State Rep. Micky Hammon, R-Decatur, may be a fast reader, but we doubt he read the 72-page U.S. Supreme Court opinion gutting Arizona’s immigration law in the 25 minutes it took him to send out a statement that it “bodes well” for Alabama’s harsher law.
State officials in Alabama and Arizona seem to be speaking from the same playbook, repeating words like “vindication” and “victory.”
We could understand the politicians complaining about the decision, even though it reaffirmed long-standing law on the federal government’s near-complete authority over immigration matters. We could understand if they quoted dissenting Justice Antonin Scalia, who criticized the majority for obliterating the Arizona law.
That they instead are pretending the decision says something it doesn’t, however, is disturbing.
Many people in the state trust Hammon and Sen. Scott Beason, R-Gardendale, the sponsors of the 2011 law. The people trusted them when they gave assurances that the law they had drafted was constitutional.
Constituents and other legislators trusted Hammon when he proclaimed there was no benefit to waiting for the U.S. Supreme Court to rule on the Arizona law.
They continued to trust the politicians even after multiple federal courts made preliminary rulings that large portions of the Alabama and Arizona laws were unconstitutional.
That trust endured even in the most recent legislative session, when rather than repealing the tattered law or adopting the state Attorney General’s proposed changes, the Legislature passed an amendment that, in most respects, made it worse.
Many side with Hammon and Beason in their desire for state control of immigration, but that’s not the issue. The issue is whether the law is constitutional. The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday made clear that most of it is not.
Hammon, Beason and other state officials have an obligation to speak honestly to their constituents. Passing the law was a costly mistake.
Continued enforcement of the law would be even more costly, because it would leave the state and local governments vulnerable to lawsuits for damages.
It is time for our state officials to tell it straight: However much their constituents want to use state resources to keep undocumented immigrants out of Alabama, it is a federal matter. Pretending that Monday’s Supreme Court decision said otherwise merely compounds the mistake.
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