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Spring 2008SANCTUARY CITIES: A CONSTITUTIONAL PRIMER213
representing the legislative culmination of their efforts, required thatpotential handgun purchasers undergo background checks. Toward thisend, the bill sought to establish a national database to instantly checkpurchasers’ backgrounds. Until this system was functional, the bill enlistedthe help of local law enforcement officers to perform background checkson purchasers within their jurisdiction.
Two sheriffs from Montana andArizona sued on the grounds that this provision violated precedentestablished through New York v. United States,
which placed some limitson Congress's ability to compel states to enforce its laws. On a five to fourdecision, the Supreme Court found the interim provision unconstitutional.The most obvious objection to the Brady Bill's interim provisionsquestions the power of Congress to "commandeer" local enforcementofficers.
Scalia, writing for the majority opinion, argues, "The power of the Federal Government would be augmented immeasurably if it were ableto impress into its service – and at no cost to itself – the police officers of the 50 States.”
Through the Brady Bill's interim provisions, Congressoverstepped its bounds claiming power that rightly belongs to the States.In the case of sanctuary cities, the federalist case for ceding the choiceof whether to employ state or local officials to state-level decision-makingis particularly strong: local stances on immigration are arrived at throughmore intimate democratic processes, meaning those most directly affectedby the number of illegal immigrants and the extent of their rights have abigger say than they would in national laws.
Moreover, ceding thisdecision to local government allows for policy experimentation withincities, which can help test claims made by both sides of the immigrationdebate - what better way to see whether immigrants "take" the jobs of American citizens than letting cities choose not to enforce immigration lawand tracking the results?
Finally, permitting cities to decide forthemselves whether to enforce immigration law allows for specification inpolicy. It may be that neither lax immigration stances nor stringent onesare right for every locale. Rather, because of characteristics unique toeach
22, 1993), http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9F0CE4DC173DF931A15752C1A965958260
18 U.S.C. § 921-922.
18 U.S.C. 922(s)(2)
New York v. United States, 505 U.S. 144 (1992).
Daniel Booth, Federalism on Ice: State and Local Enforcement of Federal ImmigrationLaw, 29 Harv. J.L. & Pub. Pol’y 1063 (2006).
Printz v. United States, supra.
Matthew Parlow, Denver University Law Review Symposium: Immigration: Both Sides of the Fence: A Localist’s Case for Decentralizing Immigration Policy, 84 Denv. U.L. Rev. 1061(2007).