Published for www.commentarymagazine.com, June 25th, 2012
In its decision Arizona v. the United States, the Supreme Court today held that three provisions of an Arizona statute known as S. B. 1070, which was enacted in 2010 to address pressing issues related to the large number of unlawful aliens in the state, was preempted by federal law.
A fourth provision which requires officers conducting a stop, detention, or arrest to make efforts, in some circumstances, to verify a person’s immigration status with the federal government, was upheld—though the Justices said the provision could be subject to additional legal challenge. (“This opinion does not foreclose other preemption and constitutional challenges to the law as interpreted and applied after it goes into effect,” Justice Kennedy wrote in the majority opinion.)
Overall the decision was a setback, then, though perhaps not as injurious as it could have been, since the fourth provision was upheld (albeit in a weak manner that seems to invite further challenges).
The core of the problem with the Court’s decision is that Arizona was entitled to pass the law that it did, assuming that its provisions were not at odds with federal law. Clearly they were not, which is why the decision is fundamentally flawed and poorly reasoned.