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Both Sides Claim Victory After Court’s Ruling on Ariz. Immigration Law

Supreme Court's Arizona law decision; photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

Jane Pauk of Phoenix demonstrates at the Supreme Court after the justices ruled on Arizona”s immigration law. Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images.

The Morning Line

With a big decision on the health care reform law still to come, the Supreme Court on Monday delivered a handful of significant rulings, chief among them a split decision on Arizona’s immigration law that each side spun as a victory.

The justices unanimously upheld the law’s provision requiring police officers to check the immigration status of any individual they suspect is in the country illegally. Three other parts of the law were struck down, including one element that would have made it a crime for an illegal immigrant to seek work or hold a job.

Here’s how the court’s ruling played in papers across the country:

President Obama’s Republican rival Mitt Romney told donors he would have preferred the court had given “more latitude to the states not less.”

“[T]here are states now under this decision have less authority, less latitude, to enforce immigration laws,” he said, according to a pool report.

For his part, the president released a statement saying he was “pleased” the court struck down much of the law, but he remained “concerned” about the verification provision. He avoided the topic during a Monday campaign stop in New Hampshire and instead kept to attacking Romney’s private sector record. (More on that below.)

The NewsHour’s Beth Summers and Meena Ganesan rounded up the reaction and posted the text of the high court’s decision here.

The NewsHour broke down the decision and the legal arguments with our regular correspondent Marcia Coyle of the National Law Journal.

Marcia explained that the justices found the state’s verification provision did not conflict with federal law, but she did note that the item would be subject to further legal scrutiny.

“In fact, there is a pending lawsuit in Arizona that challenges the law on racial profiling grounds, equal protection grounds,” Marcia told Judy Woodruff.

Gwen Ifill followed up with a debate between Kris Kobach, a co-author of the law SB 1070, and Steven Gonzales, a professor at the Phoenix School of Law.

“I would characterize this as an old-fashioned smackdown by the Supreme Court against a state intruding on federal power,” Gonzales said.

“There have always been windows of opportunity where states can act as long as those actions are consistent with federal law,” Kobach said. “And the court reiterated that today. They said, in our federal system, the courts can take certain steps to discourage illegal immigration and communicate and assist with the federal government, assist the federal government in enforcing our immigration laws….So, I think you’re going to see states continuing to take reasonable steps to try to rebuild the rule of law.”

The fact the two men went back and forth, each claiming some victory or defeat, gave some additional weight to Romney’s description of the court’s decision as “muddled.”

The implementation of Arizona’s law is further complicated by the action, or inaction, that federal agencies will take to support the state in its enforcement efforts. A senior government official told the Morning Line on Monday that, despite the new law, federal illegal immigration enforcement will continue to focus on its current priorities.

Watch the segment here or below.

If you speak a language other than English, help translate Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer’s reaction speech via the NewsHour’s Amara project below.


Arizona’s law wasn’t all the high court tackled. Marcia re-joined Judy to discuss two rulings that also have a far reach.

With potentially billions of dollars being thrown around this election year and Citizens United under the microscope, there was some speculation that justices might have wanted to use a Montana case to reopen debate on campaign finance.

“Justice Breyer and Justice Ginsburg had earlier suggested that given all of the money that we’re seeing today flowing into the current campaigns around the country, that the court might want to reconsider the proposition that independent expenditures do not corrupt or appear to corrupt elections,” Marcia said.

But it turned out the same majority who backed Citizens United opted to keep the status quo. The decision made clear that political speech doesn’t lose its First Amendment protection if its source is a corporation, Marcia explained, adding, “And nobody could seriously doubt that that applies to Montana.”

The court also ruled that juveniles cannot be given mandatory life-without-parole sentences. Marcia noted that 29 states and the federal government approve this type of sentence, and “there are an estimated 2,300 juveniles under these sentences who committed murder when under the age of 18.”

Watch that segment here or below.


As the Morning Line predicted last week, Team Obama has crafted new television attack ads using a Washington Post investigation that explored the record of outsourcing jobs at Bain Capital, where Romney was an executive.

The Virginia-specific spot, timed to Romney’s stop in Salem on Tuesday and in Northern Virginia on Wednesday, uses an ad Romney is running in the state promising that his first 100 days would mean “creating thousands of new jobs for Virginians.”

“But would he?” a spooky voice intones before ticking through details in the Post story about jobs Bain shipped overseas. It closes with a question: “Does Virginia really want an outsourcer-in-chief in the White House?”

Watch the Virginia spot here

The Ohio ad is here and the Iowa spot is here.

It’s worth noting a similar ad earned Four Pinocchios from the Washington Post’s Fact Checker.

