WASHINGTON -- By throwing out most of the anti-Latino Arizona immigration law and neutering the rest, the Supreme Court struck a rare blow for fairness and justice. Let's hope this is the beginning of a streak.
Even more gratifying is the court's reinforcement of an obvious principle: The federal government has the responsibility for setting immigration policy, not the states. We do not need -- and, thanks to this ruling, will not have -- 50 sets of laws specifying who gets to live in this country and who doesn't.
The Arizona law sought to make it a state crime to fail to have proper immigration papers; in other words, failing to produce the right documents when asked could have subjected a person not just to deportation but to criminal penalties. The court ruled that this was pre-empted by federal law, which imposes no such sanctions.
Arizona's draconian statute also made it against the law for an undocumented immigrant to look for work. The court noted that existing federal law already addresses the employment issue but specifically puts the onus on employers, not workers.
That's right. It's not a crime for "illegal" immigrants to live and work here without the proper documents. By "here" I mean all 50 states. The United States is one country with one immigration policy, and the Supreme Court means to keep it this way.
That's why analysts who see this as a split ruling with "something for both sides" are wrong. The Obama administration won across the board on its central contention, which is that Arizona was trying to usurp a federal prerogative. This has huge implications for the other states, such as South Carolina and Georgia, that are also trying to design their own immigration policies.