Judge Richard Posner, the legendary judge on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, writes a letter to Slate magazine hammering Justice Scalia for his dissent in the Arizona immigration law ruling, where he ranted about Obama allegedly failing to enforce our immigration laws.
He is very concerned with the fact that the Obama administration recently announced a program suspending deportation efforts directed at more than1 million illegal immigrants under the age of 30. He quotes President Obama as having said that the program was “the right thing to do.” Justice Scalia says that it “boggles the mind” to think that Arizona could be contradicting federal law by enforcing applications of federal immigration law “that the President declines to enforce.” He says that the federal government “does not want to enforce the immigration laws as written, and leaves the States’ borders unprotected against immigrants whom those laws would exclude.” The federal government is “refus[ing] to enforce the Nation’s immigration laws.”
These are fighting words. The nation is in the midst of a hard-fought presidential election campaign; the outcome is in doubt. Illegal immigration is a campaign issue. It wouldn’t surprise me if Justice Scalia’s opinion were quoted in campaign ads. The program that appalls Justice Scalia was announced almost two months after the oral argument in the Arizona case. It seems rather a belated development to figure in an opinion in the case…
In his peroration, Justice Scalia says that “Arizona bears the brunt of the country’s illegal immigration problem. Its citizens feel themselves under siege by large numbers of illegal immigrant who invade their property, strain their social services, and even place their lives in jeopardy.” Arizona bears the brunt? Arizona is only one of the states that border Mexico, and if it succeeds in excluding illegal immigrants, these other states will bear the brunt, so it is unclear what the net gain to society would have been from Arizona’s efforts, now partially invalidated by the Supreme Court. But the suggestion that illegal immigrants in Arizona are invading Americans’ property, straining their social services, and even placing their lives in jeopardy is sufficiently inflammatory to call for a citation to some reputable source of such hyperbole. Justice Scalia cites nothing to support it.
As of last year there were estimated to be 360,000 illegal immigrants in Arizona, which is less than 6 percent of the Arizona population—below the estimated average illegal immigrant population of the United States. (So much for Arizona’s bearing the brunt of illegal immigration.) Maybe Arizona’s illegal immigrants are more violent, less respectful of property, worse spongers off social services, and otherwise more obnoxious than the illegal immigrants in other states, but one would like to see some evidence of that.