Skip to main content

Indiana gets real on immigration

By Ali Noorani, Special to CNN
updated 11:20 PM EDT, Fri August 3, 2012
Migrant workers harvest watermelon last month near Vincennes, Indiana.
Migrant workers harvest watermelon last month near Vincennes, Indiana.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Indiana's attorney general has declared most of the state's new immigration law indefensible
  • He cited the June Supreme Court ruling on Arizona in his announcement, says Ali Noorani
  • Indiana is not alone in thinking there is a better way to enforce immigration law, Noorani says
  • Noorani: It's time for the federal government to create a rational immigration process

Editor's note: Ali Noorani is the executive director of the National Immigration Forum, an organization based in Washington that advocates for the value of immigrants. Follow him on Twitter.

(CNN) -- "It is so ordered."

Four words, used by the Supreme Court of the United States, that set loose a cascade of public policy. Few phrases are as powerful and precise.

On June 25, when Justice Anthony Kennedy closed the court's majority opinion regarding Arizona's anti-immigrant law, S.B. 1070, with these words, the court lifted a burden off the shoulders of local law enforcement as well as millions of immigrants across the country.

Last Tuesday, the ripples reached Indiana: The state's Republican attorney general, Greg Zoeller, said portions of his state's Senate Bill 590 could not be defended. "The Supreme Court made clear that immigration enforcement is a federal government responsibility," Zoeller acknowledged.

Ali Noorani
Ali Noorani

Elements of Indiana's law resemble those the Supreme Court struck down in Arizona's, including provisions giving local police unprecedented power to make warrantless arrests based on assumed immigration status.

Zoeller saw the constitutional writing on the wall and freed his enforcement resources from an expensive court battle the state of Indiana was sure to lose. The court's ruling on S.B. 1070 made it clear that state laws authorizing local law enforcement to make warrantless arrests of people for immigration violations are unconstitutional.

Opinion: Don't deport the 'tamale lady'

Mixed messages on immigration?
Obama: U.S. needs immigration reform
Lawmaker to Bieber: Remember your papers

The court struck down three parts of the law, including the murky section that authorized state officers to arrest people based on "probable cause" that they had committed an offense that could lead to deportation. The court allowed a fourth section, the troubling "papers please" provision, to go into effect, but it left the door wide open for further legal scrutiny.

Lest you think otherwise, Zoeller is no shrinking violet when it comes to immigration enforcement and keeping our nation safe. He is an active member of the Alliance Partnership of the Conference of Western Attorneys General, in which attorneys general across the United States partner with their colleagues in Mexico to strengthen the legal systems of both countries and reduce crime.

As Zoeller wrote in 2011, "Greater cooperation, trust and information sharing between law enforcers and judicial officers on both sides of the border creates a more peaceful backdrop against which the U.S. government can work to improve an immigration system that clearly needs fixing."

Working collaboratively across state lines and international borders to fight human and drug trafficking, money laundering and consumer fraud is a far better use of law enforcement resources than arresting landscapers and nannies.

Zoeller is not alone in thinking there is a better way to enforce immigration law. Last year, he joined a bipartisan group of business, law enforcement and religious leaders in signing the Indiana Compact, a set of principles to guide the state's immigration debate. The compact affirms that immigration enforcement should be handled at the federal level, not the state level.

The signers of the Indiana Compact joined like-minded leaders in Utah and Iowa — neither of which is a liberal stronghold — who signed compacts of their own calling upon the administration and Congress to work together to create a common-sense immigration process.

But Congress has failed to muster the will to craft legislation, and President Obama is reduced to making administrative changes to an antiquated system. Sadly, the Supreme Court's ruling on S.B. 1070 is all we have to work with when it comes to federal guidance on immigration.

Opinion: Why 'illegal immigrant' is a slur

But the winds of the immigration debate are changing. From the Mountain West to the Southeast to the Midwest, people who wear badges, run businesses and carry Bibles are building a new consensus on immigrants and America.

The consensus is that immigration policy is a human issue. Documented or undocumented, people have freedom that we protect. That is one of the ideals on which our nation is built.

Leaders such as Zoeller are doing what they are constitutionally required to do: Enforce the law. Zoeller must and will protect the residents of Indiana, regardless of their federal immigration status.

To do so, he will direct all his resources toward tracking down those who would perpetrate crime on these residents and bring them to justice rather than dedicate scarce resources toward enforcing federal immigration law.

The Supreme Court has ordered that the federal government pre-empts states when it comes to immigration law. It is time the other branches of our federal government heeded that order and created a rational immigration process that allows law enforcement officials to do their job: keep us safe.

