Monday, June 25, 2012

Reason #221: Small Victories

The backbone of the Obama administration's fight against SB1070, Arizona's "papers-please" law, is not so much that checking people's documentation during traffic stops is itself unconstitutional, but more that the it's the federal government's job to determine immigration enforcement methods, and its authority in that regard overrides the states'.

So while some of the law's specific provisions were struck down by the Supreme Court today--such as criminalizing the act of seeking work and permitting the warantless arrests of suspected illegals whenever an officer feels he has probably cause--the core of the law is a little muddier. While the court did leave some wiggle room for it to be challenged again depending on how enforcement proceeds from here (many are still voicing concerns that racial profiling will continue as long as some aspect of the law remains in place), the state of Arizona's authority to set immigration enforcement laws of its own remains as it was.

Also noteworthy is that the decision was 5-3, which means that even if liberal justice Elena Kagan hadn't been recused from the case (she had been a part of the administration's initial challenge to the law before becoming a justice), the result would 've been the same.

It's not terribly clear to me--or anyone, really--whether this is an overall win for papers-please opponents, but it at least establishes that blatantly unconstitutional practices won't be tolerated. And with the court's ruling on Obamacare coming later this week, I'm inclined to take even an ambiguous win while I can.

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