WHITE HOUSE - President Barack Obama on Monday welcomed the ruling by the Supreme Court of the United States striking down key provisions of an immigration law in the state of Arizona. But Obama says he is concerned about a remaining provision upheld by the high court.
The court struck down three key provisions of the law the Arizona legislature approved in 2010 as part of a series of measures to stem illegal immigration in the state.
The law made it a crime for immigrants without work permits to seek employment, required immigrants to carry registration documents, and authorized police to arrest any immigrant they believe to be deportable - all three provisions struck down by the Supreme Court.
But the nation's highest court upheld the so-called "stop and check" provision of the law that requires authorities to ask people they detain and “reasonably” suspect of being illegal aliens to produce identification papers.
In a written statement, President Obama expressed concern about what he called the "practical impact" of the provision. "No American," he said, "should ever live under a cloud of suspicion just because of what they look like."
Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, a Republican, said her state was "vindicated" by the court's decision on the provision. Arizona, she said, was forced to act in 2010 because the federal government failed to act aggressively against illegal immigration.
"Arizona had no other choice but to act and Arizona did so by following, not changing, federal law. Instead of devoting resources to suing states likes Arizona, the federal government should have spent time, money and energy on fixing the problem," Brewer said.
Brewer and state officials say they will ensure that the "stop and check" provision of the law is not used for racial profiling.
President Obama said Arizona law enforcement officials must ensure that the law is not enforced “in a manner that undermines the civil rights of Americans, as the Court’s decision recognizes."
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said the federal government will be watching closely to ensure that the law is not being implemented "in a manner that has the purpose or effect of discriminating against the Latino or any other community.
Arizona along with Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, South Carolina and Utah have adopted laws to stem the tide of illegal aliens and control crime seen as directly linked to illegal immigration.
Stephen Yale-Loehr, who teaches immigration law at Cornell University Law School, says the Supreme Court ruling will have a big impact on Arizona and other states.
"The court took a very broad view of federal immigration law and struck down three of the four Arizona provisions that were challenged. And even as to the fourth, the 'papers please' provision, the court upheld that now, but said, 'We're going to watch that carefully and if it is implemented in a discriminatory manner, we may strike that down, too.' So other states that have passed similar laws are going to be on notice as well that they are going to have to be careful in terms of what kinds of immigration provisions will pass constitutional muster," Yale-Loehr said.
The National Council of La Raza, the largest Hispanic advocacy organization in the United States, expressed concern that the upholding of the "stop and check" provision will "open the floodgates to the harassment, abuse, and intimidation" of Hispanics.
In a written statement, presumed Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney reiterated his support for the Arizona law and asserted that President Obama has failed to provide any leadership on immigration. Speaking to donors in Arizona, Romney said he would have preferred that the Supreme Court "give more latitude to the states."
Romney has criticized President Obama's executive order issued earlier this month blocking the deportations of thousands of young illegal aliens. Public opinion surveys show Obama's decision was highly popular among Hispanics, and with voters in general.
Obama, a Democrat, blames Republicans in Congress for blocking progress on achieving comprehensive immigration reform. In his statement Monday, the president renewed his call for Congress to work with him on immigration reform.