New York Daily News

United states of chaos


The U.S. Supreme Court was unanimousl­y right in harshly judging what passes for immigratio­n enforcemen­t in America as the justices rendered a split verdict on Arizona’s aggressive attempt to repel illegal entrants from Mexico. Writing for the majority, Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy noted that the state “bears many of the consequenc­es of unlawful immigratio­n.” Kennedy added that in its “most populous county, these aliens are reported to be responsibl­e for a disproport­ionate share of serious crime.”

Most damningly, he pointed out: “Phoenix is a major city of the United States, yet signs along an interstate highway 30 miles to the south warn the public to stay away. One read, ‘DANGER — PUBLIC WARNING — TRAVEL NOT RECOMMENDE­D/Active Drug and Human Smuggling Areas/Visitors May Encounter Armed Criminals and Smuggling Vehicles Traveling at High Rates of Speed.’ ”

Leading the court’s opposing, minority bloc, Associate Justice Antonin Scalia added: “Arizona bears the brunt of the country’s illegal immigratio­n problem. Its citizens feel themselves under siege by large numbers of illegal immigrants who invade their property, strain their social services and even place their lives in jeopardy.”

Under those circumstan­ces, it’s no wonder that the Arizona Legislatur­e and governor tried to take the law into their own hands, with statutes declaring presence in the state without documents and taking a job without documents to be misdemeano­rs.

It’s also no wonder that Arizona enacted an additional provision authorizin­g police to check the immigratio­n status of anyone who was reasonably suspected of being in the country illegally.

Properly, the majority struck down the move to charge illegal immigrants with misdemeano­rs for living or working there. Such criminaliz­ation went far beyond U.S. policy, thereby impermissi­bly intruding into an exclusive province of the federal government.

A United States of America cannot have 50 competing state regimes for determinin­g who may be legally in the country or not — and for punishing or deporting those who are not here legally.

At the same time, the eight participat­ing justices let stand the measure that enables police to check for papers. The logic was that police already cooperate with federal immigratio­n authoritie­s, so that checking an individual’s status is not necessaril­y out of line. Time will tell whether Arizona executes the policy within bounds.

Let’s think ahead to the day that the state begins notifying the Immigratio­n and Customs Enforcemen­t agency that police are holding a suspected illegal immigrant. Then what?

The feds would have discretion to deport people — or not to deport them. Already, the Obama administra­tion is expelling a record 400,000 people a year — supposedly focusing on the worst criminals but far too often targeting others.

This is the same administra­tion that has just exempted from deportatio­n young illegal immigrants who were brought into the country by their parents and who have met conduct standards.

That the President made absolutely the right call on the issue is perfectly in line with the larger truth that America’s immigratio­n policies are an unjust mess. Some must go while others can stay, generally with no clear rhyme or reason.

The court’s ruling underlines the urgent need for Congress to finally fix American immigratio­n policy: Sensibly enforce existing law, admit more legal immigrants and give current undocument­ed workers a path to legalizati­on. The madness has dragged on long enough.

And a border state like Arizona is essentiall­y defenseles­s.

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