Arizona Tightrope

While the ACA decision did not come down, another highly anticipated ruling did: on a 5-3 vote (Justice Kagan recused herself as having been involved in the case as Solicitor General), in an opinion written by Justice Kennedy, three of the four challenged provisions of the infamous and influential Arizona immigration law, S.B. 1070, were struck down as having been preempted by federal law. Roberts, Ginsberg, Breyer and Sotomayor concurred. In separate dissents, Scalia and Thomas said the entire law should have been upheld, and in another partial dissent, Alito agreed with the majority in invalidating just one provision.

As explained in an insta-analysis by SCOTUSblog’s Kevin Russell, the invalidated provisions of S.B. 1070 were those creating a separate state crime for immigration law violations; making it illegal to be employed in the state without proper immigration documentation; and authorizing warrantless arrests of people suspected of committing a crime that would under federal law justify deportation.

The most notorious provision of S.B. 1070, the “show your papers” authorization of police checks for immigration documentation, survived at least temporarily, but only pending its implementation by Arizona and separate litigation over the “racial profiling” issue.

All in all, this was a win for opponents of S.B. 1070 and for the Obama administration. It’s interesting that in his dissent, Scalia took a shot at the administration’s recent executive order providing limited and conditional immunity from prosecution for young people brought into the country illegally but subsequently obtaining a high school diploma or performing military service.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.