Supreme Court Arizona Immigration Decision: Jan Brewer and Barack Obama Both Lose

On Monday, the Supreme Court handed down its decision on the highly controversial SB 1070 law, otherwise known as Arizona’s immigration bill. The Court overturned three of the four provision challenged in the Supreme Court, including the provision that would make it a crime to be in the state illegally, punishable with imprisonment. The Supreme Court shot this provision down. Secondly, the Court decided that it is not a crime to work without the proper documentation. Congress had not made it a federal crime to seek employment despite being illegal. Arizona, though, would change this. The Supreme Court also shot this provision down. Lastly, and possibly the most important, the Court overturned states' ability to arrest those who they suspect are undocumented, especially if police do not have a warrant. All the police would need is probable cause under the Arizona law.

What has been upheld by the Court is the ability for police to check someone’s immigration status before releasing them. This was the most contentious issue and one the Court has upheld, for now. The  Court stated that the law must first be implemented and make its way through state courts before it can be challenged in the Supreme Court. In other words, they are not willing to rule on the constitutionality of this provision as it stands. It is very likely that it will make its way back to the Supreme Court once it goes through these lower courts. Despite this ruling, it is evident that it is not a victory for Arizona. The court has overwhelmingly ruled that federal laws preempt state laws when it comes to immigration. The three provisions that the court overturned are inconsistent with federal immigration laws.

What is most outrageous is that Arizona Governor Jane Brewer released a statement within minutes of the high court’s decision claiming a victory for Arizona. "Today’s decision by the U.S. Supreme Court is a victory for the rule of law. It is also a victory for the Tenth Amendment and all Americans who believe in the inherent right and responsibility of states to defend their citizens.”  

One can’t help but ask if she is talking about the same Court ruling. Sadly she was. Her statements prove there is something seriously wrong with the current political discourse. When three parts of her law are overturned and she claims a victory, it is indicative of a larger pathology. Politicians can disregard the truth, and for their own political ends they often distort facts. The public must not accept this. We cannot allow for blatant disrespect of facts and of such revisionist work. 

President Obama cannot be pleased either, he didn’t get exactly what he wanted but it is clear that the Court’s decision is much more favorable to his liking than to Governor Brewer's. The same time that Brewer released her statement the Huffington Post headline story read, “AZ Immigration Law Gutted.” This further polarizes the public because each side believes they hold the truth. It is dangerous and should be stopped.

Brewer should retract from her statement; it is a clear distortion of the Supreme Court’s ruling and further deteriorates the public discourse. Brewer cannot place her political goals before facts; the law has been gutted and understandably so. She needs to come to terms that SB 1070 overreached her state’s power. Kiss SB 1070 goodbye,  it is bad legislation and immoral. Accept the truth. 

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Mateus Baptista

Mateus is a student at Brown University where he studies International Relations. He is particularly interested in issues of social justice and economic inequality.

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