Monday, June 25, 2012

The Supreme Court Strikes Down Much Of Arizona's Anti-Immigration Law While Scalia Rants

The Supreme Court issued its much-anticipated ruling on Arizona's harsh anti-immigration law, upholding the most controversial part of the law -- but striking the rest.

As the New York Times reports:
The court unanimously sustained the law’s centerpiece, the one critics have called its “show me your papers” provision. It requires state law enforcement officials to determine the immigration status of anyone they stop or arrest if there is reason to suspect that the individual might be an illegal immigrant.
The justices parted ways on three other provisions. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, writing for five members of the court, said the federal government’s broad powers in setting immigration policy meant that other parts of the state law could not be enforced. 
The provisions that were struck included Section 3 criminalizing the failure of persons to carry immigration documents; Section 6, barring undocumented immigrants from seeking work; and Section 6, allowing warrantless arrests when an officer has probable cause to believe a person who has committed a crime is undocumented.

One of the more fascinating -- and disturbing -- aspects of the decision was Justice Scalia's raving dissent from the portion of the majority opinion that blocked implementation of the Arizona law.

As Ben Jacobs writes, "the conservative icon rails against the court’s decision over 22 pages and makes strained claims for Arizona’s continued ability as sovereign state to regulate immigration while citing dubious authorities like the notorious Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions (documents written anonymously by Madison and Jefferson that have repeatedly been rejected by the court over the past 200 years when cited by segregationists and secessionists)."

Here's an excerpt:
But there has come to pass, and is with us today, the specter that Arizona and the States that support it predicted: A Federal Govern­ment that does not want to enforce the immigration laws as written, and leaves the States’ borders unprotected against immigrants whom those laws would exclude. So the issue is a stark one. Are the sovereign States at the mercy of the Federal Executive’s refusal to enforce the Nation’s immigration laws?

A good way of answering that question is to ask:  Would the States conceivably have entered into the Union if the Constitution itself contained the Court’s holding [that the national government has supreme jurisdiction over immigration policy]?
Huh?  As Jed Lewison at Daily Kos puts it:  "So according to Scalia's logic, SB1070 is constitutional because Arizona wouldn't have entered into the Union if it weren't. Brilliant!"

Remarkably, Scalia criticized the Administration's immigration policy and specifically went after Obama's recently-announced executive order to stop the deportation of  children whose parents illegally entered the country -- which post-dated and had nothing to do with this case: 
It has become clear that federal enforcement priorities—in the sense of priorities based on the need to allocate “scarce enforcement resources”—is not the problem here. After this case was argued and while it was under consideration, the Secretary of Homeland Security announced a program exempting from immigration enforcement some 1.4 million illegal immigrants under the age of 30.
[For certain illegal immigrants] immigration officials have been directed to “defe[r] action” against such individual “for a period of two years, subject to renewal.” The husbanding of scarce enforcement resources can hardly be the justification for this, since the considerable administrative cost of conduct­ing as many as 1.4 million background checks, and ruling on the biennial requests for dispensation that the nonenforcement program envisions, will necessarily be deducted from immigration enforcement. 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.
As UCLA law professor Adam Winkler, Scalia has "finally jumped the shark":
He claims to respect the founding fathers, but his dissent channels the opponents of the Constitution. Back then, opponents argued that the Constitution denied states their sovereignty by giving too much power to the federal government, as with immigration. Now Scalia echoes their complaints that states are being denied their sovereignty. States are not sovereign when it comes to powers vested in Congress, such as the authority over immigration and naturalization.
 Ben Jacobs rightly concludes that "The health care decision is only days away and it is explicit that at least one justice is making his decisions on political grounds."


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