Despite what you may hear on Fox News, the Obama Administration and the rest of us saw a huge victory in the Supreme Court's ruling on Arizona's "Papers Please" law. In a 5-4 ruling, they struck down three out of four key provisions, leaving the
June 25, 2012


Despite what you may hear on Fox News, the Obama Administration and the rest of us saw a huge victory in the Supreme Court's ruling on Arizona's "Papers Please" law. In a 5-4 ruling, they struck down three out of four key provisions, leaving the question about proving one's legal resident status open to narrow implementation. Their decision on the Affordable Care Act is expected Thursday morning.

SCOTUSblog reports that the three stricken provisions are as follows:

  • State Law Crime of Being In The Country Illegally. Although federal law already makes it illegal for someone to be in the country without proper authorization, Section 3 of the Arizona statute also makes it a state crime, subject to additional fines and possible imprisonment. The Court held that this provision was preempted and cannot be enforced. The Court held that Congress has left no room for states to regulate in this field, even to implement the federal prohibition.
  • Ban on Working In The State. Section 5(C) of the statute also makes it a state crime for undocumented immigrants from applying for a job or working in the state. It is also held preempted as imposing an obstacle to the federal regulatory system. Because Congress obviously chose not make working in the country without proper authorization a federal crime, states cannot enact additional criminal penalties Congress decided not to impose.
  • Warrantless Arrest Of Individuals Believed To Have Committed A Deportable Crime. Section 6 of the statute authorizes state law enforcement officials to arrest without a warrant any individual otherwise lawfully in the country, if law enforcement officials have probable cause to believe the individual has committed a deportable offense. The Court held that this provision is preempted. Whether and when to arrest someone for being unlawfully in the country is a question solely for the federal government.

On the identification provision, the Court ruled that the Ninth Circuit Court was wrong to have prevented implementation of the identification portion of the law, but left the door open for other challenges to it.

This particular case challenged the question of whether Arizona had the right to supercede federal immigration laws. The answer was mostly no, but the Court did hold that Arizona could possibly implement the identification requirement with the understanding that it is subject to further challenge as other cases progress through the courts.

In other words, it might be allowable for states to do this, but if it's implemented in a way that discriminates, it may not withstand challenge.

The ruling was 5-3, with Kagan recusing due to her involvement while she worked for the Obama administration.

In a rather stunning dissent, Justice Scalia reached over the record made in the case to discuss President Obama's executive order -- DREAM Act lite. In his dissent, he pointed to that executive order for his reasoning that the federal government had the resources, but not the will, to enforce immigration law, and then went on to say this:

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. 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.

Overreach, thy name is Scalia. You don't have to be a lawyer to understand that legal opinions are based on the record as made in a courtroom and not on Fox News! He concluded his dissent, which was read from the bench, with this:

Arizona has moved to protect its sovereignty—not in contradiction of federal law, but in complete compliance with it. The laws under challenge here do not extend or revise federal immigration restrictions, but merely enforce those restrictions more effectively. If securing its territory in this fashion is not within the power of Arizona, we should cease referring to it as a sovereign State. I dissent.

Justice Scalia is in lockstep with his friend Kris Kobach, it seems, which shouldn't surprise anyone. Scalia's ties to the Federalist Society run deep, and Kobach is their go-to for immigration laws.

The Romney campaign just released this statement, saying nothing:

“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.”

Weak, given consistent Republican obstruction to something as basic as the DREAM Act.

The White House statement, issued shortly after Mr. Romney's, said this:

I am pleased that the Supreme Court has struck down key provisions of Arizona's immigration law. 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.

At the same time, I remain concerned about the practical impact of the remaining provision of the Arizona law that requires local law enforcement officials to check the immigration status of anyone they even suspect to be here illegally. I agree with the Court that individuals cannot be detained solely to verify their immigration status. No American should ever live under a cloud of suspicion just because of what they look like. Going forward, we must ensure that Arizona law enforcement officials do not enforce this law in a manner that undermines the civil rights of Americans, as the Court’s decision recognizes. Furthermore, we will continue to enforce our immigration laws by focusing on our most important priorities like border security and criminals who endanger our communities, and not, for example, students who earn their education – which is why the Department of Homeland Security announced earlier this month that it will lift the shadow of deportation from young people who were brought to the United States as children through no fault of their own.

Think Progress has concerns about the parts they allowed to stand.

Other rulings included a 5-4 refusal to hear Montana's challenge to the Citizens United decision, striking down their law preventing corporations from giving to candidates and campaigns. I'll cover this in more detail in another post.

Also, they issued an opinion that sentencing children to prison for life violates the eighth amendment of the Constitution.

Thursday will be the day we hear their decision on the Affordable Care Act. Stay tuned.

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