This morning, the Supreme Court finally announced its ruling and delivered a split decision on Arizona’s immigration law. The justices upheld the most controversial “show me your papers” provision, while still blocking some other key provisions of SB 1070.
This announcement comes the same week the Supreme Court is scheduled to rule on a second politically charged legal battle between the Obama administration and Republicans: the Affordable Care Act.
While the impact of the healthcare reform ruling will obviously be on a much larger scale, the two cases are similar in the sense that their decisions will essentially shape the tone of the election for the Latino community. Latinos have long-awaited the Supreme Court’s decision on Arizona’s immigration law, with much suspense and anticipation, since the Justices began hearing oral arguments back in April.
There is no doubt; this is a big win for the Obama administration, but the Justice’s decision to uphold the controversial provision leaves the door open for racial profiling and sends a negative message to many, if not all, Latinos. An unfavorable ruling for the Obama administration on the Affordable Care Act would have the same effect.
There are clear indications that Latinos are benefiting from healthcare reform. Consider the 736,000 Latinos under the age of 26 who have gained healthcare coverage since the law passed. These Latinos do not want the healthcare reforms declared unconstitutional. Similarly, a new survey, released the same day as the Supreme Court’s announcement, shows that a significantly higher number of Latinos disapprove of Arizona’s immigration law when compared with the general U.S. public.
The ruling on Arizona’s immigration law leaves the impression that the judiciary sees no issue with the systematic racial profiling of undocumented immigrants. Now, to be fair, the real issue at hand here is whether states can enforce laws against undocumented immigrants, or whether that power solely remains with the federal government.
Still, upholding this particular provision is going to seriously alienate many Latinos. The Latino youth growing up in Arizona will suddenly feel like it’s illegal to just be themselves, or to embrace their culture (as if Sheriff Joe Arpaio and the book bans weren’t already doing that).
Meanwhile, President Obama was poised to benefit from either scenario. His administration’s record number of deportations made a tightly-sealed argument against Arizona. Even if most of the Arizona law had been upheld, Obama would still have the privilege of saying that he challenged it – that he supported the DREAM Act in 2010 – and that he only resorted to using his executive power after Congress failed to take action.
Mitt Romney, however, and his statement (or lack thereof) on the Supreme Court’s decision left him looking sloppy and uncommitted.
There are those who claim Obama waited until this year to move on immigration reform as a means of political pandering and to gain more votes. It is true; he certainly could have taken this type of action much sooner. But, the pressure he placed on Congress to act during his first three years was respectable, and if the timing of his executive order benefiting undocumented immigrants also benefits his election, then so be it.
It must mean he’s doing something right.
This article originally appeared in Being Latino.