On Immigration, Antonin Scalia Challenges Barack Obama

Posted June 25, 2012 at 12:40pm

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia took swipes at President Barack Obama’s immigration policies today and even questioned whether states would have joined the United States at all given today’s ruling on Arizona’s immigration law.

In his comments from the bench, which expanded on his written minority opinion, Scalia blasted Obama’s decision to stop deporting many young illegal immigrants who were brought to the United States as children.

“The issue is a stark one: Are the sovereign states at the mercy of the federal executive’s refusal to enforce the nation’s immigration laws? A good way of answering that question is to ask: Would the states conceivably have entered into the union if the Constitution itself contained the court’s holding?” Scalia asked. “If securing its territory in this fashion is not within the power of Arizona, we should cease referring to it as a sovereign state.”

Scalia effectively charged the administration with fibbing with its explanation for not deporting DREAM Act-eligible immigrants as one of discretion in handling scarce prosecutorial resources.

“After this case was argued and while it was under consideration, the secretary of Homeland Security announced a program exempting from immigration enforcement some 1.4 million illegal immigrants,” Scalia said. “The husbanding of scarce enforcement resources can hardly be the justification for this, since those resources will be eaten up by the considerable administrative cost of conducting the nonenforcement program, which will require as many as 1.4 million background checks and biennial rulings on requests for dispensation.

“To say, as the court does, that Arizona contradicts federal law by enforcing applications of federal immigration law that the president declines to enforce boggles the mind,” he added.

Obama, in his statement explaining he was pleased that the court struck down much of the law, continued to back his administration’s decision not to deport DREAM-eligible immigrants.

“We will continue to enforce our immigration laws by focusing on our most important priorities like border security and criminals who endanger our communities, and not, for example, students who earn their education,” he said.

The DREAM Act, which has not been enacted by Congress, would provide a pathway to citizenship for some illegal immigrant children who go to college or join the military. Obama’s new policy regarding so-called DREAMers was in response to Congress’ inaction on the bill.

Obama also called on Congress to act on comprehensive immigration reform.

John Gramlich contributed to this report.