Granted, predicting the outcome of Supreme Court decisions based on the questions asked and the texture of the debate is an inexact science. However, as accounts of Wednesday’s proceedings pointed out, many of the justices seemed sympathetic to the Arizona claim to create its own version of a border patrol, a task primarily reserved for the federal government.
Chief Justice John Roberts went out of his way to warn the federal government to not raise the specter of racial- or ethnic-profiling in arguing against the Arizona law. Getting tough on illegal immigrants, the nativists’ term of art that often singles out Hispanics, is apparently a dog-whistle that can’t be deciphered at the Supreme Court.
When the federal government’s attorney mentioned that border control is a matter often tied to foreign affairs the response was fierce. Justice Antonin Scalia, who is not known for subtlety, scoffed, “So we have to enforce our laws in a manner that will please Mexico. Is that what you’re saying?”
The prospect of the “papers, please” provision of Arizona’s SB1070 passing muster before the Supreme Court might initially please some of Alabama’s proponents of HB56, our state’s version of an anti-immigrant bill.
Yet, it’s really a trap. If the law stands, Alabama risks more headlines that paint the state in an ugly light.
We wouldn’t be surprised if a few in Montgomery were secretly wishing that the court would rule in favor of the feds, thereby making HB56 invalid.
Think of it. Alabama could free itself of this law that paints the state as intolerant and xenophobic, which is no way to market a state in a global economy. The timid in Montgomery, who know the law is a huge black-eye yet are afraid to admit it, could do something Alabama politicians have long done: make a scapegoat out of the U.S. Supreme Court.
Once more, they can loudly complain, the federal government has interfered in the dealings of the great state of Alabama.
Then they could quietly go about repairing the damaged parts of the state’s reputation, and focusing on more important matters.