If you're trying to determine what effect the Supreme Court's ruling on Arizona's immigration law will have on Indiana's similar legislation, good luck.
Indianapolis immigration attorney Steven Tuchman says our law is “toast. From what I read the Indiana law is not going to survive.” But state Sen. Mike Delph, an architect of Indiana's law, says he remains confident that “much if not most of our law is legally permissible under this decision.” Attorney General Greg Zoeller says he's analyzing the ruling.
Good luck, too, if you'd like to know where the ruling leaves the federal-state relationship in the current hash our leaders have made of federalism. Can you say “mixed message”? The court threw out most provisions of the Arizona law as infringements on federal prerogatives. But it upheld – unanimously – the central “Show us your papers” provision that had caused the most controversy and which the Obama administration had argued the hardest to remove. People who encounter police for some other reason may be asked to prove their status if there is “reasonable suspicion” they are here illegally.
But there's a catch. The court says such actions must be taken in a way that does not constitute racial profiling. Any efforts to check on immigration status are thus guaranteed to be the subject on challenges and lawsuits. How many states are going to be enthusiastic about enforcement knowing that?
And if they are, what will be the point? Almost immediately after the ruling, the Obama administration announced it was “changing its relationship” with Arizona law enforcement agencies and would no longer respond to a state or local traffic stop if those agencies requested help enforcing immigration law. Coming on top of the administration's decision to grant de facto amnesty to 800,000 young illegal immigrants, the announcement could not have been a clearer statement of intent: Never mind the Constitution or the law; we will do exactly as we please on immigration.
States like Arizona and Indiana felt they had to act because the federal government would not enforce its own policies – Arizona tried to carefully craft a law that exactly mirrored federal policy. But the Supreme Court has said that must tread very carefully lest they step on federal toes. And the federal government has said it will continue to do what it wants regardless of state action.
We're not sure what the relationship is today between Washington and the states, but it's sure not federalism. And the muddle has left us with essentially no immigration policy and no prospects of coming up with one.