In a 5-3 decision, the SCOTUS struck down most of the controversial immigration enforcement law enacted by the State of Arizona, stating that the law usurps the authority of the Federal government. But in a unanimous decision, the SCOTUS upheld the right of AZ law enforcement officials to ask for ID from individuals who are suspected to be in the state illegally.
In the complex 5-3 ruling, all eight justices said Arizona police can continue to question the legal status of those they stop, but the five-justice majority struck down the parts of the law in which Arizona sought to impose its own criminal penalties for immigration violations, with the majority saying that that power is reserved exclusively to the federal government.
The decision comes little more than a week after Mr. Obama announced he would stop deporting most young adult illegal immigrants, and coupled with the ruling, it marks a seismic shift in the national immigration debate.
Writing for the majority, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy said states cannot try to act in an area in which the Constitution specifically grants powers to Congress — in this case, Article I, Section 8, Clause 4, which says Congress has powers over naturalization. That long has been interpreted to mean only the federal government can set immigration policy unless it specifically invites states to play a role.
“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,” Justice Kennedy wrote.
Chief Justice Roberts sided with the majority. Justices Scalia, Thomas, and Alito dissented. Elena Kagan recused herself from this case.
Arizona’s tough immigration law was designed to send a signal to the Federal Department of Justice, informing them that if they refused to enforce Federal immigration laws, then Arizona would take it upon itself to enforce them. Arizona (as well as other border states) suffers disproportionately from crimes associated with illegal immigration, and its elected officials simply responded to the demands of their constituents. The challenge has been answered; enforcement of Federal immigration laws is reserved exclusively for Federal law enforcement.
Unfortunately, both our AG and President have made it clear that they are only interested in enforcing immigration laws that involve the arrest and deportation of illegal immigrants who have prior criminal records. All other laws designed to curb illegal immigration will be ignored, and it would seem that states must simply “grin and bear it” with regard to crimes or human rights abuses associated with illegal immigration. I guess that’s the price we pay when states must honor our Constitution while the Executive branch dismisses the law.