My Statement on SCOTUS Immigration Decision

We agree with much of the sentiment expressed today: gratitude that most of SB1070 was struck down, concern that the “papers please” provision wasn’t.  We offer a few additional thoughts for those thinking about the impact of the decision: 

  • This phrase “As a general rule, it is not a crime for a removable alien to remain in the United States." (p15, first paragraph) is one which deserves a great deal of examination and discussion in the coming days.  Is the Supreme Court disagreeing with those who refer to “removable aliens” as “illegal immigrants?”  I am no lawyer but something important may be have written here.   Be interested in hearing from folks who know more than I on this one.  
  • In general I think this decision may end up being Gettysburg for the Brewer/Self-Deportation/Attrition movement in the United States.  Those of who believe in the Comprehensive Immigration Reform framework may not have yet won the debate in the country. However, the “Attrition approach” – making the lives of undocumented immigrants so miserable that they “self-deport” – suffered a terrible political and legal blow today.   The Court maintained the power of the Federal government to make immigration laws.  It questioned whether there was a firm legal basis to view undocumented immigrants as inherently dangerous to social order.  It raised questions about whether even the remaining provision of SB1070 would survive legal challenge.   

    Given all this, why would any future state or local government pursue this strategy?   If Governor Brewer tries to enact the remaining provision will be interesting to see if any cities or counties in Arizona resist implementation – citing propriety, uncertainty, cost, potential future litigation and public opposition.  My own sense is that this ends any public momentum towards this approach at the state and local level – it is just too risky now.   While this may not mean that those of in the Comprehensive Immigration Reform camp are closer to winning the argument today, I think the Brewer/Attrition camp is that much closer to losing.  

  • Some have asked what this means for the Presidential race.  It seems today that the SB1070 suit provided the two candidates a chance to show whose side they were on.  The President choose to be on the side of those fighting for a better immigration system and for the immigrant communities under siege by the “attrition” strategy enacted in Arizona and other states.  Governor Romney threw his lot in with Jan Brewer, Joe Arpaio, Russell Pearce and others who believe that making the lives of undocumented immigrants miserable  - and asking that they “self-deport” – is the best way to fix our broken immigration system.   After the historic decision today, it increasingly looks like the President of the United States is on the right side of history.  The former Governor of Massachusetts - not so much.   
  • Finally, Governor Romney’s refusal to comment on the SCOTUS decision, while traveling to Arizona, may have been the last moment that Mitt Romney had in this campaign cycle to fundamental alter the dynamic with Latino voters – a dynamic which is making it hard much much harder to win the Presidency.   In general I have been startled by the incoherence of team Romney on the issue of immigration in the last few weeks.   It raises broader questions about the overall competency of his campaign.