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12:30 pm EDT - 1:00 pm EDT

Past Event

Immigration Reform and the Supreme Court

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

12:30 pm - 1:00 pm EDT

The Brookings Institution
Online Only

Washington, DC

The Supreme Court’s recent decision to strike down parts of Arizona’s immigration law while upholding its most controversial provision opens the way for further legal scrutiny, since the ruling failed to address the issue of the racial profiling of Latinos. As both presidential candidates seek to appeal to Hispanic voters, the broader national debate over immigration has quickly become an important election issue.

How will the Court’s decision affect the Hispanic vote in the November election? What kind of additional legal challenges to the immigration law can we expect? On June 27, Brookings expert Audrey Singer took your questions and comments in a live web chat moderated by Vivyan Tran of POITICO.

12:29 Audrey Singer: Welcome everyone, let’s get started.

12:32 Audrey Singer:
In the last two weeks there have been big changes on the immigration policy landscape:

the Obama Administration changed policy to allow undocumented children of immigrants the right to stay in the US temporarily if they meet certain conditions and the Supreme Court ruled on an Arizona state law that is designed to control unauthorized immigrants. We’ll discuss both.

12:32 Comment From Alexandra, MA:
How much of the Obama administration’s new policy for young immigrants was a political ploy, and how much of it can we consider an actual step forward in immigration policy?

12:34 Audrey Singer:
Obama supported the DREAM Act, a similar type of law and it was blocked by Congress. This is a temporary measure that is a “half DREAM” and the timing is not coincidental.

12:35 Audrey Singer:
So, in some ways, this is a measure that offers some relief but is not sustainable over time. However, it constitutes a step in the right direction according to most supporters of the DREAM Act.

12:35 Comment From Anonymous:
Can we expect the “show your papers” provision to be challenged again once it has gone into effect? Do you think it will be eventually struck down on the grounds that it constitutes racial profiling?

12:38 Audrey Singer:
The Section of AZ law that remains is the so-called show-me-your-papers provision. The Supreme Court has left the door open for further suits regarding racial profiling. One of the issues is that law enforcement are REQUIRED to check the legal status of those they suspect to be in the US illegally, not EVERYONE they stop. This may be tricky to enforce and will be closely watched by many, including AZ law enforcement officials.

12:38 Comment From Marie:
Does the Supreme Court’s decision open the door for states to create their own immigration policies with little federal oversight?

12:39 Audrey Singer:
Other states, such as UT, AL, IN, GA, and SC are probably watching the AZ case most closely because they have similar laws to both the provisions the SC struck down and upheld. So stay tuned on those states especially.

12:40 Comment From Darryl:
What effect can we expect the Supreme Court’s decision to have on the quality of life of illegal immigrants already living in the country (in Arizona and elsewhere)?

12:41 Audrey Singer:
The law, when it was passed in April 2010, had a large effect on social and economic life in AZ. Businesses suffered initially, and the large immigrant community felt targeted and many went into the shadows or left the state.

12:43 Audrey Singer:
This ruling deepens the fear and especially households with members with mixed legal status are in a quandary. States nearby may feel the impact if immigrants decide to move out of the state. Again, some of this has already happened, but this is a further source of anxiety.

12:44 Comment From Guest, TX:
How would the progression of immigration reform differ under Romney than in a second term of the Obama administration?

12:46 Audrey Singer:
Romney went from holding the hardest line during the Republican primary season, one-uping his competitors on strictness to a more open position on very specific aspects of immigration policy.

12:48 Audrey Singer:
In his speech last Thursday to NALEO, he laid out a plan that touched on targeted components of change: notably he said he would reallocate green cards so that immediate family members would be exempt from caps. He would need Congress to do this and that has been the biggest stumbling block for Obama and for his predecessor, George W. Bush.

12:49 Audrey Singer:
On legalization, Romney has said he would legalize those willing to serve in the military but nothing specific on unauthorized immigrant children. That is the population Obama targeted with administrative relief.

12:50 Audrey Singer:
Notably, Romney mentioned nothing specific about border security and enforcement, something he has spoken strongly about before.

12:52 Audrey Singer:
Obama, for his part made attempts to reform immigration law comprehensively (enforcement, admissions, legalization, etc) but lacked support from the Republican party. He has consistently said it is impossible to move ahead without this support.

12:53 Audrey Singer:
In my opinion, leadership on this issue is lacking in both parties and we may still have a very long road ahead on reform.

12:53 Comment From Elizabeth, FL:
We seem more interested today in retaining high-skilled immigrants than we used to be. What changed? Is it only because the economy is struggling?

12:55 Audrey Singer:
This is an interesting point where there seems to be growing consensus from both parties and other constituents. It may be easier in fact to move ahead with piecemeal reform such as opening up pathways to permanent residence for high-skilled immigrants or a more permanent policy for the Dreamers.

12:57 Comment From Guest:
Will the ‘show your papers’ provision that remained following the Arizona v. United States decision intersect with President Obama’s recent initiative to stop deporting undocumented minors?

12:58 Audrey Singer:
DHS issued a statement saying this group is not a high priority and they will focus on removing criminals.

1:00 Audrey Singer:
Thanks for your questions. The next 5 months will be interesting to watch as the candidates refine their positions on immigration policy, and the public responds.