Court carves up Arizona immigration law

AP and Reuters

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Supreme Court struck down key provisions of a border state’s harsh crackdown on illegal immigrants, but it did little to finally settle the nation’s raging political dispute on immigration, a divisive issue on which President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney are deeply at odds.

While the conservative-dominated high court ruling released Monday found much of the Arizona law unconstitutional, it did rule that one part would stand — the portion requiring police to check the status of someone they suspect is not in the United States legally. Even there, though, the justices said the provision could be subject to additional legal challenges.

Obama issued a statement declaring he was “pleased” with the ruling, but cautioned that the enforcement provision left standing was wrong.

“No American should ever live under a cloud of suspicion just because of what they look like,” Obama said in a statement. “Going forward, we must ensure that Arizona law enforcement officials do not enforce this law in a manner that undermines the civil rights of Americans, as the court’s decision recognizes.”

In his first comment in person on the ruling, Romney said he would have liked to have seen a different approach. “The Supreme Court ruling, given the failure of the immigration policy of this country, I would have preferred to see the Supreme Court give more latitude to states, not less,” he told donors in Arizona. Romney, who endorsed the Arizona law while seeking his party’s presidential nomination, has struggled to address immigration policy, a hot-button issue in campaigning for the Nov. 6 election and a particular concern of Hispanics, a fast-growing segment of the U.S. voting population. “It’s become a muddle. But it didn’t have to be this way,” Romney said.

“The president pronounced that in his first year he would take on immigration. He had a Democratic House, he had a Democratic Senate, but he didn’t do it. Isn’t it time for the American people to ask him why? Because he didn’t act, state and local governments have had to act, the courts have got involved and it’s a muddle.”

An earlier written comment from Romney did not directly address the particulars of the law or the decision.

“I believe that each state has the duty — and the right — to secure our borders and preserve the rule of law, particularly when the federal government has failed to meet its responsibilities,” Romney said. Romney has lately taken a softer tone on immigration as a result of Obama’s having issued an executive ruling that ends deportation of young people brought illegally into the country as children.