Commentary: A Supreme Mess?

Michael Steele

Commentary: A Supreme Mess?

Though the Supreme Court's ruling on immigration was not the decision everyone’s been waiting for, it cut through the political ether with the precision of a fine surgical instrument.

Published June 26, 2012

Hold on to your seat because it’s about to get a bit bumpy! The Supreme Court dropped its decision Monday in Arizona vs. United States; and while this ruling on immigration was not the decision everyone’s been waiting for, it cut through the political ether with the precision of a fine surgical instrument.


In what can only be described as a “split decision,” the High Court overturned three parts of Arizona’s anti-illegal immigration law, while sustaining the controversial “show me your papers” provision. To be certain, most of the political junkies in Washington had a field day analyzing, deciphering and outright proselytizing about who won, who lost and the full impact of what the Supreme Court had wrought.


Keep in mind this political drama was being shaped long before the Court took up the matter. In 2008, then-candidate Obama boldly promised “a path to citizenship” for undocumented immigrants. But four years later, that pathway appears overgrown from the weeds of inaction and record deportations. Of course, there was the president’s recent political decision to stop the deportation of undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children and allow them to obtain work permits. Hispanics sang the president’s praises, Republicans cried foul, but as for comprehensive immigration reform…still waiting.


So it should come as no surprise that at some point a governor of a border state like Arizona’s Jan Brewer would conclude the federal government is not serious nor politically equipped to deal with the situation along her border and decide to cut through the weeds and a clear a path — at least for her state.


Enter the Supreme Court.


Much to its chagrin, more and more of the court’s decisions are viewed through a political lens. Consequently, deciding a case on constitutional principles has become a dicey proposition for the court. Witness the reaction and the continued vilification by the political left to the Citizens United decision. But the president’s sophisticated bullying of the Supreme Court notwithstanding, the court’s decision in Arizona was not designed to fix our immigration mess or to placate one side or the other, but rather to assert the primacy of federal law (the court found Arizona’s immigration statute could not preempt federal law on ID requirements, warrantless arrests and criminalizing work) and to affirm a state’s “ability to assist the federal government in enforcement activities” even to the point of “pass[ing] laws…to clarify their roles.”


Of course, just when you thought it couldn’t get any messier for the administration, the court will render its decision on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act by week’s end.


That’s when the fun will really begin.


Michael Steele served as the first African-American chairman of the Republican National Committee. He is a former lieutenant governor of Maryland and a political commentator. He will be providing commentary on all things politics for each week.

The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.

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Written by Michael Steele


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