Legal action in two arenas this week highlights the need for Arizona lawmakers to recognize, at long last, that immigration policy is a federal issue and that decisions to deny driver's licenses to young undocumented immigrants or to push forward with yet another legal fight over SB 1070 does not benefit the state.
On Monday, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the provision in the state's 2010 immigration law that turned day laborers and those who want to hire them into criminals.
The circuit court made the right decision on the SB 1070 provision. The portion of the law in question made it an offense for a would-be worker to get into a vehicle stopped on the street. The prospective employer who picked up the laborer could also be charged.
The state's argument was that the solicitations obstructed traffic.
However, appellate Judge Raymond Fisher found the law didn't address everyone who blocked traffic. Instead, it only targeted day laborers and subjected them to a harsher penalty - up to six months in jail.
What's more, a law already on the books when SB 1070 was written prohibited recklessly impeding traffic and allowed a possible jail sentence of 30 days, Capital Media Services' Howard Fischer reported in Tuesday's Star.
The disparity of treatment under Arizona law was obvious.
Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, wrote the bill's original language and wants to appeal the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court, Fischer reported. Gov. Jan Brewer has not publicly announced her intention.
Brewer should let the ruling stand. The U.S. Supreme Court has already stated in its decision on other contested provisions of SB 1070 that immigration policy is a federal issue, not one for the state to decide.
Brewer should also halt her administration's attempt to contradict another federal immigration-related issue. On Monday she and the state Department of Transportation had their lawyer in federal court, contending that the state can deny a driver's license to those qualifying for the Obama administration's Deferred Action Childhood Arrival program.
The argument the state's attorneys, led by Douglas Northup, are making against issuing licenses puts up another obstacle to younger illegal immigrants hoping for a brighter future in the U.S.
The federal program would, among other things, issue work authorization cards to those brought into the country before they turned 16 and who meet other guidelines including being "currently in school, have graduated from high school, have obtained a GED, or have been honorably discharged from the Coast Guard or armed forces," according to the White House website.
President Obama's decision on deferred action is a reasonable and humane response to a group of young people who, through no fault of their own, are living in the country without the proper documentation. Brewer's refusal to allow an exemption so these Arizonans - many have grown up here and have roots nowhere else - can find work, be productive and pay taxes does not make sense.
Northup told U.S. District Judge David Campbell that immigrants' ability to work and generally operate in society isn't hindered by not having a driver's license, Fischer reported in Tuesday's Star.
"The individual plaintiffs are getting to work, school and going about their daily lives without driver's licenses and without serious impediment," Northrup said in court, Fischer reported.
Aside from the everyday benefits of driving in a metro area, his argument ignores the fact that many jobs require a driver's license and access to a car. That empty argument could only be made by a person fortunate enough to have never needed to get across Tucson without a car after a late-night shift, nor tried to find public transportation in a rural part of the state.
State officials are clinging to Arizona's "tough on immigrants" image by targeting those wanting to work and improve their situation.
Immigration reform is moving forward. Continuing to ignore that fact with unproductive legal action only wastes time and resources fighting what is essentially a narrow, vindictive battle.
It's time to stop the punitive actions aimed at a few and focus on big-picture issues that matter to the entire state.
Arizona Daily Star