The Supreme Court has invalidated three of four provisions of the Arizona immigration statute. The provision allowing police to check the immigration papers was upheld.
At the time of the Ninth Circuit decision in April, I found the Ninth Circuit’s decision striking most of the law to be “compelling,”although the government seemed to falter at oral argument before the Supreme Court. On one hand this is a rare win this term for the Obama team, which has lost and lost badly in a batch of cases.
The Post’s Robert Barnes writes: “In a string of cases — as obscure as the federal government’s relationships with Indian tribes and as significant as enforcement of the Clean Water Act — the court rejected the administration’s legal arguments with lopsided votes and sometimes biting commentary.” Barnes notes that “the losses so far cannot be blamed on the conflict between an increasingly conservative court and a progressive administration.” Indeed the administration has been so far off base that it has managed to unite justices with disparate views. (“The court was unanimous in rejecting the government’s arguments that federal discrimination laws protect employees of religious organizations who perform some duties central to the group’s faith.” The administration also lost unanimously in an EPA case and a Fourth Amendment case.)
That said, even an Obama “win” on the invalidation of the Arizona statute points the finger squarely back at his administration. Had the Obama administration acted on enforcement and/or comprehensive reform, states might not have been forced to come up with their ad hoc solutions.
From Mitt Romney’s perspective this is likely a blessing in disguise. He need not defend the law (which is problematic with Hispanic voters), and the decision reinforces his message that on critical issues Obama has failed to lead.
The Romney campaign, however, has done a rather poor job of pointing out how many more issues he has addressed and how entirely incomplete (not to mention constitutionally suspect) is the president’s executive order. Perhaps this will offer his team the opportunity to recalibrate and sharpen his message. He’s put out a significant immigration plan and his campaign has done a lousy job of explaining what is in it.
UPDATE: My comment on Romney’s response to the decision is here.