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Jan Brewer v. Constitution

U.S.-Mexico border wall near Yuma, Arizona. Photo by Getty Images

I thought this issue was settled by Hamilton and them:

The Mexican government is urging a U.S. court to block a part of the [Arizona SB1070] law that prohibits the harboring of undocumented immigrants.

Lawyers representing México asked the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in a filing Wednesday to uphold a lower-court ruling that blocked police from enforcing the ban. México argued the ban harms diplomatic relations between the United States, undermines the U.S.’s ability to speak to a foreign country with one voice and encourages the marginalization of Mexicans and people who appear to be from Latin America.

‘México cannot conduct effective negotiations with the United States when the foreign policy decisions of the federal governments are undermined by the individual policies of individual states,’ lawyers for the Mexican government said in a friend-of-the-court brief. …

In 2010, México urged the courts to declare the law unconstitutional, and 10 other Latin American countries had joined in expressing their opposition to the law.”

Ironically, it’s the state of Arizona’s insistence that undocumented immigrants are to be treated as foreign nationals which strengthens the federal government’s claim of supreme jurisdiction.

In another amicus brief filed earlier this year, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright explained how it was exactly the debate concerning jurisdiction over foreign relations that compelled the Founders to scratch the toothless Articles of Confederation and draft a new constitution that created a stronger, more centralized federal government.

The brief reads:

“Immigration policy has been part and parcel of U.S. foreign relations since the country’s founding. As this Court has recognized, the text, history, and structure of the Constitution require that the U.S. government speak with one voice on all issues of international relations. Consequently, the exclusivity of the national government’s power over foreign policy matters such as trade or war applies with full force to immigration policy, including the regulation of aliens crossing or within U.S. borders. …

The Constitution’s text and structure so provide, and this Court has long recognized that foreign relations powers reside solely within the federal government and are not shared with the states.”

If Governor Jan Brewer and like-minded governors across the country want to continue labeling undocumented immigrants as “aliens” and “foreigners,” then they must also accept that the Constitution endows Washington with exclusive authority over immigration policy and enforcement, as “part and parcel of U.S. foreign relations.”

As Alexander Hamilton wrote in The Federalist more than 200 years ago, “the peace of the whole ought not to be left at the disposal of a part.” By undermining the authority of the federal government, states like Arizona threaten to hurt relations with a close ally and economic partner in Mexico.

This is not the Disunited States of America we live in, and state powers are superseded by the federal government for good reason.

About Hector Luis Alamo, Jr.

Hector Luis Alamo, Jr., is the associate editor at Being Latino and a native son of Chicago's Humboldt Park neighborhood. He received a B.A. in history at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where his concentration was on ethnic relations in the United States. While at UIC, he worked first as a staff writer for the Chicago Flame and later became the newspaper's Opinions editor. He contributes to various Chicago-area publications, most notably, the RedEye and Gozamos. He's also a cultural critic for 'LLERO magazine. He has maintained a personal blog since 2007,, where he discusses topics ranging from political history and philosophy to culture and music.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and should not be understood to be shared by Being Latino, Inc.


  1. Genuinesol says:

    Not surprising, there is no mention of the fact that there are federal laws for immigration and many of the illegal aliens that the state of Arizona is seeking to hold accountable for breaking those said laws have committed a crime. Where is the mention of that?

    To make matters worse there has been countless articles that show that Mexico has very strict laws against illegal immigration and enforces it to the tee and yet they are supporting citizens from their country who willing disregard the laws of another nation! Sickening…..

    Do not even get me started on how quick many Mexicans are quit to shot discrimination when they themselves are some of most cliquish, prejudicial, and racist individuals on the planet; the last thing the USA needs more of.

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