Against the advice of embattled Democratic representatives from Arizona, the Obama administration has announced its intention to sue the state for an alleged usurpation of federal authority. Arizona recently authorized state and local police to inquire into the citizenship status of suspects picked up for unrelated offenses. The federal government's contention, apparently, is that it's the federal government's business exclusively to conduct such inquiries and to make appropriate arrests.
The Arizonans presumably took their controversial step because they felt that the federal government was falling short of its responsibility in keeping illegal border crossers out of the state. It would seem to be an impractically narrow definition of federalism or federal supremacy to tell Arizonans that they're SOL if the federales can't solve the problems they assign to themselves. Perhaps the solution would be to have the state government call up the National Guard as auxiliaries to the Border Patrol, if that hasn't been tried already. I suspect, however, that jurisdiction isn't the real issue behind the impending suit. It's more likely that Hispanic voters, like most Americans, resent the idea of ever being an object of suspicion. Even though the Arizona legislation evolved from an earlier, more controversial version that seemed to authorize ethnic profiling even when there was no other evidence of lawbreaking, many legal Hispanic residents of Arizona may well think that it's racist of anyone to question their citizenship (or the legality of their residence), no matter what the circumstances. The national Democratic leadership is more likely simply solicitous toward Hispanics' wounded ethnic pride than interested in protecting actual illegal immigrants. But that's not how Republicans will portray Democratic motives. Republicans, in turn, are inclined to believe that Democrats want illegals to flood the country so they can be recruited for fraudulent voting, while many Americans regardless of party suspect that the "elite" want illegals here as cheap labor.
If the Justice Department presses this suit without offering Arizona a remedy appropriate to its situation as a border state, more people may be willing to believe conspiracy theories about Democratic or "elite" intentions. I can understand why some Arizona Democrats oppose this idea. Regardless of the suit's merits on constitutional grounds, it doesn't sound like good politics this year. Americans would be better off with a "left" party that took a stronger stand on border security, but many people on the "left" probably don't believe such a thing is possible. If that's their attitude, then they guarantee that illegal immigration will remain a "right-wing" issue.