by Max Brantley
The U.S. Supreme Court today overturned three parts of Arizona's controversial immigration law , but upheld one part at least for now.
"Arizona may have understandable frustrations with the problems caused by illegal immigration while that process continues, but the state may not pursue policies that undermined federal law," the court said in a 5-3 decision.
The court said federal law pre-empted Arizona's desire to regulate alien registration and set criminal penalties. It also said Arizona couldn't set criminal penalties on those who hired unauthorized aliens and said states couldn't make warrantless arrests of suspected undocumented aliens. Unauthorized presence is not a federal criminal offense, but a civil one, the court noted. The Supreme Court said, however, it wasn't ready to uphold lowers courts' disapproval of a section of the Arizona law that allows stops of people to determine immigration status where sufficient cause exists. "It was improper to enjoin §2(B) before the state courts had an opportunity to construe it and without some showing that §2(B)’s enforcement in fact conflicts with federal immigration law and its objectives."
Justices Kennedy, Roberts, Sotomayor, Ginsburg and Breyer formed the majority. Scalia, Thomas and Alito filed opinions concurring in part and dissenting in part. Kagan didn't participate.
The decision was a rare victory for the Obama administration, Talking Points Memo notes.
A coalition that has opposed punitivie immigration laws in Arkansas has a news conference this afternoon. I think they'll be generally pleased and hope this throws some cold water on future plans to to try the same batch of measures again. The stop-and-check provision — though problematic in progress — remains a concern.
PS — If you think A. Scalia isn't about all politics all the time, check his rip of Obama and matters outside the case. If you think he isn't prepared to reverse himself on precedent in striking down Obamacare, you live in a dream world.