James Cargas’ Statement on the Supreme Court’s Arizona Anti-Immigrant Law Ruling

I applaud the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling today to strike down most of a controversial Arizona Republican anti-immigrant law by finding that three of the four provisions inappropriately infringed on the federal government’s exclusive Constitutional power to control immigration.   A close reading of the decision does not offer much hope that the remaining provision will remain in force very long.

Justice Kennedy stated “the state may not pursue policies that undermine federal law.”

John Culberson and Michele Bachmann immediately praised the Court for not throwing out the fourth provision allowing local law enforcement to check the immigration status of individuals they have “reasonable suspicion” are in the country illegally.  Although it was not voided like the rest of the law, the Justices expressed concern about this provision since it also allows police to detain individuals indefinitely while they conduct immigration checks.

Furthermore, the Justices were troubled by the discretion given police to define “reasonable suspicion,” but because the law has yet to go into effect they did not have any sense of how police would implement it and so could not declare this provision illegal.  The Court knows there are already laws prohibiting racial profiling and discrimination so police will have a challenging time. But, the Justices were willing to allow Arizona police an opportunity to show they can walk that fine line.
Finally, it is worth noting that one of the provisions struck down required everyone to carry proof of citizenship.  Without this requirement in place, Arizona police are dependent upon the federal government database, which excludes American citizens without passports.  The Justices were unsure whether the federal government is prepared or willing to handle a dramatic increase in immigration checks.  In the end, the success of the state’s immigration law depends on cooperation with the federal immigration authorities Arizona has accused of being deficient.

Given the many problems identified by the Justices with the remaining provision, Culberson and Bachmann’s celebration will be short-lived.  Unfortunately, the tax payers of Arizona will be forced to continue funding several more years of litigation while their Governor continues to defend a horribly bad anti-immigrant law.

Thank God we live in Texas where our Republican Attorney General doesn’t file losing litigation against the federal government at tax payer expense … oh wait, never mind.