Monday, January 3, 2011


Kansas' Republican Senator-elect Jerry Moran, Second District Representative Lynn Jenkins, and Indiana's Fifth District Republican Dan Burton weighed in to the Arizona SB 1070 with an amicus curiae brief. They joined the Washington Legal Foundation (WLF), the Allied Educational Foundation (AEF), Concerned Citizens and Friends of Illegal Immigration Law Enforcement (CCFILE) [ § 501 (c) (3) organizations], and the National Border Patrol Council (NBPC) [ a § 501 (c) (5) organization.].

Their opening volley is that the federal government's failure to establish a "pervasive" scheme as to employing illegal immigrants means that preemption cannot apply. It is one of the weaker arguments I have read in the many briefs competing for the attention of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Take another case which employs the "pervasive" standard, Gustafson v. City of Lake Angelus, 76 F.3d 778, which was decided by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeal in 1996. This is an aviation noise case from Michigan. Explaining when a statute may be preemptive, the Sixth Circuit said:

"A statute may be construed as preemptive under three circumstances.... First, Congress, in enacting a federal statute, may express a clear intent to preempt state law. Pacific Gas & Electric Co. v. State Energy Resources Conservation & Development Common, 461 US. 190, 203 (1983). Second, absent express preemption, federal law may have an implied preemptive effect if Congress revealed this intent by "occupying the field" of regulation. Silkwood v. Kerr-McGee Corp., 464 U.S. 238, 248 (1984). There is implied preemption when there is a "scheme of federal regulation . . . so pervasive as to make reasonable the inference that Congress left no room for the States to supplement it" or "because the Act of Congress may touch a field in which the federal interest is so dominant that the federal system will be assumed to preclude enforcement of state laws on the same subject." Fidelity Federal Savings & Loan Assn, 458 US. at 153. There is a third type of preemption when state law actually conflicts with federal law. Such conflict occurs where "compliance with both federal and state regulations is a physical impossibility," Florida Lime & Avocado Growers, Inc. v. Paul, 373 U.S. 132, 142-43 (1963), or where state law "stands 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)."

The Hines case is the most important one to focus on because Judge Bolton relied on the case for as precedent and because it speaks directly to the topic which these Amici argue.

The current SB 1070 case on appeal to the Ninth Circuit, U.S.A. v. Arizona, is almost like an echo of the Hines case. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania enacted an Alien Registration Act in 1939. That law required everyone over the age of 18 to "to register once each year; provide such information as is required by the statute, plus any:
other information and details "that the Department of Labor and Industry may direct; pay $1 as an annual registration fee; receive an alien identification card and carry it at all times; show the card whenever it may be demanded by any police officer or any agent of the Department of Labor and Industry; and exhibit the card as a condition precedent to registering a motor vehicle in his name or obtaining a license to operate one. The Department of Labor and Industry is charged with the duties of classifying the registrations for "the purpose of ready reference," and furnishing a copy of the classification to the Pennsylvania Motor Police. Nonexempt aliens who fail to register are subject to a fine of notmore than $100 or imprisonment for not more than 60 days, or both. For failure to carry an identification card or for failure to show it upon proper demand, the punishment is a fine of not more than $10, or imprisonment for not more than 10 days, or both.
In short, this statute was an earlier version of Arizona's papers please SB 1070 law.

What Moran, Jenkins, Burton, and their tax-exempt cohorts fail to recognize in their brief is that the Constitution gives the Congress absolute authority to regulate in the arena of immigration. Had their learned counsel fully read Hines, instead of picking and ignoring selected text, perhaps they wouldn't have found themselves out on the proverbial limb. What they want is for the Ninth Circuit to agree that this case is about an area where either the federal government or the states may regulate and ignore that silly old Constitution.

The Hines court went on to say:

Our conclusion is that appellee is correct in his contention that the power to restrict, limit, regulate, and register aliens as a distinct group is not an equal and continuously existing concurrent power of state and nation, but that whatever power a state may have is subordinate to supreme national law. We proceed therefore to an examination of Congressional enactments to ascertain whether or not Congress has acted in such manner that its action should preclude enforcement of Pennsylvania's law.
In Hines the Supreme Court found that Pennsylvania Act could not be enforced. In finding that the United States is likely to succeed on the merits of the case, Judge Bolton said, in part, that SB 1070 "is likely to burden legally-present aliens, in contravention of the Supreme Court’s directive in Hines that aliens not be subject to “the possibility of inquisitorial practices and police surveillance.” [citing Hines.] ... Further, the number of requests that will emanate from Arizona as a result of determining the status of every arrestee is likely to impermissibly burden federal resources and redirect federal agencies away from the priorities they have established."

