Arizona Loves The Constitution So Much It Has To Ignore The Constitution Sometimes
Arizona does not play especially well with the federal government.
There's soon-to-be-former Gov. Jan Brewer's strange insistence that her office's duties included yelling at the president, of course, and there's Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio's belief that county sheriffs are supposed to enforce immigration law, even if it means ignoring less sexy crimes. Oh, wait, for Arpaio, that meant actually ignoring sex crimes so he could conduct immigration raids. And then there's that whole "Your Papers Please" law that was partly, but not completely, overturned. As a border state, Arizona just feels it has a better handle on keeping the browns in check than the Feds do, is all, and so Arizona would really prefer not to have a national government interfering all the time in silly matters like enforcing federal law. Two developments this week bring that to light once again.
First off, yet another one of Arizona's stupid immigration laws has been struck down in federal court. This time around, it was a 2005 law against smuggling migrants that got the axe, once more because enforcing immigration law is a federal responsibility, not a state or local job, and because federal law treats immigration as a civil matter, while Arizona's law criminalized it. The law became particularly notorious when ol' Sheriff Joe used it as a pretext to charge some 2000 undocumented migrants with -- get this -- conspiring to smuggle immigrants (themselves!), a strategy he had to abandon after a 2013 lawsuit. It's just another setback against Arpaio and his campaign to ignore boring crimes so he can go after illegal immigrants. It's almost as if the feds were trying to make him actually do his real job or something.
On another front, Arizona voters approved an almost certainly unconstitutional initiative last week that amended the Arizona Constitution to give state officials and voters the power to nullify federal laws, just as long as they really truly believe those federal measures are unconstitutional (the depth of their belief would presumably be measured by clapping real loud, like how you bring Tinker Bell back to life at the end of Peter Pan):
The ballot measure, called Prop. 122, will withhold funds and state staff from carrying out federal programs if they are deemed unconstitutional by state lawmakers or voters. The measure was drafted by state conservatives as a way to push back against President Obama's policies.
The amendment was introduced following an effort to make the EPA go away, since, supporters said, there's nothing about no Environmental Protection in the Constitution, so it can't possibly be legal for the federal government to regulate pollutants. This is how logic works in the Arizona Legislature.
Now, we had some crazy idea that it was actually the courts that decide whether federal laws are constitutional or not, but hey, this is Arizona, where everyone gets to decide that for themselves, apparently. And while we are just a simple country mommyblogger, we were also pretty sure that, even in Arizona, there's still such a thing as supremacy of federal law over state law (no matter how sincerely the state may believe that it's right). It seems there's been a few Supreme Court decisions and at least one Civil War on the matter.
Oh, look! Here is Paul Bender, an actual constitutional law professor from Arizona State University, to explain how that works!
"So, this is going to add to that [Arizona Constitution], ‘Yeah, federal law is supreme,'” he said. “But if the state Legislature thinks the federal law is unconstitutional, it can announce that it’s unconstitutional and every employee of the state has to obey what the state Legislature says about the constitutionality — rather than what the federal courts say.”
“Litigation is really expensive and time-consuming,” Bender said. “And state employees have a lot more important things to do than fight losing battles against federal legislation.”
Ah, but you see, the law isn't really trying to nullify federal law. It's merely a budget measure, say supporters, that will prevent the state from having to pay for laws it just knows deep in its heart are unconstitutional, like, say, background checks for anyone buying a weapon less lethal than an Abrams M1A1 Main Battle Tank.
Needless to say, just to remain consistent with his lifelong goal of being wrong on everything, Sheriff Joe Arpaio supported the amendment, claiming it would protect Arizona from paying to enforce "Federal laws that mandate amnesty for illegal immigrants, and interfere with law-abiding citizens’ Second Amendment right to own and bear arms."
We bet Arizona is going to just save tons of money once they win the endless series of lawsuits against this idiotic thing. They've got a hell of a track record on that.
Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.