By Chris Levister
Democrats and Republicans each found something to cheer in the Supreme Court's ruling Monday on Arizona's controversial immigration law, reflecting the delicate politics surrounding immigration and the court's own mixed decision. The court struck down major parts of Arizona's tough immigration law, but it unanimously upheld the most controversial “show me your papers” requirement – that police making arrests or traffic stops check the immigration status of anyone suspected of being here illegally. Supporters of the law said the ruling recognized the state’s right to enforce immigration laws, while working with federal authorities. Opponents said the ruling clearly indicated that the federal government has the ultimate authority to enforce immigration laws and states cannot pass laws that undermine that authority.
With both parties vying for a larger piece of the Hispanic vote, President Obama quickly praised the ruling while his GOP rival Mitt Romney criticized it, saying he would have preferred that the court give more latitude to Arizona. Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer called the decision a victory for all Americans, saying that the “heart of the bill” could now be enforced and that any officer who violates a person's civil rights will be held accountable.
Brewer said she expected lawsuits to challenge the implementation of the law. “It's certainly not the end of our journey,” she said. The president, who managed to sway two Republican justices to his viewpoint in the Arizona case, said the decision demonstrated the need for immigration reform, which has been bogged down amid partisan bickering on Capitol Hill.
“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,” Obama said. “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.” Meanwhile, Romney said in a written statement, “The 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.”
California Lawmakers Weigh In California lawmakers called the ruling a mix of victory and disappointment. Rep. Joe Baca, said in a written statement, the decision makes it clear that “immigration should be exclusively the jurisdiction of the federal government.”
“I am disappointed that the Court upheld the discriminatory ‘show me your papers’ provisions of the law. I fear that this misguided provision will inevitably lead to racial profiling. The simple truth is that if this provision is implemented, some Americans will be forced to prove their citizenship based on the color of their skin while others will stand little or no chance of being affected,” Baca said.
“I continue to wear a wrist band in solidarity with the families that may be victimized by this unjust law. Moving forward, I will continue to work with my colleagues to protect civil rights and stop the immoral show me your papers’ provisions of S.B. 1070 from being implemented,” continued Baca.
State Senator Gloria Negrete McLeod called the ruling a win “for those of us who want a comprehensive approach to immigration and it serves as a wakeup call to the federal government that more needs to be done. Despite reaffirming the Federal Government’s authority over immigration policy it was disappointing that the court upheld the most divisive aspect of Arizona’s immigration law permitting law enforcement to question an individual’s legal status,” said Senator McLeod. “Border enforcement and security are legitimate concerns, but politicizing the issue creates hostility and animosity within communities and does nothing to solve the problem.”
Assembly Member Tim Donnelly (R-Hesperia), a staunch opponent of illegal immigration, praised part of the court's ruling Monday. “This 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.”
The number of illegal immigrants living in the United States dropped to 10.8 million in 2009 from 11.6 million in 2008, marking the second consecutive year of decline and the sharpest decrease in at least three decades, according to a report by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
California's illegal immigrant population, still the largest in the nation, declined by 250,000 to 2.6 million. The state now accounts for just one-quarter of the nation's total illegal migrant population, compared with 30% in 2000. Meanwhile the mixed decision on Arizona’s immigration crackdown has stoked the public’s growing distain for the Supreme Court. A New York Times CBS Poll shows 44 percent of Americans approve of the job the high court is doing.
Robert B. Reich, Chancellor's Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley, says the decline in popularity may stem in part from Americans’ growing distrust in recent years of major institutions in general and the government in particular. “But it’s just as likely to reflect a sense that the Court is more political, especially after it divided in such partisan ways in the 5-4 decisions Bush v. Gore (which decided the 2000 presidential race) and Citizen’s United (which in 2010 opened the floodgates to unlimited campaign spending),” said Reich.
With the Supreme Court ruling on health care expected Thursday some are asking, can the American people trust the Court to put politics aside?