Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

U.S. top court takes aim at tough immigration law

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WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Supreme Court struck down key provisions of a border state's harsh crackdown on illegal immigrants, but did little to settle the nation's raging political dispute on immigration, a divisive issue on which U.S. President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney are deeply at odds.

While the conservative-dominated high court ruling released Monday found much of the Arizona law unconstitutional, it did rule that one part would stand -- the portion requiring police to check the status of someone they suspect is not in the United States legally. Even there, though, the justices said the provision could be subject to additional legal challenges.

Obama issued a statement declaring he was "pleased" with the ruling, but cautioned the enforcement provision left standing was wrong.

"No American should ever live under a cloud of suspicion just because of what they look like," Obama said. "Going forward, we must ensure that Arizona law enforcement officials do not enforce this law in a manner that undermines the civil rights of Americans, as the Court's decision recognizes."

Arizona's long southern boundary borders Mexico, where the law provoked outrage and even prompted the government to issue a travel alert against the U.S. state in 2010. During a speech in Houston in April, Mexican President Felipe Calderon described the law as not only anti-immigrant but also possibly racist.

The Mexican government said it is disappointed the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the portion of the law requiring police check the immigration status of anyone they stop. Arizona's law "and others similar to it do not recognize the numerous contributions of migrants to their communities," the Mexican Foreign Relations Department said in a statement. "On the contrary, these types of laws carry high political costs and do not contribute to understanding between our societies."

The Arizona decision landed in the middle of a presidential campaign in which Obama has been heavily courting Latino voters and Romney has been struggling to win Latino support. During a drawn-out primary campaign, Romney mostly embraced a hard line to avoid accusations he supports any kind of "amnesty" for illegal immigrants living in the U.S.

Romney has taken a softer tone on immigration as a result of Obama's having issued an executive ruling that ends deportation of young people brought illegally into the country as children.

But speaking to campaign donors in Arizona, Romney said he would have preferred the court "give more latitude to the states" to enforce their own immigration laws.

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 26, 2012 A9

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