This week the Supreme Court refused to review Alabama’s immigration law, meaning that a lower court ruling barring the state from enforcing the law prevails. Alabama’s immigration law was considered one of the toughest in the nation. The law empowered state police to detain without probable cause and interrogate people suspected of being in the country illegally; it also required schools to verify the immigration status of children.
The Court’s refusal to hear the case leaves the issue in the hands of the other two branches of the federal government at a time when the President and congressional leaders are about to tackle immigration reform. Moreover, in refusing to hear the case and letting the lower court decision stand, the Supreme Court’s decision more closely aligns with public preferences for federally-based solutions to immigration. A June 2012 PRRI survey found that Americans overwhelmingly believe that immigration policy is something that should be decided at the national level (77%), while just 1-in-5 (20%) say it should be decided at the state level.
The Justices voted 8-1 to let the lower court’s decision stand, a rare show of consensus in an increasingly polarized Court. The Senate recently unveiled its bipartisan immigration plan, which includes a path to citizenship for those living illegally in the country (previously discussed here). With 63% of Americans also favoring a path to citizenship it seems that immigration has become a rare consensus issue in a polarized political climate. However, despite significant public support, its passage remains an open question.