Even as Arizona Governor Jan Brewer attempted to paint a rosy picture of the Supreme Court’s decision to negate most of SB 1070—she clumsily argued that the Court upheld (possibly only temporarily) the “heart” of the law (the “papers please” provision)—pundits were debating just who came out ahead politically, the President or his adversaries.
Well, there are two good ways, in matters like this, to figure out who won. One way is to listen to the President:
I am pleased that the Supreme Court has struck down key provisions of Arizona’s immigration law.
And the other way is to listen to President Obama’s most prominent adversary on the Supreme Court, Justice Antonin Scalia. The conservative justice does not like judicial activism, except when he uses it himself, and in his dissent today he certainly took note of Mr. Obama’s executive activism via Homeland Security’s recently announced program to exempt some folks from immigration law enforcement:
The President said at a news conference that the new program is “the right thing to do” in light of Congress’s failure to pass the Administration’s proposed revision of the Immigration Act. Perhaps it is, though Arizona may not think so. But to say, as the Court does, that Arizona contradicts federal law [sic] by enforcing applications of the Immigration Act that the President declines to enforce boggles the mind.
Now, whenever Justice Scalia has his mind boggled, that is a win for the good guys, I don’t care what Jan Brewer says. And when Scalia writes stuff in dissent like the following, the good guys have reason to celebrate:
…the issue is a stark one. Are the sovereign States at the mercy of the Federal Executive’s refusal to enforce the Nation’s immigration laws? A good way of answering that question is to ask: Would the States conceivably have entered into the Union if the Constitution itself contained the Court’s holding? Today’s judgment surely fails that test…
Arizona has moved to protect its sovereignty—not in contradiction of federal law, but in complete compliance with it. The laws under challenge here do not extend or revise federal immigration restrictions, but merely enforce those restrictions more effectively. If securing its territory in this fashion is not within the power of Arizona, we should cease referring to it as a sovereign State. I dissent.
The reason these words from Scalia are so sweet, and filled with irony, is because of another decision today by the Court, one that hasn’t received that much attention:
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Monday turned away a plea to revisit its 2-year-old campaign finance decision in the Citizens United case and instead struck down a Montana law limiting corporate campaign spending.
In case you don’t remember, this case centered on whether the state of Montana could keep enforcing a 1912 law that placed political campaign spending limits on corporations. One would think that a purist-jurist like Scalia, who fretted so much over “state sovereignty” in the Arizona SB 1070 case, would give the benefit of the doubt to Montana.
Nope. And that is part of the reason why Scalia’s pissed-off prose over Arizona’s plight is so damned telling.