Michael Barone

The Supreme Court's decision announced Monday in the Arizona v. United States case opens the way for sensible reform of our immigration laws.

Barack Obama and his administration have taken heart that the court overturned Arizona's state penalties for illegal immigrants. The idea is that states can't pile higher penalties on top of those voted by Congress, just as states can't deport people who Congress allowed into the country.

But the much more significant part of the case was the unanimous 8-0 (Justice Kagan not voting) ruling upholding the Arizona provision authorizing state and local law enforcement personnel to help enforce federal law by asking those stopped for other reasons to show that they are citizens or legal immigrants.

This has been derided as a "where are your papers?" provision redolent of an authoritarian regime. But federal law has long required legal immigrants to carry their papers. And just about every adult carries a driver's license or equivalent without feeling oppressed.

What seems out of date now is the attitude, common in some liberal circles, that it's unsporting if not oppressive to enforce the law against illegal immigrants. Cities like San Francisco have declared themselves "sanctuary cities" with no obligation to enforce federal laws they don't like.

The underlying theory seems to be that it's unjust to bar anyone from entering our country. But that's obviously nonsense. Under international law, we have no obligation to admit anyone to the United States except accredited diplomats. We open our borders to visitors and legal immigrants not because we have to but because we think it's in our interest to do so.

Now we seem to be moving for a variety of reasons to a situation where we can control our borders and discourage illegal immigration far better than we have been doing for the last three decades.

One reason is the Arizona law that the court upheld, as well as similar laws in other states. Even more important is improved technology and our willingness to use it.

Arizona has required employers to use the recently improved eVerify system to match job applicants and Social Security numbers, and Census data suggests this has reduced the state's illegal population significantly. Large corporations are using eVerify, if only to protect themselves from bad publicity and expensive lawsuits. There's a move to require its use nationally.

Certainly it's not beyond our technological capacity to keep track of non-citizens. Visa and MasterCard manage to monitor a very large number of people with minimal error rates. India -- India! -- has issued unique identity cards to its 1.2 billion residents.


Michael Barone

Michael Barone, senior political analyst for The Washington Examiner (www.washingtonexaminer.com), is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a Fox News Channel contributor and a co-author of The Almanac of American Politics. To find out more about Michael Barone, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com. COPYRIGHT 2011 THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER. DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM