In the term’s most highly anticipated decision outside the ObamaCare case, the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday rendered its verdict on Arizona’s strict immigration law. Those on both sides of the debate claimed victory, but the decision was a mixed bag for everyone involved.
By a majority varying from 5-3 to 6-2 – Justice Elena Kagan did not take part – the court struck down three controversial aspects of the law:
– A requirement that non-citizens in the country legally carry immigration registration papers.
– A provision making it against the law for those in the country illegally to seek work or hold a job.
– An allowance that police may arrest without warrants suspected illegal immigrants.
“The government of the United States has broad, undoubted power over the subject of immigration and the status of aliens,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the majority, holding that Arizona could not impose state criminal penalties for federal immigration violations.
But in a major blow to opponents of the law, the justices unanimously – 8-0 – upheld the provision that requires state and local law enforcement officials to check the immigration status of those they have reason to believe may be in the United States illegally.
That only makes sense, given that federal law already requires immigration officials to respond to status check requests from local authorities.
In the end, Arizona can’t be blamed for trying to address a significant problem that federal inaction allowed to worsen to the point that it was burdening state resources. Several other states have passed laws similar to the Arizona measure, and Monday’s ruling will allow them to move forward in a limited fashion.
And even more states are sure to follow until Congress finally decides to impose and enforce a rational immigration policy.