Thursday, June 28, 2012

Left Side of the Aisle #63 - Part 2

Something else on immigration: SB1070 upheld, sort of

Since the subject of immigration has come up, something else on the topic: The other day, in a 5-3 decision, the Supreme Court upheld the core provision of Arizona's infamous SB1070, the xenophobic immigration law known as the "papers please" law. That core provision requires state law enforcement to demand immigration papers from anyone stopped, detained, or arrested who the cops reasonably suspect is in the country without authorization. It also requires police to check on the immigration status of anyone they arrest before they are released.

The case arose because the Obama administration had challenged the law as usurping federal authority in the area of immigration policy and enforcement. While the decision was met with celebration on the right as a rebuke to Obama's desire to, I don't know, allow the brown hordes to overrun our great white nation or something, it was not as much as a victory for them and a loss for rationality as first appears.

First, the decision on the "papers please" provision revolved around the technical issue I just mentioned of whether the law unconstitutionally invaded the federal government's exclusive prerogative to set immigration policy. The majority of the court found that it was not clear whether the law - which has not gone into effect because of legal challenges - was supplanting or supporting federal policy. So they let the law stand - for now. But they also said that, quoting, "this opinion does not foreclose other preemption and constitutional challenges to the law as interpreted and applied after it goes into effect." So when Arizona does - as it inevitably will - begin to target Latinos, the challenge can be renewed.

And indeed, there are already other suits that have been filed against the law on Constitutional grounds involving equal protection, free speech, and due process.

What's more, even as it upheld (for now) the core "papers please" part of SB1070, the Supreme Court struck down three other provisions as stepping on authority properly reserved to the federal government. Two of those made it a crime for undocumented immigrants to be present Arizona or to seek work there, while a third authorized police officers to make warrantless arrests of anyone they had probable cause to believe had committed a deportable offense.

So this wasn't nearly the victory for vindictiveness or the loss for logic as it might first appear. Which I would say marks it as, well, maybe not as good news but at least not as all bad news.

As a sidebar here, Antonin Scalia - to what should be no one's surprise - dissented. He delivered an oral summary in which he said that Arizona is "entitled to impose additional penalties and consequences for violations of the federal immigration laws, because it is entitled to have its own immigration laws."

I want to repeat that. He argued that states are entitled to their own immigration laws. Think about that for just a minute. Think about what it means.

According to Antonin Scalia, every state is entitled to control who can enter that state and who can come to live in that state. Otherwise, what can "have its own immigration laws" mean? Any state - Arizona, for example - could establish its own passport system. Any state could set up roadblocks along its entire border and turn away anybody lacking the "proper papers." Any individual state could establish a quota system and say, for example, "you can't live here; we have already admitted our quota of blacks or Latinos or whatever." That's what Antonin Scalia is saying when he says states can have their own immigration laws.

Why in hell does Antonin Scoliosis get to be described as this "great legal mind?" His opinions are most just ideologically-driven right-wing mush punctuated with a heaping of bile and a soup├žon of spleen. Where does the "great legal mind" business come from? I just don't get it.


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