As the world chewed its nails and waited anxiously for a Supreme Court ruling on the Affordable Care Act today, the justices instead handed down a mixed decision on Arizona’s controversial immigration law, striking down three parts of the Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act, known as SB 1070, and allowing a fourth provision to continue for now. The “show me your papers” part of the law, which requires law enforcement officers to check the immigration status of anyone they’ve stopped for other offenses, will continue, but may be subject to future legal challenges.
The court struck down these provisions: requiring all immigrants to obtain or carry immigration registration papers, making it a state criminal offense for an illegal immigrant to seek work or hold a job and allowing police to arrest suspected illegal immigrants without warrants.
Justice Antonin Scalia, who believed all four portions should have been upheld, wrote in his dissent that striking down the law “deprives States of what most would consider the defining characteristic of sovereignty: the power to exclude from the sovereign’s territory people who have no right to be there.”
He also addressed President Obama’s executive decision to no longer deport young undocumented immigrants, though it had no direct bearing on the case: “The President said at a news conference that the new program is ‘the right thing to do’ in light of Congress’s failure to pass the Administration’s proposed revision of the Immigration Act.7. Perhaps it is, though Arizona may not think so. But to say, as the Court does, that Arizona contradicts federal law by enforcing applications of the Immigration Act that the President declines to enforce boggles the mind.”
With eyes on the Hispanic vote in the upcoming presidential election, both sides are already working to spin the split decision in their favor. In the instant cable news reactions, only Fox News said the law was upheld:
Tom Goldstein of SCOTUS Blog called the decision “a significant win for the Obama Administration. It got almost everything it wanted.” Mitt Romney, who’s conveniently campaigning today in Arizona, will almost certainly have a different take.
Update: Arizona Governor Jan Brewer issued a statement calling the ruling “a victory for the rule of law” and declaring “the heart of SB 1070 can now be implemented in accordance with the U.S. Constitution.”
Update II: Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio insisted after the ruling, “We did not racial profile.”
“Today’s decision underscores the need for a President who will lead on this critical issue and work in a bipartisan fashion to pursue a national immigration strategy. President Obama has failed to provide any leadership on immigration. This represents yet another broken promise by this President. I believe that each state has the duty–and the right–to secure our borders and preserve the rule of law, particularly when the federal government has failed to meet its responsibilities. As Candidate Obama, he promised to present an immigration plan during his first year in office. But 4 years later, we are still waiting.”