Maybe states' rights concerns trumped civil liberties concerns.
Or, maybe, election-year politics prevailed over all other considerations.
Regardless, Gov. Butch Otter has changed his tone about Arizona's controversial immigration law. Today, he announced that Idaho has filed a "friend of the court" brief backing Arizona in its defense of the law.
"State officials have the right under existing federal law to identify illegal aliens and report them to federal authorities," Otter said today. "It’s our affirmative duty to protect states’ rights, and that’s particularly important when a lawsuit seeks to punish a state for doing what the federal government has failed to do – protect our borders and American citizens."
In May, Otter criticized Congress for failing to resolve the immigration crisis, but questioned whether police officers could enforce the Arizona law without violating civil liberties. "It would take a person, I suspect, bigger than I not to immediately begin to profile."
Read and compare.
Here's what Otter said today, in a news release:
Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter announced today that the State of Idaho has joined Michigan in filing a “friend of the court” brief with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in support of Arizona’s law on illegal immigrants.
Attorney General Lawrence Wasden, in consultation with the Governor, signed on to the amicus brief Thursday. It makes the case that states have the authority to concurrently enforce federal immigration law, provided that states do not create new categories of aliens or attempt to independently determine the immigration status of an alien.
The brief also contends that the Arizona law is consistent with the regulatory scheme established by Congress — which is one of concurrent enforcement, where the federal government must respond to any inquiry by a state or local government agency seeking to verify the immigration status of any person within its jurisdiction.
“Arizona is simply requiring its law enforcement officials to help the federal government enforce immigration law as envisioned by Congress,” Governor Otter said. “State officials have the right under existing federal law to identify illegal aliens and report them to federal authorities. It’s our affirmative duty to protect states’ rights, and that’s particularly important when a lawsuit seeks to punish a state for doing what the federal government has failed to do – protect our borders and American citizens.”
Eleven states now have joined in the appeal from a federal judge’s initial ruling against Arizona in the lawsuit filed by the U.S. Department of Justice.
And here's what he said in a May 12 editorial board interview (and here's a link back to my blog at the time):
"I'm not going to become a saint by outlining the sins of others, but I look on it, that was a move of desperation. And increased by frustration. ... I'm not sure how you can possibly turn that around, but I certainly understand (Gov.) Jan Brewer and the Arizona Legislature's absolute frustration. The total failure of the federal government, that's a failure of federal policy. Whatever comes of that has to be laid at the doorstep of the federal government. ...
"If they would pay as much attention to those things like immigration and border control that they should be doing, and pay less attention to all of the other things that they're mucking about in that are costing states hundreds of millions of dollars by unfunded mandates and those sort of things, I think we probably wouldn't see that sort of frustration that boiled up as much as it has in Arizona. ...
"The only way my libertarian tendencies get frizzled a little bit with that is, I don't know how you implement that law without the personal bias of people who become the enforcement tools to implement that law. ... It would take a person, I suspect, bigger than I not to immediately begin to profile."