Another day, another reason for Fox & Friends host Steve Doocy to stay far, far away from legal (mis)interpretation. On the July 7 edition of Fox & Friends, Doocy questioned why the White House is suing Arizona over the state's controversial illegal immigration law when it should be "singling out Rhode Island" -- a state he falsely claimed has "a law that mirrors" Arizona's law, has "been on the books for years," and "has already been upheld by two of the highest courts in the country." To make this falsehood appear super official, Doocy even offers up the First Circuit Court of Appeals case Estrada v. Rhode Island amixed in with a little legal analysis as "proof" of his claims. Too bad he is one hundred percent wrong. From Fox & Friends:
DOOCY: So the White House is singling out Arizona, and yet why aren't they singling out Rhode Island? Because Rhode Island has a law that mirrors their law that's been on the books for years and they've actually enforced it. And what's interesting is a federal appeals court this past February actually upheld the Rhode Island law in the case of Estrada vs. Rhode Island. And they cited a Supreme Court finding called Muehler and Mena that says the police do not need any reason to ask a person about their immigration status. So the courts are already weighing in, what they're doing in Arizona is absolutely fine. And that's why some other stats are thinking about doing the same thing.
CARLSON: It's interesting because that would set a precedent from a legal point of view with what could happen in Arizona.
DOOCY: It's interesting, you've got the Department of Justice and what are they doing? They're dropping a case that they essentially won against the New Black Panthers Party and instead they are suing a sovereign state that is enacting a law that has already been upheld by two of the highest courts in the country. What is the matter with that picture? [emphasis added]
Let's start with the case of Estrada v. Rhode Island. This case has absolutely nothing to do with any "Rhode Island law" that "mirrors" the Arizona law. In this case, Estrada was pulled over for making an illegal lane change. Estrada happened to be traveling on his way to work with many passengers in a 15-passenger van. Many of those passengers could not speak English and did not produce valid identification. The police officer patted Estrada down twice, and inquired about the immigration status of all of the passengers in the van. Estrada and his passengers were later escorted to an Immigration and Customs Enforcement office. Estrada and his passengers filed a civil suit against the state of Rhode Island and the Rhode Island State Police alleging that the police officer who stopped them performed an illegal search and seizure in violation of the federal statute 42 U.S.C. section 1983, violated their Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights under the United States Constitution, and violated the Rhode Island Constitution and Racial Profiling Prevention Act. So, again, the case of Estrada v. Rhode Island at no time makes any mention of a Rhode Island immigration law and the First Circuit Court of Appeals makes no ruling upholding such an immigration law. One can only guess, then, what Doocy meant when he said the "two highest courts in the country" have upheld a Rhode Island immigration law that "mirrors" the Arizona law.
Perhaps this "law that's been on the books for years" that Doocy was referring to is the 2008 executive order that Rhode Island Governor Donald Carcieri issued. This order mandated that police officers receive training from ICE to assist ICE in the enforcement of federal immigration laws. But, even if Doocy mistakenly believed that this executive order was the "law" in question that the plaintiffs in Estrada were suing Rhode Island over, there is still the small problem that the Estrada case was brought in 2007. Estrada did not make any mention of this executive order, and that court neither "upheld" nor struck it down.
Legal scholar Doocy concluded that the courts are "already weighing in" and "what they're doing in Arizona is absolutely fine." But, since Doocy brought up the "highest court...in the country," let's look to the Supreme Court -- and actual "law that's been on the books for years" to decide how the Arizona law might shake out. In the 1941 case of Hines v. Davidowitz, the Supreme Court examined a Pennsylvania statute that mandated every immigrant to register with the state once each year, provide other information and details that the state Department of Labor asked for, obtain and carry an identification card, and display it when asked by police, among other stipulations. The federal government challenged the state law because the law "encroached upon the legislative powers constitutionally vested in the federal government." The Supreme Court agreed, concluding that the federal government:
is correct in his contention that the power to restrict, limit, regulate, and register aliens as a distinct group is not an equal and continuously existing concurrent power of state and nation, but that whatever power a state may have is subordinate to supreme national law.
The Court said that the federal government had "plainly manifested a purpose...to protect the personal liberties of law-abiding aliens through one uniform national registration system, and to leave them free from the possibility of inquisitorial practices and police surveillance that might not only affect our international relations but might also generate the very disloyalty which the law has intended guarding against." Therefore, the Pennsylvania law was struck down.
So, Doocy botched the facts, the law, and completely ignored a Supreme Court case that is directly on point with the Arizona law? In the words of Doocy: "What is the matter with that picture?"