The US Supreme Court has struck down key provisions of Arizona’s harsh crackdown on illegal immigrants, ruling on a nationwide issue that is one of the most divisive separating President Barack Obama from his Republican challenger Mitt Romney.
While finding much of the Arizona law unconstitutional, the high court did say one part would stand – the portion requiring police to check the status of someone they suspect is not in the US legally.
BLOG: Court rejects most, but not all, of Arizona laws
Even there, though, the justices said the provision could be subject to additional legal challenges.
The decision upholds the “show me your papers” provision for the moment. But it takes the teeth out of it by prohibiting police officers from arresting people on minor immigration charges.
The court said Thursday would be the last day of rulings this term, which means the decision on Obama’s landmark health care overhaul probably will come that day.
Obama issued a statement declaring himself “pleased” with the ruling but added what it makes “unmistakably clear is that Congress must act on comprehensive immigration reform”.
The president said he remained concerned the law could leave Latinos subject to police stops just because of their appearance. He also asked again for bipartisanship to work out the country’s immigration problems.
“I will work with anyone in Congress,” Obama said in a statement, “who’s willing to make progress on comprehensive immigration reform that addresses our economic needs and security needs, and upholds our tradition as a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants.”
The Arizona decision landed in the middle of a presidential campaign in which Obama has been heavily courting Latino voters and Romney has been struggling to win Latino support.
During a drawn-out primary campaign, Romney and the other Republican candidates mostly embraced a hard line to avoid accusations that they support any kind of “amnesty” for illegal immigrants living in the US.
Romney has lately taken a softer tone on immigration as a result of Obama having issued an executive ruling that ends deportation of young people brought illegally into the country as children.
He said Monday’s ruling “underscores the need for a president who will lead on this critical issue and work in a bipartisan fashion to pursue a national immigration strategy”.
“I believe that each state has the duty – and the right – to secure our borders and preserve the rule of law, particularly when the federal government has failed to meet its responsibilities.”