The Supremacy Clause v. S.B. 1070: Can Arizona’s Strict Illegal Immigration Law Withstand Constitutional Challenge?

Michael Carroll, Executive Editor, Albany Government Law Review Member

Introduction

            Trackers searching for Rob Krentz could not locate him using a thermal imager.  His body was too cold.  Rob Krentz was dead.[1]

            Mr. Krentz was a member of “one of the best-known and oldest ranching families . . . in southeast Arizona.”[2]  On March 27, 2010, he was found dead on his 35,000 acre ranch after suffering fatal gunshot wounds.[3]  Prior to his death, Mr. Krentz was riding around his property in an all-terrain vehicle when he radioed to his brother that he “was aiding someone he believed to be an illegal immigrant.”[4]  Presently, the authorities are unsure who killed Mr. Krentz.[5]  However, because of the “radio transmission . . . and heavy drug and illegal immigrant trafficking in that area,” it is widely suspected that Mr. Krentz was killed by a cross border drug smuggler or human trafficker.[6]

            Prior to Mr. Krentz’s death, the Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act (S.B. 1070) was introduced into the Arizona State Legislature.[7]  This strict immigration measure was initiated largely “because border authorities [in Arizona] arrest more people and seize more drugs than . . . any other state.”[8]  After Mr. Krentz’s death, he became the “face” of the Arizona immigration debate.[9]  Some politicians even pushed to name S.B. 1070 the “Rob Krentz law.”[10]  In fact, one month after Mr. Krentz’s mysterious death, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed S.B. 1070 into law.

            Following the passage of S.B. 1070, Hispanic families throughout Arizona have felt uneasy about living and working in the state.[11]  For example, Manuela Quintana and her husband lived in Phoenix for fifteen years.[12]  All of their children are American citizens because they were born in the United States.[13]  Both Manuela and her husband are illegal immigrants.[14]  They fear that S.B. 1070 will lead to their imprisonment, and therefore, separation from their children.[15]  Because of these fears, the Quintana family packed all of their belongings and decided to move to Colorado, a state with less stringent immigration regulations.[16]  Before making this trip, Manuela spoke to a reporter and reaffirmed her belief that although she traveled to the United States illegally, she was not a criminal.  She stated, “‘a criminal is someone who kills . . . I just want to work.’”[17]

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