U.S. Supreme Court

Scalia Dissent Hits Obama Immigration Policy; Law Prof Calls Justice an 'Intolerable Blowhard'

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The critics are blasting Justice Antonin Scalia for a biting dissent on Monday that criticizes President Obama’s immigration policy.

Scalia dissented in Arizona United States, a decision striking down three disputed sections of an Arizona law cracking down on illegal immigration. The majority upheld just one provision that requires police to check the immigration status of people who are stopped, detained or arrested on legitimate grounds, if there is a reasonable suspicion that the person is in the United States illegally.

Scalia’s dissent referred to Obama’s recent decision to change deportation policy to allow many illegal aliens who came to the country as children to remain. Here is Scalia’s criticism:

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 under the age of 30. … The husbanding of scarce enforcement resources can hardly be the justification for this, since the considerable administrative cost of conducting as many as 1.4 million background checks, and ruling on the biennial requests for dispensation that the nonenforcement program envisions, will necessarily be deducted from immigration enforcement. The president said at a news conference that the new program is “the right thing to do” in light of Congress’ failure to pass the administration’s proposed revision of the Immigration Act. Perhaps it is, though Arizona may not think so. But to say, as the court does, that Arizona contradicts federal law by enforcing applications of the Immigration Act that the president declines to enforce boggles the mind.

The court opinion’s looming specter of inutterable horror [if a portion of the statute were upheld] seems to me not so horrible and even less looming. But there has come to pass, and is with us today, the specter that Arizona and the states that support it predicted: A federal government that does not want to enforce the immigration laws as written, and leaves the states’ borders unprotected against immigrants whom those laws would exclude.

Among the critics is University of Colorado law professor Paul Campos, who said in a Salon commentary that Scalia sounds more like a right-wing radio host than a Supreme Court justice. Campos writes: “Scalia, who 25 years ago had a certain gift for pointing out the blindness and hypocrisy of certain versions of limousine liberalism, has in his old age become an increasingly intolerant and intolerable blowhard: a pompous celebrant of his own virtue and rectitude, a purveyor of intemperate jeremiads against the degeneracy of the age, and now an author of hysterical diatribes against foreign invaders, who threaten all that is holy.”

Campos goes on to criticize the court as an institution devolving into “an institution dominated by cranky senior citizens” and suggests it’s time for Scalia to retire. “Scalia seems headed down the path previously trod by those justices who clearly didn’t know when to hang up their robes,” Campos says.

Jeffrey Toobin also notes the dissent in the New Yorker. “After twenty-five years on the Court, Scalia has earned a reputation for engaging in splenetic hyperbole—but he outdid himself this time,” Toobin writes.

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