Thursday, May 3, 2012

Federalism Lives

The Obama administration’s challenge to Arizona’s illegal immigration legislation mostly played defense before the Supreme Court at the April 25 oral arguments.  This is the second high court case that forced the administration to defend its assertion of national authority against states aggressively arguing the limits of federal turf.

The same two protagonists in the health care reform oral arguments squared off again in the immigration case with much the same result.  Solicitor General Donald Verrilli faced hostile questioning from even liberal justices, such as Sonia Sotomayor.  Arizona’s case was made by Paul Clement, the G.W. Bush Solicitor General and Georgetown Law professor, who argued the states’ position on the health care high court hearing.

The arguments appeared to indicate the Court felt one of the most important parts the legislation concerning police doing immigration status checks might be a constitutional assertion of state authority based on the wording of the federal immigration laws.

The administration’s position is not only poorly received by the Court, but strongly opposed by the public.  In a couple of recent national polls, two-thirds of Americans support the Arizona position and want the Court to uphold it.

In the same Quinnipiac poll, 68 percent approved Arizona’s immigration law “that requires police to verify the legal status of someone they have already stopped and/or arrested if they suspect that person is in country illegally.”

·         Does the flow of oral arguments in the Supreme Court mean much for the final outcome?

·         Will these two cases create new limits on federal power?

·         Will a loss hurt President Obama’s re-election or is immigration a wedge issue that works well with Hispanic voters, but most Anglos ignore?

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