The ad in Iowa is timed for Vice President Joe Biden’s event there. A campaign source said Biden will “highlight President Obama’s ongoing efforts to grow Iowa’s rural economy and bolster middle-class security for Iowa families while taking on Mitt Romney’s history of shipping American jobs overseas.”

The ads also amplify the message the president tried out on New Hampshire voters Monday, slamming advisors to the Romney campaign for drawing a distinction between outsourcing and offshoring.

“That’s what they said. You cannot make this stuff up,” Mr. Obama said. “Now, what Governor Romney and his advisors don’t seem to understand is this: If you’re a worker whose job went overseas, you don’t need somebody trying to explain to you the difference between outsourcing and offshoring. You need somebody who’s going to wake up every single day and fight for American jobs and investment here in the United States.”

Romney campaign spokesperson Ryan Williams responded to the president’s criticism in a statement. “With the worst record on jobs and the economy of any president in modern history, President Obama knows he has no compelling case to make for a second term. That’s why he continues to use false and discredited attacks to divert attention from his abysmal economic record,” Williams said.


  • Democrats are scrapping plans for a massive free Labor Day concert at Charlotte Motor Speedway as the kickoff to the Democratic National Convention. The Observer has all the details about the new site and replacement event.
  • Bloomberg’s Hans Nichols writes that the move comes as party planners grapple with a roughly $27 million fundraising deficit.
  • Using a grainy Twitter photo from Romney’s retreat in Utah as evidence, either an operative or activist is suggesting that a Romney super PAC was improperly coordinating with the campaign. BuzzFeed is on the case.
  • Just in time for Romney’s two-day Virginia swing, state Democrats announced office openings and nine new hires, including seven regional field directors.
  • Chris Cillizza and Stu Rothenberg had a Twitter battle over whether this is the most important week in the Obama presidency.
  • The president stopped off for a hot fudge sundae during his campaign trip to Durham, N.H., on Monday.







  • House lawmakers will vote Thursday on whether to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt for failing to turn over documents related to the Fast and Furious gun-running operation. Already, Democrats are attempting to spin the Republicans’ attacks on Holder as an effort at voter suppression.
  • Michael Gerson has a tough column on Holder in Tuesday’s Washington Post.
  • The New York Daily News reports that veteran New York Rep. Charlie Rangel is in for the “political fight of his life” in Tuesday’s Democratic primary.
  • The New York Times’ Jack Healy looks at Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch’s effort to survive a Republican primary challenge Tuesday.
  • The Washington Post’s Krissah Thompson profiles Utah congressional candidate Mia Love, who is seeking to become the first black Republican woman in Congress. She’s also a Mormon.
  • Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice helped raise some cash for GOP women at an event in Washington, D.C., on Monday.
  • Illinois Democratic Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. announced Monday he’s been on medical leave from Congress for the past two weeks to receive treatment for exhaustion.
  • Stu uses his Roll Call column to outline the “good, bad and the ugly” among House hopefuls this year.
  • Watch Margaret Warner’s dispatch from Atlacomulco, Mexico, about the upcoming elections.
  • Larisa Epatko of the NewsHour’s foreign affairs beat shows us what political campaign ads look like in Mexico.
  • Just because we’re guessing you’ve studied the presidency of Josiah Bartlet, here’s a compendium of Sorkin-isms that is really quite something.
  • The left-learning Public Policy Polling decided to survey Coloradans about how they feel regarding the fictional town of Southpark (yes, that one) and the Overlook Hotel of Stephen King lore. “Overall, 39% see South Park positively and 11% negatively,” the pollster writes. As for the haunted hotel, no one knew what they were talking about.


All events are listed in Eastern Time.

  • President Obama attends fundraising events in Atlanta at 1:25 p.m. and 2:10 p.m., and in Miami at 5:45 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.
  • Vice President Biden speaks at a campaign event in Waterloo, Iowa, at 11:30 a.m.
  • First lady Michelle Obama travels to Chicago for campaign events at 1:45 p.m. and 6 p.m.
  • Mitt Romney holds an event in Salem, Va., at 12:25 p.m.

All future events can be found on our Political Calendar:

For more political coverage, visit our politics page.

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Questions or comments? Email Christina Bellantoni at cbellantoni-at-newshour-dot-org.

Follow the politics team on Twitter: @cbellantoni, @burlij, @elizsummers, @kpolantz, @indiefilmfan, @tiffanymullon, @dePeystah, @meenaganesan and @abbruns.

*CORRECTION: An earlier version of this entry incorrectly described a Supreme Court ruling from Monday. The justice ruled that juveniles cannot be given mandatory life-without-parole sentences. *

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