The Supreme Court’s opinion in Arizona’s SB1070 fits nicely with the Presidential election. In a bit of coincidental timing, Mitt Romney happens to be in Arizona today at a fundraiser. And he has basically lined up with the Arizona law, most of which was overturned today as pre-empted by federal oversight.
Arizona Governor Jan Brewer put on a brave face and described the ruling as a “victory,” because it did not quite invalidate the entire law. However, it left wide open an overturning of the one key provision that remains. That’s the “show your papers” part of the law. If actual Arizona implementation violates federal statutes or results in unconstitutional equal protection violations, it can be challenged again. In Arizona, the home of Joe Arpaio, that is almost certain to happen; this law can and will be revisited at a later date. Having most of the law thrown out before implementation isn’t anything that could conceivably be described as a “victory” (something we’ll probably find out on Thursday, relative to the health care law).
Then you have how this ruling will impact all the copycat provisions around the country, most of which build off the model legislation of SB 1070. Immigration laws in Alabama and Mississippi and elsewhere will have to be revisited as well.
It’s possible, I suppose, that conservatives could be newly energized by the overturning, and will take that out on politicians in November. But that assumes they weren’t already energized by voting out the Kenyan socialist. On the other hand, the state overreach on immigration plays into the argument the President made at the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials last Friday. In it, he said that Republicans should take the blame for blocking immigration reform. I don’t know that I totally believe that, but it’s true that the Republican Party has drifted completely away from the McCain-Kennedy-Bush days of seeking a comprehensive solution.
On the same day as this speech, a Romney campaign official said that as President, the presumptive Republican nominee would rescind the deferred action directive for DREAM-eligible students. Clearly, the base of the Republican Party now favors self-deportation and sharply opposes anything they could call amnesty, and they want the kind of state laws that the Supreme Court just struck down.
If that doesn’t call eligible Latino voters to action across the country, it’s hard to see what would.
And you can see this in the reactions to the law from political leaders. Chuck Schumer stressed that the ruling shows the need for a comprehensive solution at the federal level as the only alternative to the issue. “This decision tells us that states cannot take the law into their own hands and makes it clear that the only real solution to immigration reform is a comprehensive federal law. The decision should importune Republicans and Democrats to work together on this issue in a bipartisan way,” he wrote.
And Harry Reid, who did express concern over the “show your papers” provision morphing into racial profiling, also stressed that Congress must act on a comprehensive solution, and he added, “Looking ahead to the immigration debate, it is disturbing that Mitt Romney called the unconstitutional Arizona law a ‘model’ for immigration reform. Laws that legalize discrimination are not compatible with our nation’s ideals and traditions of equal rights, and the idea that such an unconstitutional law should serve as a ‘model’ for national reform is far outside the American mainstream.”
So that’s going to be the Democratic strategy through the election. And the Supreme Court provided a spur for it today.
…The fact that Romney refuses to comment on the immigration ruling should tell you something.
UPDATE: The President did release a statement on the ruling, and while he calls himself “pleased” at the Court striking down most of the provisions, he exhibits concern over the “papers please” part of the law:
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.
The rest is a renewed call to Congress to work on comprehensive immigration reform, stating that a patchwork of state laws will not work to provide the needed clarity to the system.