Arizona SB 1070, Declared a Win…By Both Sides

This morning the Supreme Court announced a ruling on Arizona SB 1070, more commonly known as the Arizona Illegal Immigration law. The court unanimously upheld the provision requiring police officers to check the immigration status of people who were stopped or detained for other violations. The other provisions, which made immigration violations punishable by the state, were thrown out because federal law already covered that ground. The decision on the other three provisions was much closer: 5-3, with Justice Elena Kagan recusing herself.

Immediately following the ruling, two things happened.

First, people on both sides of the issue declared victory.

“Today’s decision by the U.S. Supreme Court is a victory for the rule of law. After more than two years of legal challenges, the heart of SB 1070 can now be implemented in accordance with the U.S. Constitution,” said Arizona Governor Jan Brewer.

President Obama lauded the court for striking down the three provisions they did but suggested that their job had been left unfinished. He cautioned Arizona to be careful in enforcing the “Papers, please” portion of the law, saying, “No American should ever live under a cloud of suspicion just because of what they look like.” He promised constant vigilance from Attorney General Eric Holder to ensure that Arizona authorities will stay within their directed boundaries.

And second, the backlash began.

The National Tequila Party Movement (a Latina counter movement to the Tea Party) released a statement declaring that the ruling was not the end. They cheered the court for ruling against three key provisions and pointed out the fact that the Court left the door wide open for further review. Justice Kennedy wrote, “This opinion does not foreclose other preemption and constitutional challenges to the law as interpreted and applied after it goes into effect.”

Protestors on both sides, including several community leaders, hit the streets of Phoenix immediately following the ruling.

So who come out the winner here? Most likely no one. The Court granted what most believed to be the key provision of the law – or, as Governor Jan Brewer put it, the heart of the law – but overturned several of the provisions that would have allowed Arizona state authorities to enforce that particular key piece. The Obama Administration, though bolstered somewhat by the Court effectively cutting Arizona authorities off at the knees, loses face as the piece they pushed against most vocally was actually upheld.

Regardless, the win may be short-lived anyway. The “papers, please” provision was upheld for one reason and for one reason only: it was placed under injunction before it ever took effect, making it impossible for the Court to determine whether it would encourage civil rights violations or racial profiling. The wording of the decision, as pointed out by the National Tequila Party Movement, suggests that one slip on that point would send SB 1070 right back to court, perhaps with different results.

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