Politicizing the DREAM Act and Immigration
Over the past months, the country has seen the DREAM Act and immigration in general being used by both Republicans and Democrats to savage each other politically. With the Arizona ruling, Justice Antonin Scalia demonstrates the Supreme Court gradually becoming an extension of the political branches to join the melee that has polarized and politicized the DREAM Act.
Sounding as partisan as Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, Scalia's dissent in Arizona v. U.S. criticized the president's new Department of Homeland Security directive to stop the deportation of undocumented youth, saying:
"the president said that the new program is 'the right thing to do' in light of Congress's failure to pass the administration's proposed revision of the [DREAM] Act. Perhaps it is, though Arizona may not think so. But to say, as the Court does, that Arizona contradicts federal law by enforcing applications of the Immigration Act that the president declines to enforce boggles the mind."
At first blush, the attack appeared to come from the Republican National Committee or immigration hawk Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX). Yet with his dissent's condemnation, Scalia, unbecoming of a federal judge, went beyond analyzing the constitutionality of the Arizona law, delving straight into the heated politics of immigration.
Scalia argued that all of SB1070 should have been upheld because the state is "entitled" to craft its own immigration policy. The majority of the justices held Arizona's law unconstitutional, except the "papers please" provision -- which allows police officers to ask about a person's immigration status if they are pulled over during a lawful stop.
Across the Latino community, both citizen's and non-citizen's alike have felt the sting of anti-immigrant rhetoric, exclusively coming from the Republican party with few exceptions. This has ranged from the policies and rhetoric of Joe Arpaio that Latinos have felt are dehumanizing and unnecessarily harsh, to state policies, like SB 1070, being touted as a "model for the nation" by Mitt Romney. The rhetoric on immigration this election cycle has been extreme, demonstrating a willingness to sacrifice common sense for fanatical politics. This has all contributed to Mitt Romney's unpopularity with Latinos despite his own family's immigration history. Even worse, the rhetoric has made immigration legislatively untouchable. Republican Justice Scalia exacerbated the politics.
"As long as this issue of immigration is a political ping pong that each side uses to win elections and influence votes, I'm telling you, it won't get solved," Sen. Rubio (R-FL) accurately told the audience at National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed conference. We can count on a third side, the Supreme Court, to add to the political calculation as the American public will now have to count partisan votes to determine which side a ruling will fall on.
Much of this rhetoric has come from the fact that this was a hard-fought primary, where Mitt Romney went to the right on immigration to balance out some of his more moderate stances while still appealing to a somewhat xenophobic base. He made it obvious that it would be the Latino community whom Romney would sacrifice to look tough on some issues, such as SB 1070, his promised veto of the DREAM Act and his "Self-Deportation" policy for those valedictorians who were brought across the desert as babies.
The legislation from the right-wing of immigration politics has followed the rhetoric, with Alabama enacting even harsher anti-immigrant legislation than Arizona. This has cost the state nearly $11 billion dollars according to a study conducted by the Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Alabama at a time when states are desperate for revenue.
It is no surprise that the Latino community has overwhelmingly voiced their lack of support for Mitt Romney, the current leader of the GOP, with recent polls from the Wall Street Journal placing him at 26 percent with Latinos. With institutions like the Supreme Court joining the political arena, it is more important than ever that the American public, specifically the Latino community, be informed, unified, and empowered, pushing for an immigration narrative which is supportive of compromise and solutions.
While Chief Justice John Roberts ended the court's term on a delicate environment of objectivity by upholding the Affordable Care Act, the umpire-like image of the Supreme Court has been undermined by credible charges of partisanship. Justice Robert will have another opportunity to determine the direction of the Court in the next term as they plan to delve into more politically charged issues, such as affirmative action. But only when Justice Roberts brings his team of umpires, specially Scalia, out of the batting cage (or the campaign trail) can the American public again have faith in the highest court of the land.