But immigration remains unmistakably under federal authority — and a political football this election year.
On Monday, the Supreme Court ruled that most of Arizona’s controversial immigration law, SB1070, is preempted by federal jurisdiction over immigration policy. The Court upheld the part of the law that allows (or in some cases requires) police officers to check the immigration status of those they detain for other reasons. But even this aspect of the law was upheld narrowly (on grounds that it is too early to rule on whether it is preempted by federal law) and is likely to be subject to further challenge.
Within minutes, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer released a statement, which begins as follows:
Today’s decision by the U.S. Supreme Court is a victory for the rule of law. It is also a victory for the 10th Amendment and all Americans who believe in the inherent right and responsibility of states to defend their citizens. After more than two years of legal challenges, the heart of SB 1070 can now be implemented in accordance with the U.S. Constitution.
The governor doth protest too little; it is not a great legal victory for Arizona.
There was a surprising consistency of reasonable characterization in “mainstream media” early reaction, such as the Washington Post calling the ruling a “partial victory” for the Obama administration, and a Phoenix CBS television station describing it as a “small victory.” Even Reuters’ initial analysis was entitled “High Court upholds key part of Arizona immigration law.”
As if to rub salt in Arizona’s wound, later on Monday the Obama administration ended what are known as “287 agreements” with Arizona which had effectively deputized local law enforcement officials to help implement federal immigration law. One can just hear Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano cackling, “How does that ‘victory’ feel now, Jan?”
While both sides may claim they earned a minor victory, the larger legal victory was the administration’s. The bigger question is the political impact. With a majority of Americans in favor of the Arizona law but a majority of Hispanics against it, the result looks to be a mixed bag, though more likely a negative among the large and critical bloc of independent “swing” voters — if the Republicans and Mitt Romney gain the skill and courage to use the issue to their advantage.
Although almost all of the Arizona law was struck down, the part that was upheld (though it is far from safe from a future challenge, which could come within days), a provision that opponents call “show me your papers,” is a real deterrent to illegal alien presence in the state — or it would be in an environment in which the federal government was enforcing federal law.
If Arizona were told “you can have only one section of SB1070 upheld, which would you like it to be?” it probably would have opted for Section 2, the part that was at least temporarily — and unanimously — allowed to stand.
After all, provisions making a state crime of behavior that is already a federal crime are not likely to deter those willing to violate federal law. It is only the chance of being caught and prosecuted that might serve as deterrence. Monday’s ruling allows to stand the section of SB1070 that increases the chance of being caught, though eliminating the sections that make it more likely an illegal alien will be prosecuted.
Prosecution will remain the province of the federal government, but today’s actions by the administration may make illegal aliens feel more comfortable dipping their toes into Arizona sand: Not only did the administration end the 287 agreements, but, according to the Washington Times, “it has issued a directive telling federal authorities to decline many of the calls reporting illegal immigrants that the Homeland Security Department may get from Arizona police.”
A Romney campaign ad of a hypothetical Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE) answering machine message should be in the offing…
With the Obama administration looking to gut immigration law as we head into the November elections, Section 2 will be a distinct thorn in its side because it will increase the number of referrals to ICE of illegal aliens caught in Arizona. Those statistics, combined with actual deportation data, will put the administration in a position of either having to deport more people, which it will not do, or to be attacked — justifiably — for not enforcing the law.
Given President Obama’s recent announcement that ICE and the Department of Homeland Security will stop enforcing immigration law when it comes to illegal aliens who were brought here as children and who do not have criminal records, it is clear that his administration prefers to risk a non-enforcement accusation than to be seen as immigration hawks.
The Pew Hispanic Center estimates that “Up to 1.4 million children and young adults who are in the United States illegally could potentially benefit” from the policy change, “represent[ing] about 12% of the 11.2 million unauthorized immigrants in the U.S. as of 2010…”
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?