As the Supreme Court released their decision on the Arizona immigration case, I noticed something very interesting. Both Republicans and Democrats claimed victory from the somewhat split decision, which struck down three of the four provisions up before the court. The Governor of Arizona was quick to have a press conference declaring Arizona’s victory in the Supreme Court decision and made it clear that the “heart of the law” was intact. But did Arizona really win in this decision?
The four provisions looked by the Supreme Court were the following:
Making it a state crime for illegals to seek work or work without a permit in Arizona
Making it a crime for illegals to not carry immigration documents
Allowing police to arrest people for immigration violations without a warrant
Allowing police to inquire about a persons immigration status
Of those, only the last one was declared Constitutional. The rest were deemed to be something only the federal government can enforce.
So what does that mean? That means that police can ask for someone’s immigration status during lawful contact. That’s it. They cannot be arrested. They cannot be detained for a large amount of time. All that police can do is let the federal government know that they found someone that is either illegal or could not prove they were legal. At that point the federal government can take action.
That last part is the key. The federal government ‘can’ take action. They do not have to, and that is the point. Already the Justice department has rescinded their agreement with Arizona to work with law enforcement on the detainment of illegals. The federal government seems to be saying, “you can find as many illegals as you want, but we aren’t going to mess with them.” Regardless of the message, Governor Brewer has said they will move forward carrying out the law and enforcing the ‘show me your papers’ provision.
So did Arizona really win? The more I look at it the more I think not. Arizona (and any other state for that matter) has their hands really tied now. The Supreme Court made it clear that Arizona may not carry out law enforcement actions that are clearly delineated to the federal government. That means they cannot arrest people for federal immigration crimes. Can state police ask about your immigration status? Sure, but what good does that do if you can’t do anything about it? I don’t see how this helps out the states in any significant manner, at least in the short term. In the long term, it could be powerful should an administration be in power that works hand in hand with local governments and immediately deports anyone found to be illegal. For now though, I would call this a big loss for Arizona and other states wishing to pass tough immigration laws.
What do you think? Did Arizona really win big here or was this more of a blow to Arizona and other states like them?