Not all states with immigration laws will backpedal after Supreme Court ruling
States with tough immigration laws – like the one the Supreme Court mostly invalidated from Arizona – are assessing adjustments they may need to make. Not all foresee changes.
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In Tennessee – which has enacted a series of immigration laws, including ousting illegal immigrants from local and county welfare rolls, while strategically avoiding an Arizona-style omnibus law – Republican lawmakers suggest that the Supreme Court decision will have no impact at all. Moreover, unlike Alabama, Georgia, and Indiana, Tennessee does not allow street officers to make judgments about somebody’s immigration status.Skip to next paragraph
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“I would make the assertion that Tennessee has more enforceable illegal alien laws than any other state, and part of the reason for that is our tactical approach,” says Republican state lawmaker Joe Carr, who sponsored most of the anti-illegal immigration bills. “We passed laws in smaller chunks instead of doing it in one big bill, which tends to light a fire under opponents.”
In Arizona, whose 2010 law was the focus of the Supreme Court's decision, Gov. Jan Brewer (R) said she expects police officers in the state to begin asking people they have reason to believe are in the US illegally for proof that they are legal residents. Indeed, Governor Brewer, who has been in a political stare-down with the Obama White House over illegal immigration's impact on Arizona’s economy and crime rate, said the Supreme Court upheld “the heart” of the state law – that is, the ability of police officers on the streets to use immigration-related discretion.
The high court did leave that question unanswered. Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the five majority justices, suggested that, while concerns about racial profiling may be legitimate, the law needs a track record to determine whether it actually does unfairly target Hispanics and other minorities.
The court ruling follows President Obama's June 15 announcement of a new immigration discretion program that may allow as many as 800,000 young undocumented residents to remain – and work – in the US. Many political experts say the 10 million Hispanics registered to vote could decide the November presidential election, given that many of them live in battleground states such as Colorado, Virginia, and Florida.
States have collectively enacted hundreds of laws dealing with illegal immigration, mostly out of frustration with perceived federal ineffectiveness on immigration control. Many such state laws are symbolic, intended to provoke illegal immigrants into returning to their home countries. Some legal scholars are concerned that the laws will also erode the constitutional rights of legal residents and citizens of Hispanic descent.
The focus in Arizona now falls on state-deputized police, who are charged with carrying out the law in a way that does not overstep the bounds of the Constitution.
“It's uncharted territory," Tony Estrada, sheriff of Arizona’s Santa Cruz County, told Fox News. "It's going to be challenging. It's a complicated issue, and it's not going to be solved by this particular decision."