Monday’s ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court on Arizona’s controversial ”check your papers” illegal immigration law definitely narrows what states like Nebraska can do in this area.
The High Court struck down most of Arizona’s law in a 5-3 opinion stating that the federal government, and not the states, has the power to govern who can cross our borders, and who needs to be deported.
To do otherwise, the majority stated, would invite chaos and could jeopardize foreign relations.
That’s no consolation to folks in Arizona, who rightly have concerns about illegal immigration in their state. It’s also no consolation to folks like State Sen. Charlie Janssen who has been trying, without luck, to get some get-touch on illegal immigration laws passed in Nebraska.
The Supreme Court’s ruling left only one section of Arizona’s law intact, and the court said that even that section was constitutionally suspect if it was applied incorrectly or violated the civil rights of those being stopped by the cops.
That section allows local law enforcement officials to inquire about the immigration status of someone they have stopped if they suspect that person might be in the country illegally. But the court made it clear that such an inquiry cannot, for instance, require someone stopped for jaywalking to sit in jail while police check on their immigration status. That would violate their civil rights.
So states may be able to do some things, but it might be limited to just alerting federal officials about someone they have pulled over, and letting the feds take it from there. Not much more than they can do now.
Expect further court rulings on this limited issue. And don’t expect much movement on this issue in the Legislature.
Even Janssen admits that unless the makeup of the Legislature’s Judiciary Committee changes (and that doesn’t appear likely), any illegal immigration bills are dead on arrival.
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On another matter, the Capitol lost one of its characters recently with the death of Ed Howard, the former, long-time Capitol Bureau Chief for the Associated Press.
Ed, a native of Ohio who covered the Kent State shootings for the AP, came to Lincoln in 1974, and when he became Bureau Chief, was the youngest ever to hold that post for the wire service.
He earned a lot of respect from elected officials and fellow journalists for his institutional memory, competing hard, asking the tough questions, and not accepting spin-laced, non-answers from politicians.
At his funeral last week, Lynn Rex of the League of Nebraska Municipalities told a vintage Ed story.
Howard, she said, was the first person she met at the Capitol after being hired out of law school by the League. Howard was also the first person to interview her for a story, and the first person to interview her on TV (on the old “Nebraskans Ask” show on NETV that Howard hosted).
During the first newspaper interview, Rex said she used the word “bifurcated” to describe the bill that was the subject of a story Howard was writing.
Ed threw down his pen in exasperation, Rex said, screaming that he was writing for “Boobus Americanus,” and such readers prefer two-syllable words that don’t require a trip to the dictionary. One syllable words would be better, he insisted.
”Boobus Americanus” became a code word between the pair, she said. Ed would often remind her to remember his sage advice when she was testifying in front of legislative committees.
Rex said she had that in mind when she sat down for her first TV interview on “Nebraskans Ask.” As they waited for the cameras to roll, Howard pointed to a woman just off the stage.
”Boobus Americanus?” stated Rex, thinking he was reminding her to keep her comments simple.
”No you idiot,” Howard screamed. “She’s the makeup person and she’s going to come over here to powder my bald spot and powder your face because it’s creating a glare that’s giving me a headache.”
”And by the way, this is public television. No Boobus Americanus,” he said.
Vintage Ed. He was a lover of words and of music. Rest in peace.