By Matthew Rothschild on June 25, 2012

The Supreme Court struck down almost all of SB 1070, Arizona’s noxious anti-immigrant law, a decision that steamed Justice Antonin Scalia.

The Court said that the state cannot make it a misdemeanor for an immigrant not to comply with federal registration.

It said that the state cannot make it a misdemeanor for an undocumented worker to look for work or engage in employment.

It said the state also cannot arrest someone without a warrant simply because the officer “has probable cause to believe” that the person has violated federal immigration law.

“The state may not pursue policies that undermine federal law,” Justice Kennedy wrote for the 5-3 majority, which surprisingly included Chief Justice Roberts.

Unanimously, the Court left standing, at least for the moment, the part of the law that requires officers to inquire about the immigration status of those they arrest, though it suggested that future challenges to this section might succeed.

Scalia delivered a scorching dissent against most of the decision.

Touring U.S. history from the founding Convention onward, he repeatedly stressed “the States’ sovereign interest in protecting their borders,” and their “sovereign prerogative to do so.”

The only time states can’t pass their own laws regarding immigration, he said, is when they contradict federal law, which isn’t the case here, he argued.

“The most important point is that . . . Arizona is entitled to have ‘its own immigration policy’—including a more rigorous enforcement policy—so long as that does not conflict with federal law,” he wrote.

Scalia was also scornful of Congress and the Obama Administration for not providing sufficient funding to enforce the immigration laws.

And while he was at it, he swerved to run down Obama’s recent decision on letting many young undocumented immigrants remain in the country.

“That Arizona contradicts federal law by enforcing applications of the Immigration Act that the President declines to enforce boggles the mind,” he wrote.

Scalia also described the immigration problem in the worst possible light, caricaturing undocumented immigrants not only as a drain on resources but as dangerous.

“Arizona bears the brunt of the country’s illegal immigration problem,” he wrote. “Its citizens feel themselves under siege by large numbers of illegal immigrants who invade their property, strain their social services, and even place their lives in jeopardy.”

He concluded tartly: “The laws under challenge here do not extend or revise federal immigration restrictions, but merely enforce those restrictions more effectively. If securing its territory in this fashion is not within the power of Arizona, we should cease referring to it as a sovereign State.”

If you liked this story by Matthew Rothschild, the editor of The Progressive magazine, check out his story “Build Local Progressive Councils."

Follow Matthew Rothschild @mattrothschild on Twitter

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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