Friday, June 29, 2012

June and the 2012 Presidential Campaign

In the past month we have seen two critical decisions for immigration policy.  The first was President Obama’s executive order on undocumented immigrants who entered the country as children and the second was the Supreme Court’s ruling on SB1070. Not only does this mean that it’s time to update my syllabus for my course on immigration policy, but these two decisions could play a major role in determining the pressure for and contours of immigration reform in the next few years.

Of course these actions also have the potential to impact the presidential campaigns of President Obama and Governor Mitt Romney. For President Obama, who has been unable to get comprehensive immigration reform or the DREAM act passed in Congress, it was a way to address a pressing issue, and hopefully energize Hispanic voters who will are key to his re-election bid. In making the order Obama stated, “They pledge allegiance to our flag. They are Americans in their hearts, in their minds, in every single way but one: on paper”( ). Governor Romney has taken a tough line on illegal immigration, and has said he disagrees with the court’s ruling on SB1070, “I would have preferred to see the Supreme Court give more latitude to states, not less. And the states, now under this decision, have less authority, less latitude, to enforce immigration law,” Romney told donors at a fundraiser in Scottsdale (

Immigrant votes have played a role in shifting electoral coalitions through the history of the United States.  In their time, German, Irish, Italian and other ethnic groups used their voting clout to elect politicians who supported more open immigration.  Hispanic voters do not necessarily vote as a block, but they do play a key role in important swing states. It’s clear that President Obama is betting that Hispanic voters will make the difference in at least a few of these states.  Turnout will be key, which possibly underlies GOP efforts to pass voter ID laws in many states.  However, it is clear that the Hispanic vote will play an important role in this election and it is up to the Republican party to find a strategy that will reduce Obama’s commanding lead in the polls with Hispanic voters: (

Monday, June 25, 2012

SCOTUS Rules on SB1070 (updated 6/25/12 6:00pm)

Arizona officials react to ruling:

The New Republic on Scalia's dissent:

The Romney Campaign's response (or lack thereof) as reported by Politico:

Updated as of 5:00:

Analysis from the Texas Tribune and KUT news:

As CNN reports, the Supreme Court has struck down most of Arizona's SB 1070:
The remaining provision, known as the "show me your papers" law, remains in force, although the Supreme Court made it clear that enforcement could become an issue.
Justice Kennedy wrote the decision for the majority:

In-depth analysis from Daily Kos:

Reaction from the Migration Policy Institute:
Supreme Court's Ruling in Arizona Immigration Case Affirms Federal Primacy in Immigration Policy, MPI Experts Say

WASHINGTON — With today's ruling in Arizona et al v. United States, the Supreme Court struck down three provisions of Arizona's SB 1070 law, allowing to stand the section that requires police officers to check the immigration status of people they stop.
Migration Policy Institute (MPI) experts offered the following statements:
  • Doris Meissner, Senior Fellow and Director of MPI's U.S. Immigration Policy Program, who served as Commissioner of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) from 1993-2000:
“This ruling reconfirms the long-held principle of federal primacy in immigration policy. It should largely put to rest questions about the respective roles of state and federal authorities in enforcing the nation’s immigration laws and raises important cautions for the policing provisions that Arizona enacted. The decision underscores yet again the need for Washington to respond to legitimate state concerns and take up the challenge of creating an orderly and fair immigration law.”
  • James W. Ziglar, MPI Senior Fellow who served as INS Commissioner from 2001-2002. Ziglar, who began his law career as a clerk to Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun, taught immigration and constitutional law at the George Washington University Law Center:
“The Supreme Court has confirmed a long-established principle in federal immigration law, policy and history that America must speak and act as one country and one people."
"The justices have by and large followed precedent. Even the portion of the opinion that upholds the requirement that police check immigration status does so in a very cautionary way. The court suggests that an overly broad implementation of Section 2(B) could cause that provision to be constitutionally defective."
"In the closing part of its opinion, the court reflected on America’s history as a nation of immigrants and said: ‘Immigration policy shapes the destiny of the nation …. The history of the United States is in part made of the stories, talents and lasting contributions of those who crossed oceans and deserts to come here.’"
  • Michael Fix, an attorney who is MPI Senior Vice President and Co-Director of the National Center on Immigrant Integration Policy:
"What the Supreme Court is saying is that the states can’t impose on unauthorized immigrants more punitive sanctions than the federal government. They can, however, adjust the intensity of their permitted enforcement activity -- in this case compelling state and local officers, during the course of an otherwise authorized stop, to inquire into the immigration status of those whom they suspect to be in the country illegally."

"While this ruling imposes some restrictions on the states, it can still lead to quite differing climates of reception for immigrant populations depending on how states interpret and embrace this ruling."
  • Muzaffar Chishti, Director of MPI's office at New York University School of Law. Chishti is an immigration attorney and has focused much of his research in recent years on state- and local-level activity on immigration enforcement. Chishti also co-authors the monthly "Policy Beat" feature of the Migration Information Source, MPI's online journal, which has examined issues surrounding SB 1070.

    "“Even though the Supreme Court has allowed the most controversial section of the Arizona law to go forward, it has left open the possibility that the provision could also fall if its implementation conflicts with federal law. However, in the interim, the ruling could lead to many citizens and non-citizens facing adverse impacts at the state and local level.”
(Meissner and Ziglar, in their capacity as former INS Commissioners, submitted an amici brief to the Supreme Court in the Arizona case, which the court cited in its opinion. The amici brief can be read here.)

To reach an MPI expert for comment, please contact MPI Communications Director Michelle Mittelstadt at 202-266-1910 or
The Migration Policy Institute is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit think tank in Washington, D.C. dedicated to analysis of the movement of people worldwide. MPI provides analysis, development and evaluation of migration and refugee policies at the local, national and international levels. For more on MPI, please visit