While both sides claim victory in Monday's Supreme Court decision regarding Arizona's tough immigration law, there are others who feel the ruling raises more questions than it answers.
The high court unanimously upheld the most controversial aspect of the law requiring police officers to check the immigration status of people they stop. But the justices also ruled, in a split decision, that the three other challenged provisions went too far in intruding on federal law, including one provision that makes it a crime for illegal immigrants to work, and another that requires them to carry their documents.
Peter Spiro, a Temple University law professor who specializes in immigration law, said if federal agents decline to pick up immigrants, a state doesn't have any way to force federal authorities to pick them up and will likely have to let them go unless they're suspected of committing a crime that would require them to be brought to jail.
The ruling is being carefully scrutinized in Hazleton, which passed its Illegal Immigration Relief Act in 2006. The ordinance, which sought to fine landlords who rent to illegal immigrants and deny business permits to companies that employ them, has been bogged down in legal challenges.
According to U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta, R-Pa., who championed the Hazleton law while he was mayor of the city, the high court's decision allowing police to check the status of someone they suspect is not in the United States legally shows that states "do play an integral part in combating illegal immigration."
In a statement on the ruling, he said that thousands of "properly trained law enforcement officers in Arizona can help the federal government enforce immigration law."
An attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, however, feels that opponents of the Hazleton regulations are in a stronger position as a result of the court decision. In August, an appeals court is scheduled to hear oral arguments on whether the Hazleton crackdown violates a person's rights.
Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who is at the center of a Justice Department investigation for racial profiling, said the new ruling won't have an impact on how his department conducts its business of fighting illegal immigration.
Arpaio, who calls President Obama "arrogant" on immigration, is known as "America's toughest sheriff." In his county, inmates wear pink uniforms, are housed in tents in the Arizona heat, eat bologna sandwiches and are banned from having "sexually explicit material."
Arpaio has his share of critics but in today's society, a tougher approach makes sense to many others who defend his style. In just the past week, western Pennsylvania has fielded a few candidates for the low-lifers hall of fame.
In the first case in Fayette County, burglars stole money earmarked for a needy college student from the Liberty Baptist Church. The rogues also stole a football jersey Rev. Ewing Marietta, the pastor, had kept beneath his pulpit. The jersey was a tribute to his son, a local high school football star who was killed in a car crash while returning from an out-of-state football camp in 2009. To Rev. Marietta, the football jersey is priceless.
In the second case, two boys – one about 12 and the other only about 10 – robbed an 84-year-old woman after she left Mass at Holy Innocents Church in Pittsburgh on Saturday afternoon. After the elderly woman consented to give the boys a ride, they grabbed her purse when she stopped at an intersection.
During her struggle with the boys, the woman crashed her car into a fire hydrant. Police found the purse a short distance later in a vacant garage, but the woman's wallet was missing.
A dose of Sheriff Arpaio's discipline in the Arizona desert might be the only kind of justice these young toughs understand and deserve, regardless of age.
By Jim Zbick