The Department of Justice, under Attorney General Eric Holder is fast becoming the most activist anti-state Justice Department in modern history. Supposedly guided by the responsibility to uphold federal law and the Constitution, the Holder Department in recent lawsuits filed against individual states attorney's general is arguably motivated more by ideology and politics. As of November 23, Utah became the latest of four states which are the targets of the Justice Department over state laws related to illegal immigration within their boundaries. The others are South Carolina, Alabama and Arizona.
These states, have found themselves dealing with significant financial, education, health and criminal justice issues resulting from large numbers of illegal immigrants who have entered the countries porous southern borders. The scandal of ineptitude and lack of political leadership by the Obama Administration with regard to border enforcement and the current estimated 12-14 million illegal immigrants residing in the U.S. is well known. The Obama Administration's reluctance to anger open border interest groups within the Democrat Party such as labor unions and Hispanic advocacy groups has led state's legislatures who are most affected, to pass laws similar to the federal laws which are not being enforced. Arizona led the effort by requiring state and local law enforcement officers to verify the immigration status of persons whom they came in contact with over other suspected violations of the law. Other states passed similar laws on the Arizona model even though the Arizona law has been partially enjoined by a federal court while it wends its way through the federal court system which will eventually lead to a judgment by the U.S. Supreme Court. The Justice Department is currently reviewing similar immigration laws which were passed in Georgia and Indiana. The Utah law requires people to “prove their citizenship” if arrested for serious crimes and allows police to check the citizenship of those arrested for lesser offenses.
Alabama has passed what most observers see as the most restrictive anti-illegal immigrant law. It contains provisions which require public schools to verify the immigration status of enrolling K-12 students and disallows enrollment of illegal aliens in state colleges and universities.
The Justice Department says that the federal government has the sole authority over immigration issues and such state legislation “usurps” that federal authority. It further asserts that the state's laws could “potentially”, “lead to”, harassment and detention of U.S. citizens and authorized visitors.
While the Department says it “welcomes” state and local “support” of federal law, when state's legislatures step into the vacuum of federal enforcement to facilitate such “support” the Administration makes a political statement by seeking to block the state's efforts in federal court. Not surprisingly, the government of Mexico has issued a statement in support of the Justice Department's lawsuits.
It is clear that states have a fundamental interest in enforcement of the federal immigration laws since they bear the costs of lack of such enforcement and federal courts should find such support compatible with federal laws and thus constitutional even if some revisions need to be made. Hypothetical effects of “potential” harassment should carry no weight since hypothetical effects are endless and actual cases of harassment can be litigated if and when they ever happen.
South Carolina, a reliable “red state” and its newly elected Republican governor, Nikki Haley, seems to be an appealing target for Attorney General Holder. While the immigration lawsuit goes on, his Office of Civil Rights has, under authority granted to it by the 1965 Voting Rights Act, rejected recently passed state legislation which requires voters to provide a photo ID at the polling place. South Carolina has a large black population, who are themselves reliable votes for Democrat candidates. Holder's Justice Department claims that the photo ID requirement discriminates against these minority voters because they are “20% more likely” than white voters to lack such identification. Under the Voting Rights Act, several southern states with a history of voting rights abuses against black voters, must gain Department of Justice approval for any legislation which might change voting opportunities for minorities. However, this action by the Office of Civil Rights lacks credibility on several fronts.
The requirement applies to all voters; photo IDs are required for many transactions nation wide i.e. credit card purchases, airline boarding passes, driving privileges, etc. Voting fraud is a reality as evidenced by numerous Illinois scandals in the past and the recent defunding of liberal advocacy group Acorn which was found to be registering fictitious voters. The South Carolina law accepts five different types of photo ID for voting purposes including a free one which can be obtained from the state especially for use in voting. Thus most registered voters will have one and anyone can obtain one.
Twenty states have similar laws and eight states have recently passed them. Besides South Carolina, Texas, Mississippi, and Alabama fall under the requirements of the 1965 Civil Rights Law. The Georgia and Indiana photo ID laws have received federal court approval. The Indiana case, which was a lawsuit brought by liberal advocacy groups, went all the way to the Supreme Court. The Court in a 6-3 vote (2008) found that the law was “not unconstitutional and that the state has a valid interest in improving election procedures as well as deterring fraud.” The Court rejected the same claims now being made by the Department of Justice in the South Carolina case, that the poor, the old and minorities would be disadvantaged. Indeed, liberal Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens (now retired) wrote an opinion in support of the Indiana law and rejected claims that the law was an invalid political maneuver by Republicans. “The justifications for the law should not be disregarded simply because partisan interests may have provided one motivation for the votes of individual legislators.” As in the recently passed South Carolina law, the Indiana law provides for a free government issued photo ID if registered voters lack one of the more common ones.
In the face of this powerful precedent, it is hard to explain why the Holder Justice Department has rejected the South Carolina law, which will almost certainly be appealed to the federal courts. The only explanation for both this and the immigration law suits must be that the Obama/Holder Justice Department has become a campaign tool and is trying to energize the liberal Democrat base for the 2012 presidential election.