For the second time in as many months, President Obama is clashing with the highest court in the land. In March, skeptical conservatives on the Supreme Court appeared to doubt the constitutionality of Obama's 2010 health care overhaul. And this week, the court seemed ready to uphold the most controversial provision of S.B. 1070, a tough immigration law that Arizona passed in 2010. The provision in question requires police officers to determine the immigration status of any person they "reasonably" suspect is an illegal immigrant, which critics (including the president's Justice Department) say will encourage racial profiling of Latinos. And even liberal members of the court had trouble swallowing the Obama administration's argument that Arizona was usurping the federal government's right to set immigration policy. Is Obama facing a Supreme Court disaster?
The court could really damage his campaign: Obama "faces the specter of twin setbacks" when the court hands down its decisions on ObamaCare and Arizona's immigration law in June, says Greg Stohr at Bloomberg News. The court may throw its venerable weight behind two conservative positions, a "one-two punch" that could leave the Obama campaign reeling. And the two cases share a common theme — the argument that the feds were overstepping their power on both health care and immigration — that conservatives are bound to highlight in the fight against Obama.
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Actually, a defeat for Obama is a powerful campaign tool: While losing the Arizona case could cause Obama "some embarrassment," it would likely help him in November, says Josh Gerstein at Politico. Latinos and immigration-rights groups "are no fans" of the administration's deportation policies, but a win for Arizona "could produce a wave of alarm in Latino communities." Obama stands to benefit "for having led the fight to knock the legislation out in the courts."
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The battle over Arizona's law won't end here: The Obama administration argued that Arizona had infringed on the federal government's purview, says Lyle Denniston at SCOTUSblog, but it did not challenge the law on discriminatory grounds, effectively ignoring the compelling argument that the law gives "police authority to arrest and detain people just because they look like foreigners." Indeed, Chief Justice John Roberts deliberately clarified that the use-of-power debate was distinct from the issue of racial profiling. But civil-rights challenges to the law are swimming around lower courts, and the Obama administration could very well take up that fight if parts of S.B. 1070 are upheld. Stay tuned.
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