Today, the Supreme Court issued a decision invalidating most of Arizona’s controversial immigration law. Georgetown Law professor David Cole, a vocal civil liberties advocate, called the decision “almost a total victory for the Obama administration,” which challenged the constitutionality of the law.
But the decision signaled that the court also views Obama’s recent immigration directive, halting deportations for many young undocumented immigrants, as legal. Essentially, the court underscored that the federal government has broad discretion under the law to decide who to deport. From the decision:
Congress has specified which aliens may be removed from the United States and the procedures for doing so. Aliens may be removed if they were inadmissible at the time of entry, have been convicted of certain crimes, or meet other criteria set by federal law. See §1227. Removal is a civil, not criminal, matter. A principal feature of the removal system is the broad discretion exercised by immigration officials. See Brief for Former Commissioners of the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service as Amici Curiae 8–13 (hereinafter Brief for Former INS Commissioners).
…Discretion in the enforcement of immigration law embraces immediate human concerns. Unauthorized workers trying to support their families, for example, likely pose less danger than alien smugglers or aliens who commit a serious crime. The equities of an individual case may turn on many factors, including whether the alien has children born in the United States, long ties to the community, or a record of distinguished military service.
Kris Kobach, an immigration advisor for Mitt Romney, said that Obama’s order was illegal. It does not appear likely that the Supreme Court agrees.
This explains why Justice Scalia’s dissenting opinion, upholding the entire law, included a lengthy section blasting Obama’s immigration order. He also read from that section at length from the bench.