Monday, June 25, 2012

SB 1070: Scotus Upholds Part Of Arizona Law, Strikes Down Other Parts

The Supreme Court ruled today on Arizona's SB1070, upholding a key part of the law but striking down others as an intrusion on federal powers.

The part of the law requiring suspected illegal aliens to provide law officers with proof of status - the so-called 'show me your papers' clause - was upheld by the Court as constitutional and a legitimate exercise of a state's powers to enforce the law.

The Court struck down the provisions making it a crime for illegal aliens without work permits to seek employment, to fail to carry registration documents, and to allow the arrest of anyone believed to be an illegal alien and subject to deportation.

The decision was something of a mixed bag. Five justices - Justice Anthony Kennedy, Chief Justice John Roberts, and Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor - voted to strike down three provisions. Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas wanted to allow the entire law to stand while Justice Samuel Alito would have struck down one unnamed provision and kept the rest of the law intact. Justice Kagan was forced to recuse herself.

Justice Kennedy wrote the majority opinion:

"Arizona may have understandable frustrations with the problems caused by illegal immigration while that process continues, but the state may not pursue policies that undermine federal law."

That's really the crux of it. Asking someone to show papers or ID is an exercise in law enforcement that's in sync with federal law. The three provisions the Court struck down are expansions of it.

Justice Scalia, with his characteristic wit made the case in his dissent for Arizona's law on the basis of state sovereignty, writing, "If securing its territory in this fashion is not within the power of Arizona, we should cease referring to it as a sovereign state."

So in the end, the ruling on SB1070 merely kicks the can down the road.

The real problem is that for political reasons the United States has been failing to enforce it's immigration laws for some time on a selective basis when it comes to primarily Latino aliens coming through our southern border. It is a federal problem that will take federal legislation to solve. Even if illegal alien migration wasn't a key part of wrecking the budget of several U.S. States, it simply isn't viable from a security standpoint in a post 9/11 world.

Or to take Justice Scalia's point to it's logical conclusion, if the United States can't secure it's territory, there's no reason to refer to it as a sovereign state.

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