Judge Bolton added the following footnote 7:

The problems associated with burdening federal resources are even more acute when considered in light of other state laws similar to this provision. (See Pl.’s Mot. at 31-32 (citing to a newspaper article stating that at least 18 other states are considering parallel legislation).); see also North Dakota v. United States, 495 U.S. 423, 458-59 (1990) (Brennan, J., concurring in plurality opinion in part and dissenting in part) (collecting cases where burden of state regulation on federal government was amplified by aggregate potential of multiple states following suit).
While it is clear that the Constitution gives the federal government sole authority over immigration Congress may invite the assistance of the States in the enforcement of those laws. That is essentially the argument made by SB 1070's author Secretary of State-elect Kris Kobach. What Kobach and the SB 1070 brain trust overlooked was the permissive nature of that cooperation. In a classic case of being offered an inch and taking a mile the Kobachian version is that when Congress opened the door to the States then all bets were off. You'd think a guy like Kobach would have a greater understanding of Constitutional Law than to come up with that goofy notion.

Gustafson v. City of Lake Angelus was a different sort of case from either Hines or U.S.A. v. Arizona. The latter two cases directly involved an area which the Constitution says the federal government has supreme control, but in Gustafson the Sixth Circuit said: "[W]e believe the United States' sovereign regulation of the airspace over the United States and the regulation of aircraft in flight is distinguishable from the regulation of the designation of plane landing sites, which involves local control of land (or, in the present case, water) use."

There are three ways in which the preemption doctrine can apply. First is the case of express preemptions, where " . . . Congressional intent to preempt must be unambiguous and cannot be inferred from (the) mere fact that (the) federal statute is detailed and complex or because state legislation touches an area of predominantly national concern." Pacific Legal Foundation v. State Energy Resources Conservation and Development Commission, (9th Cir. 1981) 659 F.2d 903.

Second is the case of implied preemptions, where ". . . When a federal statute does not explicitly prohibit state regulation in the same field, congressional intent to preempt may be inferred from nature of federal regulatory scheme or from subject matter being regulated . . . (Pacific Legal Foundation).

" . . in a preemption test the fundamental inquiry is whether local legislation will conflict with national policy . . .; if the activity is of predominantly local interest then state action may be permissible, but if a uniform national rule is necessary then federal preemption will be implied." California v. Zook, (1949) 336 U.S. 725, 728.

The third case is where the state law conflicts with federal law. This is where the instant case belongs. " . . . a conflict between state and federal law . . may arise when the state law "stands as an obstacle to the accomplishment and execution of the full purposes and objectives of Congress." Hines v. Davidowitz, (1941) 312 U.S. 52, 67, as cited in Ogden Environmental Services v. City of San Diego, 88 Daily Journal D.A.R. 15264, 15266-15267.

" . . . Even if Congress did not intend to preempt all state legislation in a given field, a state law must be held invalid to (the) extent that it actually conflicts with federal law . . . (Pacific Legal Foundation, supra.).

" . . . State regulations are preempted when a conflict would arise if compliance with both federal and state regulations were impossible or if state regulations stood as an obstacle to achievement of congressional objectives . . . (Pacific Legal Foundation, supra.).

Moran, Jenkins, and Burton are trying to lead the Ninth Circuit down the wrong path, that of express preemption. They seem unable to reconcile themselves to the fact that the Constitution places this case in the third area, that of conflicts.

They will not win their point in an appellate court. The question remains if in the 112th Congress they will try to grant the States the power to regulate in the field of immigration. There is no way the President would sign a bill like that. It would, however, set up another interesting legal battle, the intentional abdication of federal responsibility by Congress. In other words, can Congress, by statute, let the States regulate where the Constitution says the States may not regulate?

Yes, Virginia, we seem to be returning to the Articles of Confederation. And no, Virginia, they didn't work so well before.

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