It came across the Yahoo! Newswire in big letters today at around 10 o’clock – “Breaking: Supreme Court Strikes Down AZ Immigration Law.“
The law in question was Arizona’s SB 1070 – which you can read in full here. The law was meant to provide the citizens of Arizona with a way to fill in federal failures to enforce national immigration laws. It allowed police to demand immigration papers (or proof of citizenship) from anyone suspected of committing a crime with probable cause. Anyone found to be in Arizona illegally would then be deported to their country of origin.
While many opponents of the law claimed that it would lead to discrimination against hispanic-looking people, the Supreme Court didn’t give this issue much thought. Wisely, it pointed out that since the law hadn’t been in effect, and since it didn’t specifically and explicitly gone after one minority, it couldn’t have caused any discrimination to occur. In other words, SCOTUS would need to actually see evidence of discrimination to rule the law was discriminatory, and there wasn’t any.
In fact, because of this lack of evidence, the court upheld the portion of the law that allowed law enforcement to check on people’s immigration status – a big win for the Tea Party and Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, who pushed hard for this statute. But the Supreme Court did vote 5-3 (Elena Kagan recused herself) to strike down other portions of the law because they “undermined federal law” in the policy area of immigration. According to the Supremacy Clause, the Federal government can’t have its laws superseded by the states, and the Arizona law would have led to this conflict. When there’s any disagreement between a state and Washington DC, Washington always wins.
In should be noted that while many were actually expecting a ruling on Obamacare to be released today (an event that will take place Thursday instead), the court’s decision on an immigration issue instantly drew connections to President Obama’s decision to stop enforcing a federal immigration statute last week. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney correctly pointed out a few days ago that Obama’s decision to basically neglect his job as chief executive for political reasons made it “harder to find a long-term and permanent solution to the problem” of illegal immigration.
As a result of what seemed like split decision by the court, many news organizations were having trouble deciphering who won and lost today. For example, CNN ran a massive headline that read “BLOW TO IMMIGRATION LAW,” but the British Broadcasting Corporation took the opposite point of view: “Arizona Migrant Check Survives Court Cuts.” Depending on who you asked, today was either a good day or a bad day for President Obama and his re-election bid.
We at DYNAMO, of course, know with certainty that the big winners in this decision were the American people, because the concept of federalism (with a national government in control of the states) received a powerful boost. Our constitution was designed with a balance between central and local governments in mind. The Arizona law tipped that balance the wrong way, but the Supreme Court’s decision today returned the scales to their proper levels.
Agree or disagree with the ruling? Let it out in the comments below.