Traverse City Record-Eagle

June 27, 2012

Another View: Arizona immigration law gutted

The Free Press, Mankato, Minn.

---- — While giving Arizona a partial victory in its immigration law case, the Supreme Court Monday has effectively nullified the state's tough immigration policy.

And the court left open further legal challenges that will likely end the so-called "show me your papers" provision remaining in law.

The court, in a 5-3 ruling, said that while local police can question and temporarily detain those they believe are illegal immigrants, they cannot jail them. Rather, the police can inform federal immigration officials who would decide what they wanted to do in each case.

The court also threw out the portions of the law that made it a state crime for illegal immigrants not to possess their federal registration cards and that made it a crime for illegal immigrants to work, apply for work or solicit work. (Congress had already passed a law that penalizes those who hire unauthorized workers, rather than the workers themselves.) The court made the correct decision that the federal government — not states — has the ultimate authority over immigration rules and regulations.

The court did let stand the part of the law that requires police to check the status of someone they suspect is in the U.S. illegally — the so-called "show me your papers" provision. But the justices said the provision could be open for future challenges.

Those challenges are certain to come from immigration groups. They correctly note that the law allows officers to racially profile people.

The ruling, while specific to Arizona, will likely bring a quick end to similar immigration laws in Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, South Carolina and Utah.

For decades, Congress and the president have failed to pass effective, meaningful immigration policy. That shortcoming doesn't mean individual states can pass a hodgepodge of policies that would create confusion and abuses.

Because of the recession, there is not now a true immigration "crisis" in America. There are now more Mexicans leaving the United States than entering. That creates a less-divisive atmosphere, which makes it a perfect time for the next president and Congress to form and pass meaningful immigration policies.