US border bill could weaken injunction
By Howard Fischer
Capitol Media Services, August 6, 2010
A provision in border-security legislation approved Thursday by the U.S. Senate could undermine at least part of the injunction against the state's new immigration law.
The measure provides $8.1 million to Immigration and Customs Enforcement to hire new staffers for its Law Enforcement Support Center. This is the office that responds to requests by federal, state and local police inquiring about whether individuals they have stopped are in this country legally.
The move is significant because U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton, said last week that one reason she enjoined the state from enforcing parts of its new immigration law was the possibility that some of its provisions could mean more work for the employees at the support center.
One provision put on hold by Bolton would have required police officers who had stopped someone for any reason to check that person's immigration status if there is 'reasonable suspicion' he or she is in the country illegally. Those checks would have to be made, directly or indirectly, through the support center.
Another said people who had been arrested could not be released until police verified they were legal U.S. residents.
David Palmatier, the unit chief of the support center, said in a written declaration that his office's resources are dedicated in part to national security.
That includes answering requests from the FBI and the Secret Service and employment-related requests at 'national-security related locations that could be vulnerable to sabotage, attack or exploitation.'
Bolton cited that in her ruling.
'Thus, an increase in the number of requests for determinations of immigration status, such as is likely to result from the mandatory requirement that Arizona law enforcement officials and agencies check the immigration status of any person who is arrested, will divert resources from the federal government's other responsibilities and priorities,' the judge wrote.
That finding is significant because one of the requirements to block a law is to convince a judge that letting it take effect would create a hardship.
Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., had his own plan with GOP colleague John McCain, one which included $20 million for the center, which is in Vermont. Democrats ignored their plan, introducing their own emergency legislation Thursday and pushing it through.
The House, which passed its own border-security funding bill last week, could take up the Senate's bill next week.
Kyl said that funding is important.
'A key point of the judge's ruling was that the 153 federal employees fielding calls from around the country couldn't handle a bunch more calls from Arizona,' Kyl said.
'The solution is not to invalidate the law. It's to add some more agents to handle the calls checking status.'