Perhaps the most momentous news related to immigration and state-enforced immigration legislation this week was not the Supreme Court’s ruling on SB 1070, but rather President Obama’s response to that ruling. On Monday, immediately following the court’s mixed verdict on the law, Obama made the surprising announcement that the federal government would revoke its 287(g) agreement with the state of Arizona. The 287(g) program serves as a partnership between state and local law enforcement agencies and the Department of Homeland Security, whereby DHS officials help to identify suspected undocumented immigrants apprehended during routine police work. Now, as a result of Obama’s announcement, it appears that the federal government will no longer support Arizona law enforcement’s efforts to find and deport undocumented residents.
“We have limited resources. It doesn’t make sense…to spend those resources in a scattershot or random fashion,” said an unnamed Obama administration official in a statement to reporters. “Instead they need to be focused on individuals who pose a public safety threat or challenge the integrity of our borders, and going forth that is how we anticipate handling our response to…Arizona’s law,” he said.
The timing of the President’s announcement, just hours after the Supreme Court verdict, seems to evidence Obama’s disappointment with the court’s decision that Arizona’s efforts to use state and local police to enforce federal immigration law is in fact not unconstitutional. “No American should ever live under a cloud of suspicion just because of what they look like,” said Obama. He argued that legislators should be working harder to develop real comprehensive immigration reform that addresses the needs of our economy and our society.
Ariz. Gov. Jan Brewer’s response to Obama’s announcement was predictably vitriolic. “This is politics at its best,” Brewer said to Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren. “It’s just unconscionable. What they said to Arizona is, ‘Drop dead, Arizona. Drop dead and go away. We’re going to ignore you.’”
What Brewer did not say in this interview and what is still unclear is whether Arizona will or in fact can continue to use law enforcement in order to seek out undocumented immigrants in her state. With many other states looking to Arizona and specifically to what happens with SB 1070 as they consider crafting similar laws, the next step in this ongoing battle between Arizona and the federal government could have major implications across the country.