Tuesday, June 26, 2012

One Cheer for SCOTUS

Even a stopped clock, so the familiar saying goes, is right twice a day. So too, for all its faults and elitist arrogance, even the U.S. Supreme Court can get it right (or at least almost right) on occasion. One such occasion came yesterday, when SCOTUS struck down much of Arizona’s infamous anti-immigrant law by a 6-3 vote.

The Court’s majority agreed with the United States in regard to three of the provisions of the law – provisions making it a state crime for undocumented immigrants to be in Arizona or to seek work there and a provision authorizing police to arrest anyone suspected of being deportable. The Court agreed with the United States’ argument that the Federal Government is responsible for regulating immigration, and that states may not undermine federal legislation with their own competing laws.

The Court let stand another provision of the law – the provision that requires anyone suspected of being in the U.S. illegally to produce immigration papers and requires police to check a suspect’s immigration status before releasing him/her. That provision can now go into effect, with the warning that today’s Opinion “does not foreclose other preemption and constitutional challenges to the law as interpreted and applied after it goes into effect."

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops had filed a Friend of the Court brief in this case. Speaking yesterday on behalf of the USCCB, Archbishop Gomez of Los Angeles expressed concern about the potentially harmful impact that that the one remaining part of the law may have on immigrants and their families, but applauded the Court’s decision to invalidate most of the law’s objectionable provisions. "The Court's decision to strike down the other provisions of the Arizona law reaffirms the strong role of the federal government in regulating immigration," said Archbishop Gomez. "The Church will continue to stand by immigrants and their families and seek justice on their behalf," he concluded.

As Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the Court’s Majority Opinion: "The history of the United States is in part made of the stories, talents and lasting contributions of those who crossed oceans and deserts to come here." 

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