The Spokesman-Review


Smart Bombs: Fenced in on immigration

In light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s gutting of Arizona’s immigration enforcement law, it’s tempting to let Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer declare victory and move on. In response to the ruling, she said her state’s law “has unanimously been vindicated by the highest court in the land.”

So what are all of those outside agitators complaining about?

“I am disappointed by the Supreme Court’s decision today, which limits the ability of states to protect their citizens and communities from illegal immigrants,” said U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, and chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.

If this issue is about allowing states to take action, and the leader of the state in question is taking victory laps, what’s the problem? The answer, as always, is politics.

Brewer and the authors of Arizona’s law were roughed up pretty badly in the majority opinion, so they need to save face. The only part of the law that wasn’t junked was the “show your papers” provision. But even then the court placed handcuffs on local law enforcement by requiring reasonable suspicion that some other law was violated before they can pop the question about citizenship. This is like the Seattle Mariners declaring victory by scratching out a run in the 9th inning of a 5-1 loss.

Meanwhile, most Republicans are blaming President Barack Obama for not enforcing federal law. Never mind that his administration has increased enforcement over that of his predecessor. Then again, many of them didn’t like President George W. Bush’s advocacy of a pragmatic approach that included a path to citizenship for those willing to emerge from the shadows and abide by the rules. Several Republican senators, including U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., co-sponsored a bipartisan bill to do just that, but it failed over cries of amnesty for lawbreakers.

The official immigration reform position of Republican leadership since then is “no comment” until a 1,200-mile border fence is constructed. Romney’s dream of states passing laws so draconian that illegal immigrants would “self-deport” was dashed when the Supreme Court showed him its papers – the U.S. Constitution.

And so this issue is back where it belongs: in Congress. House leaders could introduce a bill tomorrow mandating all that they wish Obama or his successors would do. Or, they can play politics and wait until after the fall elections for fear of alienating Hispanic voters.

My guess: They’ll say “mañana” all the way to Nov. 6.

Principles iced. Another federal court decision last week highlighted the fact that the embrace of states’ rights and the opposition to judicial activism are merely situational, with politics trumping principles. A unanimous U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency’s enforcement of the Clean Air Act was constitutionally sound and that this included regulations designed to address global warming.

This issue began much like the immigration case. States became frustrated with federal inaction on the threats from global warming, so they began passing their own laws to control greenhouse gases. Not so fast, said the Bush administration, this is a federal matter. Problem is, the feds weren’t doing anything.

You’d think advocates of federalism and the rule of law would’ve been supportive when states such as Washington passed clean-car legislation to control tailpipe emissions, but that’s not what happened. That’s because global warming has become a litmus test for Republicans. If you go along with the broad scientific consensus that man is largely to blame for warming, you’re cooked within the party.

However, the appeals court went with the science, stating: “EPA is not required to re-prove the existence of the atom every time it approaches a scientific question.”

So, if global warming skeptics and deniers want the EPA to butt out, they need to pass legislation that supersedes or alters the federal Clean Air Act, which clearly delineates that the EPA is to enforce the law. Or, they can hope the U.S. Supreme Court takes the case – and the heat – by legislating from the bench.

Associate Editor Gary Crooks can be reached at or (509) 459-5026. Follow him on Twitter @GaryCrooks.

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