Monday, June 25, 2012

Half a loaf, not a day old and still stale

Unlike Richard Dunham, I just don't see this as being a 'big win' for Obama.

The Supreme Court's conservative bloc divided in two this morning, allowing President Obama to score a legal victory in the closely watched Arizona immigration case.
Justice Anthony Kennedy, a nominee of President Reagan, wrote the 5-3 majority opinion that struck down several key provisions of the Arizona immigration law, known as SB 1070. Those provisions designated it a state crime to seek work without a work permit, fail to carry immigration registration documents or allow the arrest an individual suspected of committing a crime that could lead to deportation from the United States.
Kennedy was joined by President George W. Bush's choice for Chief Justice, John Roberts, as well as Democratic selections Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor.

Justice Elena Kagan, who worked on the case during her time as President Obama's Solicitor General, did not take part in the decision.
The three most conservative justices -- Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito -- dissented. An impassioned Alito read extensive excerpts from his dissenting opinion in the court chamber this morning.
The court did not strike down the state's right to permit police to routinely check the immigration status of people stopped for other reasons.

The Wicked Witch of the West also claimed victory.

Arizona's Republican governor, Jan Brewer, said that the decision -- which did not strike down the police enforcement provision -- upholds "the heart of SB1070." She promised that Arizona law enforcement would careful guard the civil rights of suspected illegal immigrants. The governor added that police officers who crossed the line into racially profiling would be punished.

But this next is flawed rationale IMHO.

The victory was a big political win for President Obama, who intervened in the case against the Arizona law. It's a setback for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who called the Arizona enforcement provisions a "model" for state immigration laws.
Kennedy's ruling declared that "the national government has significant power to regulate immigration" and that Arizona or other states "may not pursue policies that undermine federal law."
That was exactly the argument made by the Obama administration during oral arguments on the case.

Dunham provides more perspective for his headline here, but I'm still not buying it. It's a legal win but not a political win. I spent considerable time in the past few months telling Democrats that the expected upholding of this law could be used as political momentum; in effect that the motivation to turn out Latinos -- particularly on the strength of last week's executive order on the DREAM Act -- would catapult the grassroots efforts to get out all of the vote for the president in November.

They don't get that push with this ruling. Meanwhile the conservatives have a fresh Outrage O'Day. Just read the comments at the links above if you want a clue.

So the spin -- "it's good/bad that most of the law was struck down", "it's good/bad that the key component of the law was upheld" -- is in both directions, and on both sides.

I think it's remarkable that the conservative bloc on the Court fractured, and I think it's halfway good for Latinos in the long run, especially with the disembowelment of much of Arizona's -- along with the other states' rights bills lined up behind it -- law dealing with immigration.

But the worst part of it remains; upholding the racial profiling is simply heinous. Joe Arpaio will continue to arrest and detain innocent people who by virtue of their complexion "look" illegal, and his atrocities are well-documented. That's not a win for anybody, I don't care how large a bigot you are.

This is half a loaf, and it's not even a day old and still tastes stale to me.


Update: OK, let's go ahead and call it a win.

Hours after the U.S. Supreme Court approved Arizona law enforcement officers’ authority to demand “papers please” from suspected illegal immigrants, the Obama administration moved to mitigate the on-the-street impact by suspending Arizona authorities’ instant access to the immigration database used to determine the legal status of questioned or arrested suspects.

Homeland Security chief Janet Napolitano, a former governor, attorney general and federal prosecutor in Arizona, abruptly suspended the so-called 287 (g) program in Arizona that deputizes local and state law enforcement officers to enforce federal immigration laws and provides them access to federal immigration files in order to do that.


The significance of her action means that illegal immigrants stopped and questioned by law enforcement officers in Arizona under provisions upheld by the Supreme Court will not be prosecuted by federal authorities unless they have committed crimes beyond unlawful residence, have repeatedly violated immigration laws or are recent arrivals who entered the country illegally.


Meanwhile, we get to wait until later in the week for a decision on ObamaCares. My opinion of that ruling is the same as it was for this one: if the SCOTUS strikes it down, the Democrats should be able to gain tremendous enthusiasm for November. And its repeal -- together with a Democratic House and Senate -- might just be enough to get a single-payer universal health care law passed in 2013. If the Democrats can manage to do then what they were unable to in 2009.

We shall wait a few more days and see.

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