IT MAY have taken the Supreme Court just an hour to wrap up its discussion of illegal immigration this week, but America’s politicians, it seems, cannot get enough of the subject. It will be several months before the court rules on the case in question, which concerns a state law in Arizona, but Democratic leaders in the Senate are already planning a vote to overturn its decision if the law is upheld. That vote would presumably fail, thanks to Republican opposition, but it would allow the Democrats to keep the subject in the news. Democrats are also attacking Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican nominee for president, for supporting the law. Mr Romney, meanwhile, has dismissed the whole fuss as an effort to distract Hispanic voters from Mr Obama’s failings as steward of the economy. The outcome of the presidential race, both sides acknowledge, could conceivably hinge on whether it is the state of the economy or laws like Arizona’s that stir more indignation among Hispanics.
最高法院本周对于非法移民的讨论也许只持续了一个小时，但是美国的政客们看上去从未停止在非法移民这个问题上大做文章. 最高法院裁决这个涉及到亚利桑那州州法律的案子还将花上几个月,但是参议院中民主党的领袖已经在计划,一旦最高法院判亚利桑那州州法律有效,就发动一场投票来推翻这一决议.由于参议院中共和党的反对,这一投票多半会失败,但民主党却能把这一话题保留在公众视野中.民主党也批评米特·罗姆尼,因为这位预定的共和党总统竞选人支持这一法律.同时,罗姆尼认为这整场闹剧只不过是民主党人想借此来分散西班牙裔选民的注意力,让他们忽视奥巴马总统作为经济守门人的失职. 民主共和两党都承认,经济状态和激起西班牙裔美国人愤慨的亚利桑那州法律,都可能影响总统大选的结果.
Arizona’s bill, passed in 2010, seeks to discourage illegal immigration by making it a crime under state as well as federal law and by instructing state authorities to be on the lookout for illegal immigrants. Civil-liberties groups worry that this will lead to harassment of anyone with brown skin, even though the law expressly prohibits such “profiling”. There is no easy way for the authorities to judge an individual’s immigration status, argue opponents, so many citizens will be subjected to unwarranted checks.
That prospect seemed to concern several justices during the oral arguments on the law before the Supreme Court. Stephen Breyer, for example, fretted about the possible fate under the law of a jogger carrying only a driver’s licence from New Mexico, a state that borders Arizona and used to issue licences to illegal immigrants. But the solicitor-general said he was not challenging the law on the grounds that it would discriminate against Latinos. Instead he argued that the law pre-empts the federal government’s power to set immigration policy. Its defenders retort that it aims only to help the federal government fulfil its obligations on immigration, and that only an administration that was deliberately neglecting them could find fault with it.
The Supreme Court’s verdict will determine the fate not just of Arizona’s law, but of similar measures in five other states. As successive presidents have promised but failed to tackle the question of America’s 10m-odd illegal immigrants, frustration at the federal government’s inertia has grown, especially among conservative voters. Republican-controlled legislatures in several states have attempted to take matters into their own hands. The need for a crackdown on illegal immigration seems to have become an article of faith among Republican primary voters. The presidential bid of Rick Perry, the governor of Texas, came to grief partly because he had signed a law allowing certain undocumented students to pay the same rates as other state residents at public universities.
Even as the debate about illegal immigration has become shriller, the phenomenon itself has declined. The recession has helped to stem the flow of job-seekers across America’s southern border. Despite more vigorous policing, the number of people caught trying to cross has declined markedly. This week the Pew Hispanic Centre, a research institute, released a report arguing that Mexicans, who once accounted for most of the illegal influx, are now leaving the country in greater numbers than they are entering it.