Today’s hearing went well. The Obama Administration took the outrageous step of suing one of the 50 states for trying to enforce federal law. Arizona has been hit disproportionately hard by illegal immigration and the state had no choice but to pass SB 1070 to protect our own citizens.
I have read the transcript of today’s SB 1070 hearing in the US Supreme Court. Section 2, the most important of the 4 sections of SB1070 which are being challenged, appears to have the support of Liberal as well as Conservative Justices, and mainly with a large unanimous vote. Section 2 requires Police Officers to engage in a lawful arrest or stop, and to have reasonable suspicion, to inquire with ICE about whether the person is in this country legally. Even two of the most Liberal Justices, Sotamayor and Breyer, asked questions indicating they may vote to hold that section of the law Constitutional.
The lawyer for Arizona pointed out that a Phoenix Police officer had been shot by a suspect who had been accused of attempted murder in El Salvador, had been pulled over three times before encountering this police officer, but had never had his immigration status checked. That was due to the City of Phoenix policies that would be illegal under Section 2. Had inquiry been made before he encountered the Phoenix officer, that officer would not have been shot.
The comments of several Justices were very encouraging. Justice Scalia noted that under SB 1070, “Arizona is not trying to kick out anybody that the federal government has not already said do not belong here.” A number of the other provisions at issue are state copies of Federal laws where the Obama Administration claims that states cannot enforce identical laws in parallel. Justice Scalia added the analogy that federal law prohibits bank robbery, and stated, “Can it be made a state crime to rob those banks? I think it is.” And Chief Justice Roberts noted that the federal role in enforcing immigration law is not harmed by SB 1070 since “all it does is notify the Federal Government, here’s someone who is here illegally, here’s someone who is removable.”
Most troubling is the Federal Government’s argument that SB 1070 is unconstitutional because Arizona interferes with the Federal monopoly on foreign relations. Arizona has not opened any embassies. It has passed a law that foreign countries disagree with. If a Federal Judge can invalidate a state law on the grounds that other countries disagree with it (and it therefore interferes with the Federal monopoly on foreign relations) America’s sovereignty will be severely compromised. Justice Scalia asked the Obama Administration lawyer if “we have to enforce our laws in a manner that will please Mexico… (that) sounded like what you were saying.”
Finally, I was gratified to see that even the Obama administration lawyer agreed with Chief Justice Roberts’ contention that this case has nothing to do with ethnic and racial profiling. SB 1070 has never allowed racial profiling, and that is a persistent myth that should end today.