Stephanie's Political Arena

Critiques and Perspectives on National Politics and More

Posts Tagged ‘Supreme Court

Verifying State Authority on E-Verify and Immigration Reform

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I’m slightly behind on this given the non-stop hectic pace of my life at the moment – despite having completed another semester of grad school (with flying colors I might add) – but I wanted to address the recent ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court on a controversial immigration law enacted by Arizona in 2007.

By a decision of 5-3, the Supreme Court upheld the Legal Arizona Workers Act, also known as the “employer-sanctions law,” which imposes penalties on Arizona employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants.  The law requires employers to use the federal E-Verify system in determining the citizenship status of job applicants prior to hiring them.  Employers caught hiring illegal immigrants would have their licenses either suspended or revoked under provisions of the 2007 measure signed into law by former Governor Janet Napolitano (currently the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security).   

Not only is this a landmark ruling within the context of immigration reform, but it could ignite an interesting debate among Constitutional scholars over how far states should be allowed to go in passing legislation in areas of public policy that are under federal jurisdiction.  As Temple University law professor Peter Spiro tells The Washington Post, “… the court here is validating a state measure that implicates immigration enforcement.  The court today has rejected an argument that states have no business in immigration enforcement.  That’s off the table.”

As of 2010, 14 states had enacted similar legislation requiring the use of E-Verify, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.   

The ruling also sets the stage for a possible showdown on Arizona’s recently passed and even more controversial Senate Bill 1070, which allows law enforcement officials to determine the immigration status of apprehended individuals if there is reason to believe they are in the country illegally.  The measure was drafted by State Senator Russell Pearce, a former Maricopa County Chief Deputy.

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a former law professor who helped draft the language of Arizona’s two immigration measures, expressed confidence that if the Supreme Court were to decide on SB 1070, it would be in Arizona’s favor.  He said the ruling on the 2007 law could entail a favorable ruling on SB 1070.  “That language will vastly assist the state in defending SB1070,” he told The Washington Post.  

Since Arizona enacted the controversial SB 1070 a year ago when it was signed into law by Governor Jan Brewer, states such as Virginia, Utah, and, more recently, Georgia have enacted similar laws.

Written by Stephanie

May 30, 2011 at 12:56 am

In Defense of “Free (Hate) Speech” over Honoring Fallen Heroes

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Photo by Brendan Smialowski of Getty Images North America (extracted from Zimbio.com)

With this blog, I try to refrain from taking too strong of a position on the issues and events that I write about in making a concerted effort to provide either a neutral overview on a topic or an alternative perspective not widely reported by the media.  For this particular post, however, I am taking a very strong position on a decision that was made today because of how close to home it is for me.

Having taken only two undergraduate courses in Constitutional Law and choosing to work in Washington, D.C. over going to law school after graduating from college, I am not a legal expert by any measure – especially when compared to the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court.  Yet, after today I’m left wondering why our Founding Fathers neglected to include a clause or some language within the First Amendment of the Constitution that spells out common decency when it comes to “free speech.”  Then again, I don’t think they ever imagined that one day there would be citizens lining up to protest at the funerals of fallen American soldiers.

I find it absolutely appalling and even shocking that by a ruling of 8-1, the Supreme Court decided today that hateful protests at military funerals are protected under the First Amendment of the Constitution (and should basically be allowed to continue – as they likely will). 

In delivering the majority’s opinion on Snyder v. Phelps, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote, “As in other First Amendment cases, the court is obligated to ‘make an independent examination of the whole record’ in order to make sure that ‘the judgment does not constitute a forbidden intrusion on the field of free expression.”  “The ‘content’ of Westboro’s signs plainly relates to broad issues of interest to society at large, rather than matters of ‘purely private concern.’”  Thus, the issues highlighted by these signs “are matters of public import.” “Given that Westboro’s speech was at a public place on a matter of public concern, that speech is entitled to ‘special protection’ under the First Amendment.”

In his dissenting opinion, Justice Samuel Alito wrote, “Our profound national commitment to free and open debate is not a license for the vicious verbal assault that occurred in this case.”  “In order to have a society in which public issues can be openly and vigorously debated, it is not necessary to allow the brutalization of innocent victims like the petitioner.”  I could not agree more.

Adding salt to the already wide open wound, The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, along with 21 other news organizations including The New York Times Company filed a brief in support of the Westboro Baptist Church.  Members of this church, as it is widely known, picket at military funerals such as the one held in honor of the late Matthew Snyder, a Marine who died while fighting in Iraq.  As a graduate student in journalism, I can understand the media’s unwavering support for the First Amendment; yet, I can’t help but question their actions with this case and allude to the irony. 

Having taken coursework taught by professional journalists, it’s practically been ingrained in me to take a neutral position in writing and reporting stories (and posting to this blog).  I’ve learned that in order to remain credible, journalists and reporters must not take a position or insert their personal views and beliefs within the context of the story they are delivering to their audiences.  Yet, in filing a brief in support of the Westboro Baptist Church, those 21 news organizations essentially took a position on the story surrounding the church and the Snyder family (not to mention other military families affected by this issue) as well as the Synder v. Phelps case.  How can this be considered “fair and balanced” reporting?  What precedent will this set for future cases involving the First Amendment and two different sides?  How will this affect the already tense relations between the media and the military?

I realize I’m inserting my own views into this issue, but I already disclosed in advance that I would.  Plus, this is a blog and not a professional media outlet that must uphold certain journalistic standards like The New York Times

I am the daughter of a Vietnam War veteran and the sister of an Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran, and both are recipients of the Purple Heart for combat-related injuries that nearly cost them their lives.  For me, this issue hits close to home because a lot of families out there were not as fortunate as mine in welcoming their heroes home alive.  As if the pain of losing their loved ones was not difficult enough, many of them had to endure the additional hardship of unwanted protesters showing up at their fallen soldiers’ funerals.  And all but one of the Supreme Court justices and 21 media organizations fully support allowing these particular protests to continue…

It also pains me to witness an additional twist of irony with the final ruling on Snyder v. Phelps: we send our brave soldiers to war in defense of our nation and to uphold freedom (such as freedom of speech), democracy, and institutions such as our government (including the Supreme Court).  Yet, there are times like today when those very institutions will not defend our soldiers and their honor – even when they don’t make it home alive.

Written by Stephanie

March 3, 2011 at 6:17 am