The United States Supreme Court issued its ruling in Arizona vs. United States Monday, giving both sides something to crow about.
By a vote of five to three—Justice Elena Kagan having taken herself out of the case—the court threw out most of the provisions of the controversial new law which gave Arizona a role in enforcing federal immigration laws. Those same eight justices, however, voted to uphold the part of the law that had most angered the Obama administration. With no dissent, the court found to be constitutional Section 2 of the new law, which requires police to conduct immigration checks on individuals they arrest or merely stop for questioning whom they suspect may be in the United States illegally.
The decision is what people choose to make of it.
"The fight over who should make immigration law, Washington or the states, is far from over," said Tamar Jacoby, president of ImmigrationWorks USA. "Today's ruling—consistent with the mood in many states—is a stunning reversal of recent trends" which gave states more latitude in they way they dealt with immigration issues.
"The past six years saw a federalist revolution in immigration lawmaking, with the states taking more power into their own hands every year. But the mood in most statehouses was strikingly different this spring, with lawmakers much less focused on immigration and in much less of a hurry to crack down," Jacoby added.
Taking a different tack is Horace Cooper, an adjunct fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research.
"Claims by the Obama Administration that Arizona's immigration enforcement effort would lead to 'racial profiling' are specious," Cooper said. "It is telling that the provision that the White House demagogued the most went unchallenged even by Obama appointees to the Supreme Court."
"The argument that SB 1070 came about due to bigotry was so lacking the Justice Department didn't even include this argument in its briefs against the law," Cooper added. "Cynically, they trumpeted the issue with the American people setting up a false claim against the state of Arizona that they knew or should have known had no merit."
Cooper also noted that the Obama White House frequently made charges of racism or sexism about cases pending before federal courts only to abandon those arguments when the case is actually heard. "Making racially-charged claims in the public arena and then not substantiating in Court is reckless and lawless," Cooper said.
The court did leave the door open for a later challenge to Section 2, if its opponents can prove its dictates are being applied in a manner inconsistent with the U.S. Constitution. Nevertheless, the affirmation of Arizona's rights—by a vote of eight to zero—is a strong blow to those who practice identity politics.