Updated 3:33 p.m.
If the U.S. Supreme Court upholds an Arizona immigration law after hearings this week, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and other legislators say they will file legislation to undo it.
“Congress does not intend for states to enforce their own immigration schemes,” Schumer said at a hearing Tuesday on Capitol Hill. “It is simply too damaging to our economy and too dangerous to our democracy, to have 50 different states be permitted to take their own direction when it comes to immigration policy.”
The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments Wednesday on Arizona’s immigration enforcement law, SB 1070, which gives police broad authority to detain individuals suspected of being in the country illegally. Schumer said the Arizona law also makes it a federal crime for any individual to fail at any time to possess documents verifying their immigration status.
At a Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing, Schumer said his legislation would expressly preempt states and localities from enforcing immigration law unless doing so with the consent of the federal government, and prevent states from enacting their own civil or criminal penalties for immigration violations.
Schumer said he hopes the legislation will not be necessary, “because I do believe the Supreme Court will decide SB 1070 is not constitutional.” The Supreme Court has consistently interpreted the naturalization language in Article I to mean that the establishment of the immigration laws and the manner of their execution are committed solely to the federal government, Schumer said.
The author of Arizona’s immigration law, Russell Pierce, testified at the hearing that the bill is overwhelmingly supported by citizens across the nation.
And he says he has seen the effects of a porous border: drug traffickers, terrorists, even his own son, a law enforcement officer, who was critically wounded by illegal alien. “In Arizona alone, the cost of illegal immigration is approximately $2.6 billion, and that is just to educate, medicate and incarcerate,” Pierce said.
That does not count crimes committed by illegal immigrants, or jobs lost by residents, he said.
But Arizona attorney and former U.S. Sen. Dennis DeConcini (D) said the bill is ill-founded, mean-spirited and divisive. “If you’ve got brown skin in my state, you’re going to be asked to prove your citizenship,” he said.
Ranking member of the judiciary committee, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), said in a written statement sent after the hearing that many Americans will wonder "why we’re spending time, money and energy on an issue that will be decided by the Supreme Court."
"It’s time for Congress to focus on strengthening our border security, boosting employment verification procedures, and enhancing existing legal avenues for people who want to live, study, and work in this country," Grassley stated. "It’s time for real reform, not another dog and pony show."