High court carefully considers immigration
Most Americans no doubt learned that the U.S. Supreme Court this week struck down key provisions of Arizona’s controversial immigration law on a 5-3 vote. Or they may have heard the court upheld one of the most significant portions of the law.
Depending on their political perspective and views on immigration, they may curse the court for its liberalism and its acceptance of the claims of the Obama administration. Or they might blast the court for its right-wing ways and its willingness to uphold states’ rights, even if they lead to racial profiling.
But Americans of all political persuasions should applaud the court’s careful consideration of this issue and its refusal to simply accept what either side was saying as gospel.
In fact, the Roberts Court, like its predecessors, is doing exactly what is expected of the judicial branch of government. It has acted as a neutral arbiter of what passes constitutional muster, not as a partisan cheerleader.
Evidence of this is in the vote split. While the main decision was the 5-3 vote, conservative Chief Justice John Roberts and frequent swing vote Justice Anthony Kennedy both sided with the more liberal members of the court to reach the majority.
Also, the three dissenting justices each wrote separate opinions, explaining that they dissented on different parts of the main decision, and for different reasons.
Moreover, on the significant part of the Arizona law that was upheld, rejecting the Obama administration’s claims, the vote was 8-0 (Justice Elena Kagan recused herself). Not exactly a partisan divide there.
That part of the law requires state law enforcement officers to “make a reasonable attempt” to check the immigration status of people they stop or arrest for other legitimate reasons, if they have “reasonable suspicion” that the person is in this country illegally.
Since Congress requires federal immigration authorities to respond to any state request to verify a person’s immigration status, that provision in the Arizona law simply follows the system Congress established, the court said.
However, the court sent a warning to Arizona authorities, saying there could be further litigation if the law is used to allow harassment or unreasonble detention of people for minor crimes — such as jaywalking — to check immigration status.
The court found other provisions of the law — creating new crimes for immigrants who fail to carry appropriate documents or who seek work when they are here illegally — were pre-empted by federal immigration law.
We don’t know what the high court will decide tomorrow on health care reform. But, based on the Arizona immigration ruling and previous cases, we can expect more of what The Wall Street Journal called the “very careful jurisprudence” of the Roberts Court, not hyperpartisanship.