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Arizona vindicated

Last week’s U.S. Supreme Court decision in Chamber of Commerce v. Whiting is a thunderous victory for immigration enforcement and for America’s working men and women. Now, let’s get down to business.

In a 5-3 decision, the Court upheld the Legal Arizona Workers Act (LAWA), which requires all Arizona employers to use the federal E-Verify program as a screen against hiring illegal workers. It also revokes the business license of any employer found guilty of repeated violations of the law.

This decision is a death blow to opponents of E-Verify and gives a green light to states that may have been considering following in Arizona’s footsteps. But the reason this decision is sending shock waves across the nation is that the reasoning by the majority in the Whiting case is a clear signal that Arizona’s 2010 law, SB 1070, is also going to be upheld when it reaches the U.S. Supreme Court on appeal.

In the Whiting ruling, Chief Justice Roberts explicitly rejects the Obama Justice Department’s argument that a state cannot legislate to augment the federal government’s enforcement (or in this case, the non-enforcement) of federal immigration law. The Supreme Court says states can help enforce immigration laws if they are not acting contrary to federal law itself, which the Arizona law does not do. Thus, last month’s ruling from the liberal 9th Circuit Court of Appeals against Arizona’s SB 1070 is certain to be overturned.

Arizona’s uphill battle against illegal immigration is a seven-year success story. It shows how a few determined and principled legislators can turn around the national debate against incredible odds.

The federal malfeasance in non-enforcement goes back at least 20 years to the Clinton and Bush years. Arizona has born the brunt of the illegal-alien invasion sparked by the government’s refusal to secure the southwest border or enforce laws against illegal workers. Hundreds of thousands of Arizona workers were displaced. Arizona’s schools were forced to accommodate untold numbers of thousands of illegal-alien children and anchor babies, and many hospitals have closed. Phoenix is now the kidnapping capital of America, and Arizona’s border ranchlands are a war zone plagued by drug smuggling and human trafficking.

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In 2004, Arizona said, “Enough!” That year, concerned citizens led by then-State Rep. (now Arizona State Senate President) Russell Pearce put Proposition 200 on the ballot, a law to deny public benefits to illegal aliens. Despite being outspent nearly three to one and facing opposition from the Democratic governor, both Republican U.S. senators, all but one of the eight congressmen, as well as the Arizona Chamber of Commerce, the proposal passed with 56 percent of the vote –- including 47 percent of Hispanic voters, according to exit polls.

This bold action brought illegal immigration back in the national conversation. Unfortunately, while Arizona was showing courage and backbone in dealing with illegal immigration, President Bush’s solution to the problem was his 2004 amnesty and guest-worker proposal.

While the American people successfully rose up to stop amnesty legislation in Congress in 2006 and 2007, Congress did not address true immigration reform in any meaningful way. Our borders remained porous and our laws unenforced. The people of Arizona were hurting, and they were tired of waiting for the federal government to act. Arizona kept pushing forward, and in 2007 Arizona passed the Legal American Workers Act. The results were immediate. Without the jobs magnet, illegal aliens began leaving the state.

By then, Georgia and Oklahoma had enacted laws similar to LAWA, and some localities also acted. Hazleton, Pa., Farmers Branch, Texas, and Escondido, Calif., followed suit.

Arizona’s Russell Pearce didn’t let up, and in April 2010 the state legislature passed SB 1070. Americans were so fed up with the federal government’s failure to secure our border that they rallied around Arizona. Following Arizona’s lead, Georgia passed an SB 1070-style law, and other laws are expected to be signed shortly in Alabama and South Carolina.

While the Supreme Court’s decision only directly applied to LAWA and other E-Verify laws, it upholds a state’s right to fight illegal immigration. Moreover, the Whiting decision and the mushrooming state revolt against federal inaction may very well provide the momentum to pass mandatory E-Verify legislation In Congress.

House Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith is planning to take up legislation in the coming weeks. In the wake of the Whiting decision, open-borders lawyer-lobbyist Tamar Jacoby wrote despondently that it “only increases the already good odds that Smith’s bill will move easily through Congress.”

Americans in every state owe a debt of gratitude to Arizona and its courageous leaders. Thanks to Arizona, we are now on a path to secure our borders, enforce our laws and take our country back.