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Supreme Court Arizona Immigration Decision: SCOTUS Strikes Majority of SB 1070

UPDATE: On Monday, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the federal government on 3 out of the 4 major issues, most notably declaring that the Arizona immigration law SB 1070 pre-empted (trumped) federal law. The court rejected the parts of the law that: 1) Make it a state crime for illegal immigrants not to possess their federal registration cards; 2) Make it a crime for illegal immigration to work, apply for work or solicit work; 3) Allow state and local police to arrest illegal immigrants without a warrant when probably cause exists that they committed “any public offense that makes the person removable from the United States.”

The only issue that the Court did not decide was the provision which requires officers to check the immigration status of individuals subsequent to a lawful arrest. This was left to the state courts to interpret further. There is a chance that if the state courts interpret the "status check" provision too broadly, that it will make its way back to SCOTUS as early as next term. The Court suggested that the interpretation would have to be narrow to survive.

On Friday President Obama graced the White House Rosewood Garden to announce an executive action that would put an end to the deportation of some undocumented youth brought here as children by their parents. 

Accompanying the new policy, is also a deferred action provision for a period of two years subject to renewal as well as eligibility for worker's authorization for those who meet certain requirements. 

This is an unprecedented move by a president whose administration has deported more illegal immigrants than previous administrations. While this is a watered down version of the DREAM Act, because it won't grant a path towards citizenship, it has strategically shaken up the political landscape that will either cost or seal the president's reelection in November.

Similar to the DREAM Act, the new law is set to apply to those undocumented youth under the age of 16 who have been in the U.S. for 5 years or more and are willing to pursue an education or join the military. 

The law will also apply to those who do not present a risk to national security or public safety and are under the age of 30. Unlike the DREAM Act, it does not provide a pathway to citizenship. The president emphasized in his speech that this is by no means an amnesty but, in his own words, "a temporary stop-gap measure that will allow us to focus  resources wisely while giving a degree of relief and hope to talented, driven, patriotic young people."   

The decision has sparked debate across the country and on the blogosphere. Some have questioned the motives behind the sudden change in policy, while others have commended the president for finally making some good on the promises he made in 2008. 

Under the new directives, an estimated 830,000 people will be added into an already stagnant labor market. This has caused some of the president's critics to condemn his decision as a betrayal to the American people whose livelihoods are still compromised by unsolved problems ailing the economy. 

However, and most importantly, through this executive action President Obama has expanded his advantage over his main opponent. Mitt Romney will have to act strategically or risk seeing his campaign sink. During the Republican primaries, Romney took on a hard line approach to illegal immigration promising to act swiftly against undocumented immigrants if elected. 

Obama's new law serves as a litmus test to Romney, whose supporters will expect a promise to rescind the executive order once elected. However, expressing explicitly that he would take such actions will certainly cost him the Latino vote. Romney, currently on a six-city bus tour promoting his campaign, announced a very brief response to the policy shift several hours after the president's statement. 

In the footage, Romney disagrees with Obama's approach but with a more subtle and tolerant tone -- very different from the one  he displayed during the primaries.

Whether a self-serving or misguided approach to a long-term issue, as many have argued, this is a prudent campaign strategy that might have just sealed the deal for the president in key swing states such as Nevada and New Mexico. 

In addition, as I have argued in a previous article, similar to Arizona's SB1070 and other draconian legislation that some states have put in place, Obama's new policy is an action stemming from Congress' inaction and incompetence in handling the immigration problem. 

On countless occasions, Obama has repeated the redundant line, "send me the DREAM Act, put it on my desk, and I will sign it right away." Congress' failure to devise a comprehensive immigration reform that addresses our economic needs and secures our political interests has forced the president's hand to act without their discretion.

This is indeed an enormous victory for courageous DREAMERS and activists across the country whose growing popularity has landed them on the cover of the June 2012 issue of Time magazine.  Through relentless persistence and by publicly embracing their undocumented status, these young people are slowly but surely carving out a space for themselves in the political landscape of America. 

And regardless of their non-citizenship status, these people through their family ties, have the ability to swing the election pendulum to Obama's favor.

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