Mitt Romney and I obviously share some confusion over the U.S. Supreme Court decision in the Arizona immigration case. Mine stems from some previous SCOTUS rulings while Ol’ Mitt’ seems to have missed the whole point of this one. Speaking charitably, of course.
Let’s deal with Mitten’s seeming confusion first. To do so, you have to remember another ruling which also came this week. The good justices told Montana there is a limit to state’s rights when it stuck down a 1912 Montana law curtailing the political involvement of large corporations. That statute was put on the Big Sky books a century ago to keep large mining companies from polluting Montana politics with campaign contributions large enough to buy the kind of office holders they wanted.. Sort of Citizens United in reverse – a seemingly prescient move by our ancestors.
Summarizing the SCOTUS Montana ruling, states can’t come up with laws contradicting what the 2010 Citizens United decision allowed – that being unlimited access in financing of political campaigns because corporations have the same “freedom of speech” rights as individuals. (Editors note: DAMN, that’s dumb!)
In other words, there really are limits to the “rights” of states to do certain things. Right?
Well, Ol’ Mitt thought and thought – then thought some more – about the SCOTUS decision which struck down most of Arizona’s new immigration law. The one giving the state’s law enforcement agencies expanded powers to find, identify and ship out illegal immigrants. I’d bet he even talked it over with his campaign staff.
After taking far too much time to address a topic he had to know would be at the top of the media’s question list that day, his response was this. First, President Obama has been ineffective. Well, Duh! Then: “I believe each state has the duty and the right to secure our borders and preserve the rule of law.” Huh?
Hold on there, my friend. I know you graduated Harvard Law. But let’s think about this. If the other SCOTUS ruling of the day said states can’t adopt laws conflicting with federal statutes, how can they do just that by putting their own laws on the books regarding immigration? All 50 of ‘em? Mitt, my boy. Think it through!
Well, so much for his confusion. Now here’s mine.
The only portion of the Arizona immigration statute left on the plate after the justices chewed on it was Section 2(B) of SB 1070. That’s the part which says law enforcement officers are to determine the immigration status of those they stop, arrest or detain if there is “reasonable suspicion” of unlawful presence in this country. That part is pretty damned clear, even to me.
So, here’s my confusion. In a lot of other Supreme Court decisions over the years, law enforcement has been barred from profiling – interrupting someone’s life because they look or sound or in some way appear to be someone they may be looking for. That’s a legal “No No.”
So what is “reasonable suspicion” when it comes to determining who may or may not be a citizen? How do you become “suspicious” of someone whose vehicle you’ve pulled over? Accent? Appearance? Dark skin? Mexican license plates? Mexican driver’s license? Dice hanging on the mirror? Low rider car. Isn’t that profiling?
Now, I’m just an old fella here in the Oregon woods. Absent a law degree or special law enforcement training, it seems to me those high court people have created a Catch-22 situation. Unless the officer on the scene demands citizenship papers from every white, 80-year-old woman who’s never been outside the borders of Arizona. Or because he’s stopping every car on the road. Might get away with no conflict there. But I seriously doubt that’s the way they’ll go about it.
So there you are. Mitt’s confusion and mine.
What I’m not confused about is my anger with the makeup of the current high court. Credential and intellectual levels may be high. But the gauge on the old common sense meter is down around zero. The evidence is prima facie. That’s Latin for “all over the place.”