GOP Can't Decide If Immigration Ruling Is Their Victory or Feds' Failure

This article is from the archive of our partner .

The Supreme Court's ruling on Arizona's controversial immigration law was confusing for the press, who couldn't decide whether it was a major defeat for President Obama or a victory for the federal government. But Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer was not conflicted at all, saying in a statement released shortly after the verdict was handed down, "the heart of SB 1070 can now be implemented in accordance with the U.S. Constitution." What Brewer sees as the "heart" of 1070 is the provision that requires police officers to ask for immigration papers from people they reasonably suspect of being illegal immigrants. But even this heart of the law is not entirely settled.

Other politicians' reactions reflected the mixed ruling. Despite campaigning in Arizona Monday, Mitt Romney will only release a statement about the ruling, saying:

"Today's decision underscores the need for a President who will lead on this critical issue and work in a bipartisan fashion to pursue a national immigration strategy. President Obama has failed to provide any leadership on immigration. This represents yet another broken promise by this President. 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."

In states where immigration is a major issue, there was a division between Republicans who said the ruling was a victory for new enforcement laws and those who merely said the laws were necessary because the government wasn't doing its job. That was most obvious in Alabama, which passed a harsh immigration law last summer that many businesses oppose. Republican state House Speaker Mike Hubbard declared it a victory for states like his because the "real teeth" of Arizona's law had been upheld. Republican Gov. Robert Bentley, however, was more subdued. Bentley said Alabama and Arizona's laws are similar but not identical, and he would wait and see the effect of the ruling in his state. Bently said, "State laws on immigration are required because the federal government has refused to enforce its own immigration policies."

Recommended Reading

Missouri Rep. Todd Akin, a Senate candidate, also condemned the federal government for not enforcing the law. "This decision is a mixed bag," he said in a statement. "Illegal immigration hurts our country in numerous ways and it is sad that states are doing more to enforce our immigration laws than the federal government." He called for immigration status to be verified before someone gets benefits like Social Security.

South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson called the ruling a "major victory" for his state, saying, "The most important element of South Carolina's law, the ability of law enforcement to verify a suspected illegal alien's status upon an 'authorized lawful detention,' was found to be Constitutional on its face." Texas Senate candidate David Dewhurst -- the conservative challenger to establishment pick Ted Cruz -- did not focus on the law in question. In a statement Dewhurst said the ruling "only spotlights the abject failure of the federal government to secure the border." He also reiterated his opposition to any path to citizenship for illegal immigrants. 

As for Democrats, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid also declared victory, saying the court "was right to strike down the vast majority of the Arizona law." Then he tried to tie Romney to the law, saying, "it is disturbing that Mitt Romney called the unconstitutional Arizona law a ‘model’ for immigration reform."

President Obama said in a press release that he was pleased the court struck down much of the law. "At the same time, I remain concerned about the practical impact of the remaining provision of the Arizona law that requires local law enforcement officials to check the immigration status of anyone they even suspect to be here illegally."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.