make it come alive. Let us not forget that, despite Arizona Governor Brewer’s protestation to the contrary, the real guts of this law, the warrantless arbitrary arrest powers granted by Section 6, did not survive today. The rule of law did. The status check authorized by Section 2(B) can only happen after there is probable cause to believe that a non-immigration law violation has taken place, and they happen very quickly so as not to prolong any stop or detention. For all our concerns, and despite our fondest hopes for a more sweeping victory, the Supreme Court has reaffirmed our oldest national tradition, that here in America, there is still much room to dream- in Arizona and beyond.

Hidden Treasure: How States that Want Immigrants Can Take Advantage of Arizona v. US

By Gary Endelman and Cyrus D. Mehta

Anyone in favor of federal preemption of state immigration laws, especially Arizona’s SB 1070, was disappointed with the way the oral arguments before the Supreme Court justices on April 25, 2012 turned out in Arizona v. US.  It appears that the core provision of SB 1070, Section 2(B), which mandates police officers to determine the immigration status of anyone they stop if they have a “reasonable suspicion” that the person in “unlawfully present in the United States” may be upheld even if other provisions are  preempted. And while it is obvious that this provision would lead to racial profiling, the case that the United States brought against Arizona is more about whether federal immigration law preempts 2(B) and other provisions. Both conservative and liberal justices did not think so since 2(B) was not creating a new state immigration law. All it does is to allow police officers to determine if someone was unlawfully present by inquiring about that person’s status with the federal Department of Homeland Security. Whether this would lead to the incarceration of both citizens and lawfully present non-citizens did not seem to concern the justices as the inquiry regarding immigration status would be made in conjunction with another state offense, such as speeding or driving without a license. Moreover, even without SB 1070, the justices noted that the federal government has allowed state enforcement personnel to do much the same thing, especially through its Secure Communities program or through cooperation in the “investigation, apprehension or detention of aliens in the United States” under INA § 287(g).

The colloquy, below,  between Chief Justice Roberts and Solicitor General Verrilli  during oral argument gives us some insight into why 2(B) is likely to be upheld:

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: Right. So, apart from Section 3 and Section 5, take those off the table, you have no objection to Section 2?

GENERAL VERRILLI: We do, Your Honor. But, before I take 3 and 5 off the table, if I could make one more point about 3 and 5, please? The — I think -­because I think it’s important to understand the dilemma that this puts the Federal government in.

Arizona has got this population, and they’ve — and they’re, by law, committed to maximum enforcement. And so the Federal government’s got to decide, are we going to take our resources, which we deploy for removal, and are we going to use them to deal with this population, even if it is to the detriment of our priorities –­

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: Exactly. You — the Federal government has to decide where it’s going to use its resources. And what the state is saying, here are people who are here in violation of Federal law, you make the decision. And if your decision is you don’t want to prosecute those people, fine, that’s entirely up to you. That’s why I don’t see the problem with Section 2(B).

We hope we are proved wrong and the Supreme Court will find SB 1070 unconstitutional in its entirety, but even if we are not wrong, do not lose heart. Good things can also come out of it.  Take a look at Peter Spiro’s intriguing essay in the New York Times, where he argues that even if SB 1070 stands, it will ultimately wither as Arizona, and other copycat states, will continue to hurt economically. Thus, such laws that Arizona and some states will enforce with vigor will ultimately die their own natural death. Of course, this still does not excuse the fact that 2(B), while in existence, is likely to result in mass incarcerations, while the state police inquire about each detainee’s status. One saving grace it that someone who is actually affected, such as an individual who is lawfully present,  can mount another challenge based on due process and equal protection violations, rather than preemption, and this may have more of a chance to succeed. In the mean time, Spiro states, “One of federalism’s core virtues is the possibility of competition among states. Competition in this context is likely to vindicate pro-immigrant policies.” Thus, most other states that welcome immigrants, legal and undocumented, and recognize their contributions, will deliberately not pass similar laws like Arizona’s. By not enacting similar laws, they will be competing with those states by enticing their corporations, as well as jobs, to move over.

While there are very good arguments in support of preemption, if  part of SB 1070 is upheld, states that want immigrants can go even further than do nothing. For instance, a state can pass a law that encourages immigrants who reside within to apply for a personal endorsement from the state’s governor in support of a national interest waiver request, which waives the job offer and labor certification requirement, when applying for permanent residency. The state can set criteria for whom it wants to encourage, such as entrepreneurs or robotics specialists, and its governor can write a  personal letter in support of their petitions for permanent residency through the federal national interest waiver pursuant to INA § 203(b)(2)(B)(i). As in Arizona’s Section 2(B), the state is not creating a new immigration category, but simply assisting the federal government to make a determination under federal law. Unlike Arizona’s SB 1070, which is premised on driving away immigrants from the state through attrition, the purpose of a state law in our hypothetical example is to encourage the immigrant to remain in that state and contribute to its economy, which in turn will benefit the national interest of the US. Indeed, we commend noted attorney Rami Fakhoury of Troy, Michigan, who is proposing such standards for Governor Snyder of Michigan to implement in order to support a national interest waiver request from a Michigan resident.

