That's the way SCOTUSBlog and many media outlets interpreted today's Supreme Court decision about Arizona's "papers please" law:
"The Court's decision on the 'show your papers' provision strongly suggests it will have to be read narrowly to survive... On net, the #SB1070 decision is a significant win for the Obama Administration. It got almost everything it wanted." New TimesThe headline for the San Francisco Chronicle reads, "Analysis: Conservative divisions give Obama big win in Arizona immigration case"; the Houston Chronicle says, "Obama can claim victory in Arizona ruling"; ABC News is reporting, "US Supreme Court strikes down most of SB 1070." And on and on.
While some conservative sites are cheering the "split decision" which "upheld a key provision" of the law, and dunderhead Governor Brewer is claiming "victory" (!?), even their "win" is narrowly defined and tentative, and will likely be challenged as soon as Sheriff Arpaio screws up again. On the Ed Schultz radio program this morning, John Nichols said the ruling "invites" further challenges (civil cases alleging racial profiling are already pending).
In effect, the Court upheld three of the four enjoinders that a lower court applied to SB 1070 almost immediately after Jan Brewer signed the bill in the spring of 2010. The three provisions of SB 1070 that the Court struck down as unconstitutional are: 1) a state law that makes it a crime to be in the country illegally. The Court held this provision is preempted by federal law and cannot be enforced. 2) a ban on undocumented people working in Arizona. Again, since this is already a federal crime, states cannot impose additional penalties. 3) warrantless arrests of people believed to have committed a deportable crime. Once again, this is federal territory and the states cannot enact their own citizenship laws. None of these provisions was thrown out because of racial profiling -- the argument critics have used against SB 1070 all along. All were tossed because they interfere with federal law. In other words, butt out Arizona: immigration is federal policy. Slap!
The only part of SB 1070 that survived, the actual "papers please" provision of the "papers please" law, says it is not only legal, but mandatory, for police officers to request citizenship papers from anyone they stop, if there is "reasonable suspicion" they're here illegally. For my part, that's always been the smelliest section of SB 1070, but according to the ruling, which you can read here, even this didn't survive unequivocally and permanently, because the Court left open the possibility that the "papers please" provision could be revisited later if it's applied in a discriminatory manner. With Joe Arpaio enforcing the law, how could that ever happen?
The 5-3 decision was written by Justice Kennedy, who was joined by Breyer, Ginsburg, Sotomayor, and Chief Justice Roberts. No surprise: Scalia, Thomas, and Alito dissented, and evidently this morning Scalia read parts of his scathing dissent from the bench. Oh, boo hoo.