The Supreme Court Justices appear to be favoring Arizona’s controversial immigration law. It is being challenged by the Obama administration’s argument it is primarily a federal responsibility.
Although not exactly the most scientific observation, initial questioning by various court justices indicates an environment of skepticism toward the federal government’s case.
An example of the sharp questioning includes this question from Justice Antonin Scalia: “What does sovereignty mean if it does not include the ability to defend your borders?”
The question goes directly to the heart of the Arizona argument that its 2010 law is necessary because of the federal government’s failure to secure and protect the U.S. – Mexico border along their 370 mile stretch. Other states that will be affected by the court’s ruling include border states Texas, New Mexico and California.
Arizona’s statute, SB 1070, gives state and local law enforcement the right to verify the legal status of anyone stopped if there is “reasonable suspicion” the individual is in the country illegally. Washington D.C. Attorney, Paul Clement, representing Arizona, argued that the state is doing little more than providing local police the help they need in lieu of the federal government’s failure to enforce federal immigration laws.
Donald Verrill, speaking for the United States argument, contended that the state law was a “thinly veiled” attempt to scatter illegals in Arizona back across the border which does not comply with federal law. He labeled the practice as “harassment” and unfair to the largely legal Latino population of 2 million residing in Arizona.
Questioning by the justices dwelled on whether Arizona’s law is a hindrance to federal authority or compliments their efforts with local enforcement backup. “It is not an effort to enforce federal law,” Chief Justice John Roberts told Verrill, “It is a effort to let you know about violations of federal law. Whether or not to enforce them is still entirely up to you.”
Telling questioning that indicates the government’s shaky argument is sounding an alarm with the justices.
Chief Justice Roberts later made the observation that “It seems to me that the federal government just doesn’t want to know who is here illegally or not.”
The ironic part of Wednesday’s arguments was an almost lackadaisical attitude among the liberal justices.
“You can see it’s not selling very well. Why don’t you try to come up with something else,” said Obama court appointee and liberal Justice Sonia Sotomayor commenting in reference to Verrill’s argument. “You can see it’s not selling very well. Why don’t you try to come up with something else.”
Telling criticism from one of five justices the government needs to upend the Arizona law as unconstitutional.
A decision in the case is expected this June.
That could spell a very bad month for the Obama administration since it will piggyback another Supreme Court decision pending: Obamacare.
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