Immigration goes to pot

Here’s a story from McClatchy about the federal lawsuit against Arizona’s immigration laws.

The Obama administration decision to challenge Arizona’s illegal immigration law is serious, but it also is a laughing matter of gut-wrenching proportions.

I can almost hear someone say, “Don’t Bogart that joint, my friend,” as belly-busting guffaws ensue. I’ll explain as we go along.

Arizona’s law, passed in April and scheduled to take effect July 29, keys on federal law and national policy against illegal immigrants. However, it is under siege by the administration of a Democrat who on occasion says elections have consequences. By that he means, “We won, we rule.”

Perhaps one such consequence is turning a blind eye to enforcing laws he doesn’t feel like enforcing. President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder don’t want Arizona enforcing immigration law strictly, so they are suing to get an injunction blocking the new state law on various grounds. Among their claims are these:

It’s unconstitutional because “it impermissibly attempts to set immigration policy at the state level and is therefore pre-empted;” it could lead other states down a slippery slope of patchwork policies that would “cripple” federal policy; and it could result in “harassment and incarceration” of legal aliens or citizens who don’t carry documentation.

Maybe, though I question that part about the law impermissibly attempting to set immigration policy. Oh, and immigration policy isn’t crippled completely yet? That’s how we got here.

Suing Arizona for trying to do what the federal government can’t or won’t also seems inconsistent if you consider the nation’s and states’ marijuana statutes. Federal law makes marijuana illegal for either recreational or medical purposes.

Yet California, Nevada and a host of other states have medical marijuana laws of varying strictness (patchwork policies). Alaska allows residents to grow pot for personal use; a host of jurisdictions decriminalized pot use/possession in small quantities.

Where are the Feds?

In California, where a major marijuana market exists for both medical and recreational purposes, the Feds try to stem the tide of pot by going after some major players but don’t seem able to get matters down to stems and seeds with much success. Do they sue the state to stop medical marijuana? Don’t hold your breath, Bogart.

Don’t get me wrong, either. I’m libertarian enough to prefer the Feds finesse victimless crimes like pot usage, but I also see the federal system as a partnership between states and the national government.

Lawsuits seem a bit Bigfoot, but perhaps that’s because Arizona isn’t California, and different constituencies respond different ways on immigration and pot. Something smells, but I’m not getting a contact high.

From my perspective, the Obama administration cares about control and politics as much as governing and policy when it comes to illegal immigration. I’ll be intrigued to see if President Obama does better in court on this issue than in Congress.

The outcome aside, though, I still stress one question: What consistency is there in suing a state for trying to enforce federal and state law against illegal immigration while turning a blind eye, in many ways, to states ignoring federal law on marijuana?

When it comes to laws—marijuana, immigration, whatever—I prefer that federal officials think twice before pandering to constituencies and chasing wedge issues to box in opponents. That is what really is going on here.

Government makes me laugh so hard I cry, sometimes even before I ingest my favorite mind-altering substance. But I try not to wine too much.