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Pioneer Editorial: Arizona law exceeding state's rights

A U.S. District Court ruling Wednesday in Arizona's immigration law is but a first step for an issue that will most likely end up in the U.S. Supreme Court, where it should be permanently resolved.

And that decision should be that the U.S. Constitution allows for the federal government to provide for the common defense, or more specifically, to protect each state from invasion. In other words, it is the federal government's obligation and duty to protect the nation's borders from "invasion," whether that be by force of an invading military army or by a sea of illegal immigrants.

U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton issued a temporary injunction against the Arizona law only hours before it would have taken effect. The order puts on hold the provision that requires an officer to determine the immigration status of a person stopped, detained or arrested if there is "reasonable suspicion" that the person is in the United States illegally. How the law defines "reasonable suspicion" will no doubt be at issue when higher courts pick apart the Arizona law, but a charge of racial profiling is certain.

The judge's order also holds off provisions that makes it a crime for documented immigrations to be without their registration papers, that make it crime for illegal immigrants to seek or perform work and a provision that allows a warrantless arrest of a person who is believed to have committed a crime that would be subject to deportation from the United States.

The federal government's fear -- as is ours -- is that the Arizona could set a precedence among the states, creating a patchwork quilt of various laws about who can or can't remain in a state bordering Mexico or, for that matter, Canada.

Judge Bolton noted in her order that Arizona law's chief provision to allow law enforcement to demand the immigration status of anyone deemed "reasonably suspicious" "would likely burden legal resident aliens and interfere with federal policy."

There is no doubt that the federal government has been lacking in leadership on a national immigration policy. But that should not mean that the 50 states can take it upon themselves to adopt 50 different policies to protect their borders.

Border protection is a federal issue, and an effort that needs to be bolstered. The court order will stop an onerous law from taking effect, but a permanent decision is needed. The state of Arizona will appeal the ruling to a federal appeals court, and then probably to the U.S. Supreme Court.

It will then be those nine justices' job to make a key ruling -- where do state's rights end and the federal government's begin?