October 7, 1997 in Nation/World

Court Rejects States’ Invasion Suit California, Arizona Wanted U.S. Held Liable For Illegal Aliens

Los Angeles Times

The Supreme Court, despite its states’ rights sympathies, rejected a claim from California and Arizona Monday that sought to hold the U.S. government liable for an “invasion” of undocumented immigrants crossing the borders.

Though understandably unhappy with the outcome, lawyers for the two states need not feel they were singled out for rejection. The high court said “no” to more than 1,500 appeals on the opening day of its term.

In general, the justices vote to hear cases only when they raise a legal question that has divided the lower courts. Even a momentous issue is usually ignored until such a split has developed.

Monday’s list of rejected appeals left intact scores of important lower court rulings.

California’s burden is by far the nation’s largest, he said. Its population includes at least 43 percent of all undocumented people living in the United States, and 125,000 new illegal immigrants are added each year.

Between 1989 and 1995, when the lawsuit was filed, the state paid $1.8 billion for emergency medical care for these immigrants and an additional $3.3 billion to lock up immigrants who were convicted of felonies, he said.

The lawsuit cited Article 4 of the Constitution which says the United States “shall protect each of (the states) against invasion.”

But U.S. District Judge Judith Keep in San Diego and the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco threw out the lawsuit on the grounds that California and Arizona were not being “invaded” by a hostile, foreign power.

The issue of who pays for immigrants is a political issue, not a legal one, they said.

The states also have been faring better on the political front. Congress added $500 million a year in 1996 and 1997 to help the states pay for crime and prison costs of illegal immigrants, the government noted.

For California, this federal aid has jumped from $33 million in 1994 to $292 million this year.

Without comment, the high court simply denied the appeals in Arizona vs. U.S., 96-1595, and California vs. U.S., 96-1596.

In Sacramento, Gov. Pete Wilson said he was disappointed.

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