The Supreme Court only upheld one-quarter of Arizona’s tough statute on illegal immigration, but state Gov. Jan Brewer, who oversaw the enactment of the law in 2010, is declaring victory nonetheless.
At a press conference Monday afternoon, Brewer said Arizona plans to begin instructing law enforcement officers to check the immigration status of people in the state when they are stopped or detained for other reasons. This stop-and-search provision was the only portion of the law upheld by Supreme Court, but Brewer said it was the most important part.
“I believe section 2(B) was the heart of the law,” she said. “I believe that’s where the majority of the concern was. Now it has been validated unanimously by the United States Supreme Court.”
President Barack Obama, who has openly opposed the Arizona law and this month released an order allowing some 800,000 illegal immigrants who meet certain conditions to stay in the U.S. without penalty, released a statement cautiously praising the court’s ruling.
“A patchwork of state laws is not a solution to our broken immigration system â?? itâ??s part of the problem,” he said.
Obama added that he remained concerned about the remaining provision, maintaining it would place Americans under a “cloud of suspicion.”
Republican challenger Mitt Romney, who spent the day at fundraising events in Arizona, released an early statement on immigration criticizing Obama’s failure to lead on the issue, but did not address any specifics regarding the law or the ruling.
Later in the day, according to pool reports cited by the Associated Press, he told reporters that the court should have â??given more latitudeâ?ť to the individual states in its decision.
In Congress, a number of Republicans were eager to embrace the positive elements of the court’s ruling.
Arizona Sens. John McCain and Jon Kyl released a joint statement sounding a call to continue fighting the state’s battle with illegal immigrants.
“The Arizona law was born out of the state’s frustration with the burdens that illegal immigration and continued drug smuggling impose on its schools, hospitals, criminal justice system and fragile desert environment, and an administration that chooses to set enforcement policies based on a political agenda, not the laws as written by Congress,” they wrote. “We will continue our efforts on behalf of the citizens of Arizona to secure our southern border. We believe Arizonans are better served when state and federal officials work as partners to protect our citizens rather than as litigants in a courtroom.”
The state’s Republican congressmen, including Reps. Ben Quayle, Paul Gosar, and Dave Schweikert, also released separate statements declared a victory, however mixed, on the issue.
One of the few conservative voices in Congress who did not see the ruling as a glass half-full was Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, who called the decision disappointing.
“Unfortunately, under this Administration, today’s ruling essentially puts an end to immigration enforcement since the states no longer can step in and fill the void created by the Obama administration,” he said in a statement. “This is especially bad news for border states since they have to deal with border violence, drug trafficking and illegal immigration.”
Justice Anthony Kennedy, who delivered the majority opinion, left open the possibility for additional constitutional challenges to the stop-and-search law.
Brewer said she expects those challenges to take place and said the state will be prepared to face them.
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