As promised during this week’s edition of The Conservative Beacon Podcast, here is the full text of Justice Scalia’s dissent, as well as the other justice’s opinions on Arizona’s immigration law.
Scalia’s dissent in this case is one of the most basic yet cogent arguments in support of states’ rights and sovereignty that I have ever read or heard.
Here are a few highlights that I picked out.
He begins his dissent by properly placing a state’s right to exclude people who have absolutely no right to be there:
Today’s opinion, approving virtually all of the Ninth Circuit’s injunction against enforcement of the four challenged provisions of Arizona’s law, deprives States of what most would consider the defining characteristic of sovereignty: the power to exclude from the sovereign’s territory people who have no right to be there. Neither the Constitution itself nor even any law passed by Congress supports this result.
As a sovereign, Arizona has the inherent power to exclude persons from its territory, subject only to those limitations expressed in the Constitution or constitutionally imposed by Congress. That power to exclude has long been recognized as inherent in sovereignty.
Scalia goes on to slapped down the liberal assertion that the opinions of foreign countries or international courts have a place inside the United States Supreme Court:
Nor can federal power over illegal immigration be deemed exclusive because of what the Court’s opinion solicitously calls “foreign countries[’] concern[s] about the status, safety, and security of their nationals in the United States,” ante, at 3. The Constitution gives all those on our shores the protections of the Bill of Rights—but just as those rights are not expanded for foreign nationals because of their countries’ views (some countries, for example, have recently discovered the death penalty to be barbaric), neither are the fundamental sovereign powers of the States abridged to accommodate foreign countries’ views. Even in its international relations, the Federal Government must live with the inconvenient fact that it is a Union of independent States, who have their own sovereign powers. This is not the first time it has found that a nuisance and a bother in the conduct of foreign policy. (My emphasis)
Justice Scalia saves the best for last with his scathing indictment of Barack Obama’s immigration policies:
The Government complains that state officials might not heed “federal priorities.” Indeed they might not, particularly if those priorities include willful blindness or deliberate inattention to the presence of removable aliens in Arizona. The State’s whole complaint—the reason this law was passed and this case has arisen—is that the citizens of Arizona believe federal priorities are too lax. The State has the sovereign power to protect its borders more rigorously if it wishes, absent any valid federal prohibition. The Executive’s policy choice of lax federal enforcement does not constitute such a prohibition…
What I do fear—and what Arizona and the States that support it fear—is that “federal policies” of nonenforcement will leave the States helpless before those evil effects of illegal immigration that the Court’s opinion dutifully recites in its prologue (ante, at 6) but leaves unremedied in its disposition.
And the finale:
The President said at a news conference that the new program is “the right thing to do” in light of Congress’s failure to pass the Administration’s proposed revision of the Immigration Act.7 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—“[i]f §3 of the Arizona statute were valid, every State could give itself independent authority to prosecute federal registration violations,” ante, at 10—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. So the issue is a stark one. Are the sovereign States at the mercy of the Federal Executive’s refusal to enforce the Nation’s immigration laws?
A good way of answering that question is to ask: Would the States conceivably have entered into the Union if the Constitution itself contained the Court’s holding? Today’s judgment surely fails that test. At the Constitutional Convention of 1787, the delegates contended with “the jealousy of the states with regard to their sovereignty.” 1Records of the Federal Convention 19 (M. Farrand ed.1911) (statement of Edmund Randolph). Through ratification of the fundamental charter that the Convention produced, the States ceded much of their sovereignty to the Federal Government. But much of it remained jealously guarded—as reflected in the innumerable proposals that never left Independence Hall. Now, imagine a provision—perhaps inserted right after Art. I, §8, cl. 4, the Naturalization Clause—which included among the enumerated powers of Congress “To establish Limitations upon Immigration that will be exclusive and that will be enforced only to the extent the President deems appropriate.” The delegates to the Grand Convention would have rushed to the exits.
As is often the case, discussion of the dry legalities that are the proper object of our attention suppresses the very human realities that gave rise to the suit. Arizona bears the brunt of the country’s illegal immigration problem. Its citizens feel themselves under siege by large numbers of illegal immigrants who invade their property, strain their social services, and even place their lives in jeopardy. Federal officials have been unable to remedy the problem,and indeed have recently shown that they are unwilling to do so. Thousands of Arizona’s estimated 400,000 illegal immigrants—including not just children but men and women under 30—are now assured immunity from enforcement, and will be able to compete openly with Arizona citizens for employment.
Arizona has moved to protect its sovereignty—not in contradiction of federal law, but in complete compliance with it. The laws under challenge here do not extend or revise federal immigration restrictions, but merely enforce those restrictions more effectively. If securing its territory in this fashion is not within the power of Arizona, we should cease referring to it as a sovereign State. I dissent.
Now those are the words of a genuine and dedicated Constitutional originalist.