A protester holds up a sign after the Supreme Court upheld a key part of Arizona's crackdown on illegal immigrants in Phoenix, Arizona, June 25, 2012. The Supreme Court upheld a key part of Arizona's crackdown on illegal immigrants on Monday, rejecting the Obama administration's stance that only the U.S. government should enforce immigration laws in the United States.
Credits: Darryl Webb/REUTERS
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Americans will have to hold their breath a little longer before the country's Supreme Court decides the fate of President Barack Obama's signature health care reforms.
Again Monday, as the political world hung on the edge of its seat, the highest court withheld its decision on the legality of Obamacare, but issued instead a ruling on a controversial Arizona law that cracks down on illegal immigrants.
Known as SD-1070, the law authorized police to demand immigration papers and detain anyone "reasonably suspected" of being in the U.S. illegally. It also banned illegal immigrants from applying for work, and companies from hiring them.
But in a 5-3 decision, the justices ruled the latter two were superseded by similar federal laws, even though they are not enforced, and struck down the provision allowing for arrest without a warrant.
"The national government has significant power to regulate immigration," wrote Justice Anthony
Kennedy in the majority opinion. "Arizona may have understandable frustrations with the problems caused by illegal immigration while that process continues, but the state may not pursue policies that undermine federal law."
But police are still allowed to demand immigration documents from suspected illegal immigrants so long as they are enforcing other laws like traffic violations or loitering.
The mixed ruling has left both sides claiming victory.
In a statement Monday, Obama said he was "pleased" most of the law was stuck down, and that clearly comprehensive immigration reform is needed, but accused Republican lawmakers of not playing ball.
Arizona's Republican Governor Jan Brewer also read the ruling as a win for the "rule of law," and for the "inherent right and responsibility of states to defend their citizens." In a statement, Brewer told the law's critics who are concerned about racial profiling of Hispanics that law enforcement officials will be held accountable if the law is misused.
"I know the State of Arizona and its law enforcement officers are up to the task," she said. "The case for SB 1070 has always been about our support for the rule of law. That means every law, including those against both illegal immigration and racial profiling."
Late Monday at a fundraiser in Arizona, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney vowed to tackle immigration reform in his first year as president, if he's elected, and again accused Obama for breaking his promise to do just that in his first term.
On Thursday, the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rock the political landscape again and rule on Obamacare.