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Kicking "Papers Please" Can Down The Road

By The Reverend Published: June 26, 2012

NY Times summation of yesterday's Supreme Court ruling on Arizona's SB 1070.....

The Supreme Court struck down three central sections of Arizona’s law, which had been regarded by opponents as the most harsh. In allowing the “show-me-your-papers” provision to stand, the court accepted, for the time being at least, Arizona’s word that police officers would not engage in racial profiling as they put it into practice.

Odd. The Supremes willingness to "accept....that police officers would not engage in racial profiling." It's odd because I don't ever remember the Supreme Court being a faith-based institution that determines their legal conclusions on "just trust them" wishful thinking. But hey, what's a lowly blogger know about anything.

Predictably, even though three of four provisions of Arizona's SB 1070 were struck down as unconstitutional, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer and a cast of hundreds of conservative mouthpieces have claimed victory in the immigration fight. Perhaps Roberts and Kennedy calculated their votes to allow for, at least, some face-saving by Arizona's more radical immigration hounds...perhaps not....but Justice Kennedy said something in his majority opinion which should be a warning to over zealous immigration radicals on the right.....

The justices found that it was not clear whether Arizona was supplanting or supporting federal policy by requiring state law enforcement to demand immigration papers from anyone stopped, detained or arrested in the state who officers reasonably suspect is in the country without authorization. The provision that was upheld -- at least for now -- also commands police to check all arrestees' immigration status with the federal government before they are released.

"The nature and timing of this case counsel caution in evaluating the validity of [Section] 2(B)," wrote Justice Anthony Kennedy on behalf of Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor, noting that the law has not yet gone into effect. Because "[t]here is a basic uncertainty about what the law means and how it will be enforced," the majority chose to allow the law to go forward, but made clear that "[t]his opinion does not foreclose other preemption and constitutional challenges to the law as interpreted and applied after it goes into effect."

Those words represent a big swing of the national legal leg with the Supremes feet firmly striking the "papers please" immigration can full force knocking it down the road of history. A profile in wasn't.

Here are the provisions struck down by the Court....

Two of the provisions (struck down) made it a crime for undocumented immigrants to be present and to seek employment in Arizona, while a third authorized police officers to make warrantless arrests of anyone they had probable cause to believe had committed a deportable offense.

Proponents of Arizona's SB 1070 will be war dancing this week touting victory over President Obama because the Court kicked "papers please" down the road......however, in the three provisions struck down by the Court, the heart and soul of 1070, (states can determine their own immigration laws) have been eviscerated.


"Arizona may have understandable frustrations with the problems caused by illegal immigration while that process continues, but the State may not pursue policies that undermine federal law."

Some media sources are calling this ruling a "split decision." It isn't. I understand the desire for conservatives to save face over this issue....but, in fact, 1070 has been thrown out as unconstitutional with the addition of a postponed "wait and see" can-kicking (in)decision on the "papers please" portion of the law.


The ruling Monday is far from a definitive verdict on the Arizona law known as SB 1070, since the case that the court decided did not address the most contentious charge about the legislation: that it will lead to racial profiling of Latinos.

Indeed, the high court’s decision is expected to trigger additional waves of litigation over profiling and the possibility that the law could lead to U.S. citizens or legal immigrants being detained while police try to determine their status.

The ACLU's Anthony Romero on the Justices lack of courage....

“The Supreme Court kicked the can down the road, opening the floodgates to racial profiling and years of litigation,” Mr. Romero said. “The constitutional sequel will be much more controversial, messy and costly.”


But Roberts and Kennedy muddied up this ruling just enough so that both "sides" could claim victory......and leading up to a very important presidential election in four months....that's all that matters.

Expect a similar type of ruling over Obama's Affordable Care Act due out on Thursday.

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