Unlike Obamacare, which the court is expected to pass judgment on Thursday, the Arizona immigration law was popular with the American public.
President Obama celebrated the decision, despite having previously expressing disbelief that the high court would take an “unprecedented” step of overturning a law passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected legislature.
Although states’ rights advocates suffered a partial defeat, the court unanimously upheld the most controversial portion of Arizona’s law. This provision requires state officers to make a “reasonable attempt … to determine the immigration status” of any person they stop, detain or arrest on some other legitimate basis.
Many Americans would probably be surprised to learn that the Supreme Court did not mention race in its opinion despite almost two years of liberal shrieking over that provision’s potential to allow racial profiling.
Instead, the high court based its decision on the Constitution’s Supremacy Clause that gives the federal government the right to pre-empt state laws when they conflict with ones passed by Congress.
Only Justice Anthony Kennedy mentioned race when he wrote that “[officers] may not consider race, color or national origin . . . except to the extent permitted by the United States [and] Arizona Constitution.”
Justice Antonin Scalia perceptively noted that the Obama administration had already conceded that law enforcement already had the power to stop offenders they thought might be illegal under existing state law when the new law passed in 2010.
It seems odd that the federal government didn’t find the time to object until election season rolled around.
With this background, it’s clear that the “racial profiling” allegedly inherent in Arizona’s law is being pushed as a political issue (because it certainly hasn’t been a legal issue) to stir-up Hispanic support for President Obama in November.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Obama administration is more concerned about winning the support of a key election-year demographic than establishing the contours of an obscure constitutional doctrine.
It’s a shame that Supreme Court decisions have become ruthlessly politicized by both sides of the political spectrum today.
Rather than debating an imagined racial profiling issue, Americans could have been engaged on the truly important matter raised by Arizona v. United States – the relationship between the states and the federal government under the Constitution.