Monday, April 23, 2012

Showdown on Arizona immigration law goes to Supreme Court

The Supreme Court and Obama administration are set for another politically charged clash Wednesday as the justices take up Arizona’s crackdown on illegal immigrants.

It will be a rematch of the attorneys who argued the health care case a month ago and another chapter in the partisan philosophical struggle over states’ rights and the role of the federal government.

And once again, Obama’s lawyers are likely to face skeptical questions from the Supreme Court. Last year, the court’s five more-conservative justices rebuffed the administration and upheld an earlier Arizona immigration law that targeted employers who hired illegal workers.

To prevail this year, the administration must convince at least one of the five to switch sides and rule the state is going too far and interfering with the federal government’s control over immigration policy.

The election-year legal battle goes to the heart of the dispute between Republicans and Democrats over what to do about the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the country.

Arizona and five other Republican-led states seek a stepped-up effort to arrest and deport illegal immigrants. They say the federal system is "broken" and fault Obama for a "relaxed" enforcement policy.

If cleared by the courts, Arizona would tell its police to check the immigration status of people they lawfully stop and suspect of being in the country illegally. If they were unable to show a driver’s license or other "proof of legal presence," they would be arrested and held for federal immigration agents. Arizona also would make it a crime for illegal immigrants to seek work or to fail to carry immigration documents.

For its part, Obama’s administration favors targeted enforcement, not mass arrests of illegal immigrants.

The administration has gone after drug traffickers, smugglers, violent felons, security risks and repeat border crossers. Last year, nearly 400,000 people were deported, a record high. At the same time, the administration says mere "unlawful presence" in this country is not a federal crime, and it opposes state efforts to round up and arrest more illegal immigrants.

Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, Indiana and Utah also have adopted tough immigration enforcement laws. But judges have blocked many of their provisions, awaiting a ruling from the Supreme Court..

Washington lawyer Paul Clement, President George W. Bush’s solicitor general, will argue for Arizona and Republican Gov. Jan Brewer on Wednesday; Obama’s solicitor general, Donald B. Verrilli Jr., will argue the Democratic administration’s case.

Clement is arguing for a stronger state role in enforcing the immigration laws, a traditional federal function. Verrilli is contending that Arizona’s "maximum enforcement" policy for immigration goes too far and conflicts with federal policy.

The court’s decision, expected by the end of June, could ignite the immigration issue in the presidential campaign.

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has said he supports laws in Arizona and elsewhere that seek to drive away illegal immigrants. "The answer is self-deportation," he said in one debate.

President Barack Obama, on the other hand, has expressed concern about the effect on millions of normally law-abiding Latinos, including those with U.S. citizenship.


Big vote for French anti-immigration candidate in first round of Presidential election

Getting close  to  the two mainstream candidates.  Her voters will decide the final outcome so both mainstream candidates  will be under some pressure to move towards her policies.  Only Sarko is likely to do so, however

Socialist Francois Hollande and President Nicolas Sarkozy progressed to the final round of France's election, with the incumbent's hopes of victory resting on winning supporters from Marine Le Pen's anti-euro National Front.

Hollande won 27.1 percent of the vote against 26.7 percent for Sarkozy, the interior ministry said in Paris late yesterday. The anti-immigrant Le Pen got 19.3 percent, a record for the party that surpassed the predictions of all pollsters. The second round takes place on May 6.

The presidential race was thrown open by Le Pen's performance, which highlighted voters' angst in the face of unemployment at a 12-year high, immigration and a worsening euro region debt crisis. While Hollande's first-round lead was narrower than polls predicted, Sarkozy must now appeal to National Front supporters without alienating more moderate voters.

"He's going to have to hunt right-wing voters," Antonio Barroso, a political analyst at Eurasia Group in London. "That's a bad dynamic for the second round when you normally want to capture the center and unite the country."

Hollande would beat Sarkozy by 56 percent to 44 percent in the final round, said the CSA polling company, citing a survey it conducted after the results. The euro traded at $1.3199 in early Asian trade compared with $1.3219 on April 20.

Siamese Twins

Le Pen's showing surpassed the 16.9 percent that propelled her father into the second round in 2002 and came after a campaign in which she slammed Sarkozy and Hollande as "Siamese twins" who offered no solutions to France's problems.

Her performance channeled voters' concerns about foreign workers taking French jobs, terrorism and the global financial crisis, issues that Sarkozy tried to tap during the campaign.

The risk for investors is that he may now be tempted step up his criticism of the European Central Bank in a bid to boost his pro-growth credentials, said Holger Schmieding, chief economist at Berenberg Bank in London.

"The first round may offer a glimmer of hope for Sarkozy," he said. "But it also entails a risk that he could pander to right-wing sentiment on European issues in the next two weeks. Stronger calls for a 'growth mandate for the ECB' and the like may not go down well in Berlin and Frankfurt."

'Elements of Fear'

Hollande, 57, started drawing the battle lines for the second round, highlighting Sarkozy's appeal to anti-immigrant sentiment.

"I have no doubt he will use all the elements of fear," he told reporters at Brive-La-Gaillarde, central France, before flying to Paris. "I am stronger because I came first."

Sarkozy, the first incumbent since 1958 not to win the first round, said the results represent a "vote of crisis."

The French are "suffering faced with the new world that is taking shape," he told supporters in Paris. "These worries, I know and understand. They rest on the respect of our borders, the fight against off-shoring and the crisis of immigration, the recognition of work and security."

About 57 percent of Le Pen voters will back Sarkozy in the second round, while 23 percent will abstain and 20 percent will back Hollande, according to a survey by the BVA polling company.

In yesterday's vote, Communist Party-backed Jean-Luc Melenchon got 10.8 percent and self-styled centrist Francois Bayrou won 9.2 percent, the government said. CSA estimated turnout at 79 percent, below 2007's first-round level of 84 percent.

Sarkozy Defense

Sarkozy's term has been dominated by a financial crisis which started just months after he took office in May 2007 and is still ricocheting through Europe's bond markets.

Sarkozy, 57, argues that he protected France during the financial crisis by saving its banks and is pushing to expand the ECB's mandate to include spurring economic growth rather than just fighting inflation.

Hollande has pounced on his economic record, pointing to an unemployment rate that has now risen to 9.8 percent. France's economy has also been hurt by Europe's debt crisis, which contributed to France losing its AAA credit rating for the first time in January.

While Sarkozy must try to reach out to National Front voters, Hollande must also overcome the relatively poor performance of Melenchon, a potential ally, if he's to become the first Socialist to win the presidency since Francois Mitterrand in 1988.

"The combined score of the left is not as strong as expected," said Vincent Tiberj of the European Research Center at Science Po. in Paris. "Francois Hollande had a good first round but he has fewer reserves than expected. The second round will be a tighter race than expected."


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