In its decision Arizona v. the United States, the Supreme Court today held that three provisions of an Arizona statute known as S. B. 1070, which was enacted in 2010 to address pressing issues related to the large number of unlawful aliens in the state, was preempted by federal law.
A fourth provision which requires officers conducting a stop, detention, or arrest to make efforts, in some circumstances, to verify a person’s immigration status with the federal government, was upheld—though the Justices said the provision could be subject to additional legal challenge. (“This opinion does not foreclose other preemption and constitutional challenges to the law as interpreted and applied after it goes into effect,” Justice Kennedy wrote in the majority opinion.)
Overall the decision was a setback, then, though perhaps not as injurious as it could have been, since the fourth provision was upheld (albeit in a weak manner that seems to invite further challenges).
After the Arizona legislature passed a bill seeking to force the federal government to enforce immigration laws, the state was subjected to an avalanche of criticism lambasting it for legislation that was characterized as racist. But now that the Supreme Court has ruled that the key element of the law was constitutional, the state’s critics, including the president of the United States, have found themselves on the losing side of the argument. Though most of the law, which trespassed on an issue that is a federal responsibility was overturned, the High Court unanimously ruled that the most controversial part of the measure — the requirement that law enforcement officials check the immigration status of anyone they arrest or stop for questioning — was constitutional. Though that issue will be sent back to the appeals level to allow for further challenges, much-maligned Arizonans can view themselves as largely vindicated, at least for the moment.
But now that the Court has ruled, this decision, like the long-awaited ruling on ObamaCare which will be handed down on Thursday, may become fodder for Democratic strategists who hope to enhance the president’s chances of re-election by making the conservative majority on the Court a campaign issue. Because so much effort has already been expended by the liberal mainstream media in demonizing the Arizona law for what was widely characterized as a form of discrimination, this may well play into Democratic talking points aimed at Hispanic voters. But however much this may help the president with some Hispanics, any effort to make the plight of illegal immigrants a central part of the president’s election narrative runs the risk of alienating the majority of Americans who sympathized with the Arizona law.
The biggest news out of the Supreme Court today is its decision on the Arizona immigration law, but it also handed a victory to supporters of Citizens United by knocking down a Montana law banning in-state corporate political spending. WSJ reports:
The U.S. Supreme Court has issued a summary reversal of the Montana Supreme Court’s decision to uphold a state law that prohibited corporate spending in state elections. The U.S. Court said the question in this case was whether the Citizens United decision, which established that corporate spending in elections is permitted as a matter of free speech, applied to the Montana state law. “There can be no serious doubt that it does,” the Court wrote.
Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr. may have been outclassed when he went up against Paul D. Clement arguing the case to uphold the constitutionality of ObamaCare before the Supreme Court of the United States. But today, when the pair once again matched up in the same forum when the high court met to hear arguments about the state of Arizona’s controversial immigration law, it appears that the result was no different. As the New York Times reports, even the liberal justices inclined to be on the same side of the administration, which wants the law struck down, gave the impression that they thought the solicitor general was something of a flop.
While Verrilli’s second humiliation — even Justice Sonia Sotomayor was so unimpressed with his presentation that she felt the need to tell him, “You can see it’s not selling very well” — was noteworthy, even more important was the fact that it appeared that the key provision of the Arizona law would not only be upheld but that most of the justices — even the liberals — seemed to agree that there was nothing unreasonable about it. Given the opprobrium that the mainstream media has heaped on Arizona and the way that most of the chattering classes had spoken of the law and its supporters as racists, the reaction of the court must be a shock to the administration and to its liberal supporters.