Supreme Court decision on immigration, for now, favors Obama at polls
BY LYNN SWEET Twitter @lynnsweet June 26, 2012 12:24AM
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer looks out at reporters during a news conference to offer her reaction to the United States Supreme Court decision regarding Arizona's controversial immigration law, SB1070, coming down at the Arizona Capitol Monday, June 25, 2012, in Phoenix. The Supreme Court struck down key provisions of Arizonas crackdown on immigrants Monday but said a much-debated portion on checking suspects status could go forward. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
Updated: July 27, 2012 6:21AM
WASHINGTON — The politics of the Supreme Court Arizona decision — about the ability of a state to regulate immigration — favor, for now, President Barack Obama.
The ruling was not what the Mitt Romney campaign hoped for because central sections of the Arizona law were struck down on a 5-3 vote in the challenge brought by the Obama White House.
The court unanimously let stand a key element — allowing law enforcement officials to determine the immigration status of a person legally stopped. Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer said that aspect of the Arizona law was “vindicated by the highest court in the land.”
But the Obama administration is doing everything it can to render that victory meaningless. A Romney adviser told me that will inflame anti-Obama forces who will say he is arrogantly ignoring federal law.
Moreover, the split court ruling will energize the anti-immigrant Tea Party wing of the GOP Party on behalf of Romney. But that demographic has its limits.
As an Obama supporter — who closely watches immigration politics — put it when we talked, “Tea party conservatives and anti-immigrant Republicans are already motivated to vote against Obama. They don’t think he was born here.”
Until June 15, when Obama announced that the Department of Homeland Security will stop deporting youths in the country illegally through no fault of their own, many Hispanics were lukewarm about Obama.
As Romney continually points out — as recently as last Thursday, in a speech to NALEO — the national organization of elected and appointed Latino officials — Obama had never delivered on his 2008 presidential campaign promise to pass comprehensive immigration reform.
“Unfortunately, despite his promises, President Obama has failed to address immigration reform,” Romney said.
But Romney has not been adding much to his argument to why disillusioned Hispanics should vote for him. He has been evasive in answers about whether he would repeal the Obama youth deporatation order. And Romney played to anti-immigrant crowds in the GOP primary.
Obama appeared before the same NALEO audience on Friday — and took a victory lap.
The Monday ruling resulted in Obama stockpiling more arrows in his quiver.
That’s because his administration announced within hours of the court ruling that federal immigration authorities will not make a priority of taking action against people who are stopped by Arizona authorities — and found to be in the U.S. illegally.
A senior administration official said in a conference call with reporters, “We will not allow a state to set our enforcement priorities.” Translated, that means DHS will do nothing if the person stopped, albeit in the U.S. illegally, has not committed other criminal acts or only recently crossed the border illegally.
New orders were sent to the DHS field offices Monday to remind them of their priorities as DHS also rescinded immigration enforcement agreements with local Arizona police.
The two stories combined — an end to youth deportations and Obama’s DHS not making a priority to take action against most illegal immigrants stopped by Arizona authorities — likely will have an energizing pro-Obama impact.
The demographics I mentioned above are this. Members of the Hispanic community who don’t vote are a much bigger pool to be fished by Obama compared to anti-immigrant voters who have been going to the polls.
Hispanic numbers are bigger, growing and strategically located in battleground states Obama needs.
If this is a turnout election, figure the anti-Obama vote is already in the bank. In the Hispanic community, Obama has changed from being the lesser of two evils — two candidates who were not fighting for immigration — to a champion.
The Obama backer I talked to said, “If you think that Jan Brewer and [Arizona Sheriff] Joe Arpaio are on the right track, you are already coming out to vote against Barack Hussein Obama. I don’t think they need much more of a push.”
In the past weeks, immigration has become a front-burner issue in the presidential campaign. The latest string of events has let Obama rebuild Hispanic backing. Romney still has a window open — but he has to define much more where he stands —or where he doesn’t.