Follow @CNNOpinion on Twitter

Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Ali Noorani.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 5:01 PM EDT, Wed October 22, 2014
Paul Callan says the grand jury is the right process to use to decide if charges should be brought against the police officer
updated 12:19 PM EDT, Thu October 23, 2014
Theresa Brown says the Ebola crisis brought nurses into the national conversation on health care. They need to stay there.
updated 6:35 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Patrick Hornbeck says don't buy the hype: The arguments the Vatican used in its interim report would have virtually guaranteed that same-sex couples remained second class citizens
updated 9:36 AM EDT, Fri October 24, 2014
Paul Begala says Iowa's U.S. Senate candidate, Joni Ernst, told NRA she has right to use gun to defend herself--even from the government. But shooting at officials is not what the Founders had in mind
updated 6:08 PM EDT, Thu October 23, 2014
John Sutter: Why are we so surprised the head of a major international corporation learned another language?
updated 5:54 PM EDT, Thu October 23, 2014
Jason Johnson says Ferguson isn't a downtrodden community rising up against the white oppressor, but it is looking for justice
updated 12:21 PM EDT, Fri October 24, 2014
Sally Kohn says a video of little girls dressed as princesses using the F-word very loudly to condemn sexism is provocative. But is it exploitative?
updated 4:06 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Timothy Stanley says Lewinsky is shamelessly playing the victim in her affair with Bill Clinton, humiliating Hillary Clinton again and aiding her critics
updated 10:14 AM EDT, Thu October 23, 2014
Imagine being rescued from modern slavery, only to be charged with a crime, writes John Sutter
updated 12:00 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Tidal flooding used to be a relatively rare occurrence along the East Coast. Not anymore, write Melanie Fitzpatrick and Erika Spanger-Siegfried.
updated 7:35 AM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Carol Costello says activists, writers, politicians have begun discussing their abortions. But will that new approach make a difference on an old battleground?
updated 9:12 AM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Sigrid Fry-Revere says the National Organ Transplant Act has caused more Americans to die waiting for an organ than died in both World Wars, Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq
updated 2:51 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Crystal Wright says racist remarks like those made by black Republican actress Stacey Dash do nothing to get blacks to join the GOP
updated 6:07 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Mel Robbins says by telling her story, Monica Lewinsky offers a lesson in confronting humiliating mistakes while keeping her head held high
updated 9:29 AM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Cornell Belcher says the story of the "tea party wave" in 2010 was bogus; it was an election determined by ebbing Democratic turnout
updated 4:12 PM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Les Abend says pilots want protocols, preparation and checklists for all contingencies; at the moment, controlling a deadly disease is out of their comfort zone
updated 11:36 PM EDT, Sun October 19, 2014
David Weinberger says an online controversy that snowballed from a misogynist attack by gamers into a culture war is a preview of the way news is handled in a world of hashtag-fueled scandal
updated 8:23 AM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Julian Zelizer says Paul Krugman makes some good points in his defense of President Obama but is premature in calling him one of the most successful presidents.
updated 10:21 PM EDT, Sun October 19, 2014
Conservatives can't bash and slash government and then suddenly act surprised if government isn't there when we need it, writes Sally Kohn
updated 8:05 AM EDT, Wed October 22, 2014
ISIS is looking to take over a good chunk of the Middle East -- if not the entire Muslim world, write Peter Bergen and Emily Schneider.
updated 9:00 AM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
The world's response to Ebola is its own sort of tragedy, writes John Sutter
updated 4:33 PM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
Hidden away in Russian orphanages are thousands of children with disabilities who aren't orphans, whose harmful treatment has long been hidden from public view, writes Andrea Mazzarino
updated 1:22 PM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014
When you hear "trick or treat" this year, think "nudge," writes John Bare
updated 12:42 AM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014
The more than 200 kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls have become pawns in a larger drama, writes Richard Joseph.
updated 9:45 AM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
Peggy Drexler said Amal Alamuddin was accused of buying into the patriarchy when she changed her name to Clooney. But that was her choice.
updated 4:43 PM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
Ford Vox says the CDC's Thomas Frieden is a good man with a stellar resume who has shown he lacks the unique talents and vision needed to confront the Ebola crisis
updated 4:58 AM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014
How can such a numerically small force as ISIS take control of vast swathes of Syria and Iraq?
updated 9:42 AM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
How big a threat do foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq pose to the West? It's a question that has been much on the mind of policymakers and commentators.
updated 8:21 AM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
More than a quarter-million American women served honorably in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Now they are home, we have an obligation to help them transition back to civilian life.
updated 4:27 PM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
Paul Begala says Rick Scott's deeply weird refusal to begin a debate because rival Charlie Crist had a fan under his podium spells disaster for the Florida governor--delighting Crist
updated 12:07 AM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
The longer we wait to engage on Ebola, the more limited our options will become, says Marco Rubio.
updated 7:53 AM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
Democratic candidates who run from President Obama in red states where he is unpopular are making a big mistake, says Donna Brazile
updated 12:29 AM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
At some 7 billion people, the world can sometimes seem like a crowded place. But if the latest estimates are to be believed, then in less than a century it is going to feel even more so -- about 50% more crowded, says Evan Fraser
updated 12:53 PM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Paul Callan says the Ebola situation is pointing up the need for better leadership
updated 6:45 PM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
Nurses are the unsung heroes of the Ebola outbreak. Yet, there are troubling signs we're failing them, says John Sutter
updated 1:00 PM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
Dean Obeidallah says it's a mistake to give up a business name you've invested energy in, just because of a new terrorist group
updated 7:01 PM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
Fear of Ebola is contagious, writes Mel Robbins; but it's time to put the disease in perspective
updated 1:44 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Oliver Kershaw says that if Big Tobacco is given monopoly of e-cigarette products, public health will suffer.
updated 9:35 AM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014
Stop thinking your job will make you happy.
updated 10:08 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says it's time to deal with another scandal involving the Secret Service — one that leads directly into the White House.
updated 7:25 AM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Americans who choose to fight for militant groups or support them are young and likely to be active in jihadist social media, says Peter Bergen
updated 9:03 AM EDT, Mon October 13, 2014
Stephanie Coontz says 11 years ago only one state allowed same sex marriage. Soon, some 60% of Americans will live where gays can marry. How did attitudes change so quickly?
updated 4:04 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Legalizing assisted suicide seems acceptable when focusing on individuals. But such laws would put many at risk of immense harm, writes Marilyn Golden.
updated 9:07 AM EDT, Mon October 13, 2014
Julian Zelizer says the issues are huge, but both parties are wrestling with problems that alienate voters
updated 6:50 PM EDT, Mon October 13, 2014
Mel Robbins says the town's school chief was right to cancel the season, but that's just the beginning of what needs to be done
updated 11:43 AM EDT, Sat October 11, 2014
He didn't discover that the world was round, David Perry writes. So what did he do?
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT