McFeatters: Immigration fix back to Congress
With immigration, the Supreme Court said quite clearly: Congress, you have a problem.
In ruling on Arizona's tough new immigration law, which has the state unilaterally assuming responsibility to deter illegal immigration, the court said it for the most part was an unconstitutional intrusion into federal responsibilities. However, the federal government, in the form of Congress, has not been all that keen about facing up to those responsibilities.
The court struck down three key provisions: -- Requiring all immigrants to register with the government and obtain and carry registration papers (the implication was at all times).
-- Making it a state criminal offense for an illegal immigrant to look for work or hold a job in Arizona.
-- Giving police the power to arrest illegal immigrants without warrants.
The court did uphold the so-called "show me your papers requirement" that allows police to check the immigration status, but prohibited police from arresting on immigration charges those they had stopped.
The justices said this provision could be open to additional challenges, for example, on racial profiling. Civil rights groups that had already filed such lawsuits said they would continue to pursue those legal avenues.
The decision, and the probability of more challenges, has implications for Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, Indiana and Utah, which have adopted similar laws.
Supporters of the law were divided over whether it was a victory or defeat. Arizona's GOP Gov. Jan Brewer, who signed the bill, called the decision "a victory for the rule of law" and for those "who believe in the inherent right and responsibility of states to defend their citizens." But House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith, R-Texas, saw it as a defeat, putting an end to immigration enforcement because the states can no longer "step in and fill the voice left by the Obama administration." In fact, each year in office the Obama administration has set new records for the number of people it deports. But Republicans keep moving the goal posts on immigration. They have flatly ruled out legalization, dismissing amnesty -- not without reason -- as a reward for illegal conduct.
However, no one in either party has come up with an acceptable solution for the 11 million illegal immigrants already here.
Then there is the problem of young illegal immigrants brought here as children who have spotless academic and behavioral records. President Barack Obama earlier this month announced his administration would allow them to stay on two-year renewable work permits. This greatly increased Obama's standing with Hispanics and infuriated Republicans.
Political gamesmanship will not solve the problem; only comprehensive immigration reform will. But both former President George W. Bush, a Republican, and Obama, a Democrat, have tried that and failed.
Now, thanks to the high court, the problem is squarely in Congress' lap.
Dale McFeatters is a senior writer for the Scripps Howard News Service.