Everyone Wins (and Loses): The Supreme Court’s Immigration Ruling
The U.S. Supreme Court upheld a key component of Arizona’s controversial immigration law Monday, allowing local police to request documentation from people they suspect to be in the country illegally. It struck down “two provisions that made it a crime for an illegal immigrant to seek work or fail to register with the federal government,” NPR reported. It also ruled against “a portion of the law that allowed state and local law enforcement officers to arrest anyone based solely on the suspicion that the individual was in the country illegally.”
Governor Jan Brewer declared the ruling a victory, according to Politico. “Today is the day when the key components of our efforts to protect the citizens of Arizona, to take up the fight against illegal immigration in a balanced and constitutional way, has unanimously been vindicated by the highest court in the land,” she said. “Arizona’s and every other state’s inherent authority to protect and defend its people has been upheld.”
But the ruling “reignited concerns that the law could lead to widespread racial profiling and civil-rights violations by overzealous police targeting Hispanics, including U.S. citizens or those who are here legally,” The Arizona Republic reported. Writing at The Grio, Judith Browne Dianis said the decision is also “a mixed bag and a cautionary note for black folks” because anti-immigration laws “intrinsically include us in their broad sweep, as civil rights violations always do. ”
“I am pleased that the Supreme Court has struck down key provisions of Arizona’s immigration law,” President Obama said in a statement. “What this decision makes unmistakably clear is that Congress must act on comprehensive immigration reform. A patchwork of state laws is not a solution to our broken immigration system – it’s part of the problem.”
His administration went further. “Just hours after the Supreme Court issued its decision on SB1070, federal officials said they would immediately rescind a controversial federal-state partnership that uses local cops in Arizona to detain immigrants,” Colorlines reported.
Rival Mitt Romney took the opposite approach, according to The Washington Post. “I would have preferred to see the Supreme Court give more latitude to states, not less. And the states, now under this decision, have less authority, less latitude, to enforce immigration law,” he reportedly said at a fundraiser in Scottsdale.
The ruling could be a “boon” to the president, but Romney loses no matter what, said Howard Fineman at The Huffington Post. “Praise the court and [Romney] offends Latinos; fault it and he offends social conservatives who have made a crackdown on the undocumented a key Tea Party plank. … Since possession of a valid driver’s license is, under the Arizona law, sufficient proof of citizenship, the ruling will force legal residents and citizens to get them if they don’t have them. There’s no better place to run a registration drive than at or near a DMV. Most of those voters are likely to be Democrats, or at least Obama supporters,” Fineman wrote.
Either way, “Many politicians – and Americans in general – don’t understand the complex contours of Hispanic voters in America,” The Christian Science Monitor reported. The problem begins with the term Hispanic, which was reportedly “manufactured by Congress in 1976 to be an umbrella term that applies to all Americans of Spanish descent.”
Speaking of Hispanics, the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference issued a statement stating, in part, that the Court “initiated the process of establishing a legal firewall against draconian measures as it pertains to immigration” and conveyed “a clear message that 21st century jurisprudence will not tolerate measures that polarize and segregate our communities.”
Christians for Comprehensive Immigration Reform also issued a statement, from Jim Wallis, that said, in part, “The decision to strike down key provisions of this legislation is a victory for everyone in the faith community who seeks to follow the Bible’s call for concern for the vulnerable and ‘stranger’ among us. Arizona’s immoral legislation threatened families, harmed children, and made it difficult for law enforcement to safeguard the communities they swore to protect; it remains important to ensure that any remaining parts of the legislation are never used to justify racial profiling by local police.”
The American Civil Liberties Union will devote $8.7 million to fight expansion of “show me your papers” laws in other states, its Executive Director Anthony D. Romero announced Monday. The ACLU will “aggressively battle any state’s attempts to enact copycat legislation while also fighting the ‘corrosive effects’ of existing anti-immigrant laws in Arizona and five other states,” its statement said.
It may be an uphill battle. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey found that 55% of likely voters wanted SB1070 upheld, while only 26% wanted it overturned. Nineteen percent were undecided about the law.
What do you think?
Did the U.S. Supreme Court make the right decision?