In the same vein, a state can designate certain occupations as shortage occupations, which may assist the Department of Labor in more easily certifying a labor certification  pursuant to INA § 212(a)(5) of an employer filed on behalf of a non-citizen resident in the state. A state can be a more effective judge of shortage occupations than the federal government, and if a labor certification is filed on behalf of a non-citizen in that particular state designated shortage occupation, the DOL may be more influenced in making a favorable determination on the labor certification. Similarly, even with regards to an undocumented immigrant, a state may be able to enact criteria for recommending that such a person, who has otherwise not been convicted of serious crimes and is say an essential farm worker,  is deserving of prosecutorial discretion by the federal government under its new prosecutorial discretion policy and thus be permitted to remain in the state and  prevent its farm produce from otherwise rotting away. There may already be such authority under INA § 287(g), which authorizes the federal government to enter into a written agreement with a state to perform the function of a qualified immigration officer in relation to the “investigation, apprehension and detention” of non-citizens. In the era where the government has implemented a broad prosecutorial discretion policy, a state can assist the federal government in the “investigation, ”  rather than the apprehension or detention, of an individual who may merit such discretion from the federal government.

While Utah has also passed an enforcement oriented immigration law similar to Arizona’s, it contains one unique provision quite unlike any other state’s law. The Utah provision offers work permits to undocumented immigrants who pass background checks, have paid fines and can demonstrate a work history. The measure does not offer legal status or citizenship, but would allow unauthorized workers who meet its criteria to continue working in Utah. This provision also requires a federal waiver. If the Utah provision, which is currently enjoined, is allowed to go forward, in the event that the Supreme Court gives a green signal to states in Arizona v. US, we estimate that there will be more states that will enact laws similar to the Utah guest worker provision than Arizona’s SB 1070.

There is no reason to think that it will always be punitive. Many of the progressive achievements in modern American history, such as women suffrage, popular election of senators, wage and hour laws, occupational safety, and most recently same sex marriages, to name but a select few, first appeared on the state level. The many instances where federal intervention has been necessary to protect civil rights against state abuse should not blind us to the possibility that state action can also be a force for good. Long ago, Justice Brandeis recognized that federalism offered a constitutional framework for experimentation and creativity:

To stay experimentation in things social and economic is a grave responsibility. Denial of the right to experiment may be fraught with serious consequences to the Nation. It is one of the happy incidents of the federal system that a single courageous State may, if its citizens choose, serve as a laboratory; and try novel social and economic experiments without risk to the rest of the country…

New State Ice Co. v. Liebmann, 285 U.S. 262, 52 S.Ct. 371, 76 L.Ed. 747 (1932)(Brandeis, J. dissent)

Since the New Deal, the operating assumption in American politics has been that reform must come from Washington DC to be imposed upon the states. The growth of the imperial presidency has flowed directly and inevitably from this core conviction. This is certainly the case with immigration reform given the plenary federal power over this issue as an extension of foreign policy. The inability or unwillingness of Congress to deal effectively with undocumented migration to this country on an unprecedented level has created the impetus for state action to fill up the vacuum. We advocate that Congress must deal with this situation by creating more pathways to legal status over an enforcement only approach, which is what states like Arizona have done.  Until now, such state action has been deprived of constitutional legitimacy; the Supreme Court may be ready to change that. Indeed, the first signs of this came with Chamber of Commerce v. Whiting, 131 S. Ct. 1968, 179 L.Ed.2d 1031 (2011) when a 5-3 ruling upheld the 2007 Legal Arizona Workers Act thus transforming the power of state regulators to grant or withhold business and professional licenses into tools of immigration enforcement. Should the High Court sustain SB 1070, for the first time since the 1870’s, the states will be able to take advantage of a constitutional regime that not only tolerates but welcomes their presence and invites their participation. Of course, Congress can also deal with states legislating on immigration by expressly preempting such action, but one will need to wait for that day to happen.

Those who think immigration is good for America will then have to find a way to review and revise their most basic assumptions on the nature of American reform. There is a way to make lemonade out of lemons.  Even now, not all state and local action has been negative. Utah is but one such example. Look and you will find others. Congress may not have passed a federal Dream Act but California and Illinois have done precisely that on the state level. Maryland too adopted its own Dream Act in 2011 and the Maryland Supreme Court will soon decide if this measure must go to a voter referendum this fall. In his most recent state-of-the-city address, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg vigorously supported a Dream Act for New York State, though Governor Cuomo has yet to declare his position. 12 states now grant in-state tuition rates to undocumented students. Texas, California and New Mexico provide financial aid to undocumented students. If we look north to our neighbor, Canada, its provinces have considerable influence in Canada’s immigration policy. An intending immigrant to Canada will get a preference if he or she meets certain requirements of Quebec province, for example.

Our position on SB 1070 has not changed. We do not believe it is constitutional. We do not write to endorse a patchwork immigration system of 50 different approaches without unity or definition. The dangers of this are apparent to all and we devoutly wish that our ideas will be made irrelevant when the Supreme Court finds SB 1070 to be constitutionally impermissible. Yet, candor requires us to admit that the result may not be as we would like. Now is the time to prepare for what may come and think the unthinkable. We owe it to our clients and our country to turn a problem into an opportunity.  Until now, both supporters and critics of SB 1070 have assumed that if the Supreme Court were to uphold the law,  it will unleash a tsunami of copycat legislation. This may happen and it may hurt. Yet, the future often has a way of surprising us. More may emerge; the outcome could well be different than what most hope or fear. This blog points a way forward. What happens next is up to you.

(The views expressed by guest author, Gary Endelman, are his own and not of his firm, FosterQuan, LLP)