WASHINGTON – Pressing his immigration agenda, President Barack Obama said he is pleased the Supreme Court struck down key parts of Arizona's immigration law Monday but voiced concern about what the high court left intact.
The court allowed a provision requiring police to check the immigration status of someone they stop for another reason and who they suspect is in the country illegally.
Said Obama: "No American should ever live under a cloud of suspicion just because of what they look like." He said police in Arizona should not enforce the provision in a way that undermines civil rights.
The court's decision comes days after the Obama administration issued a directive that protects from deportation hundreds of thousands of younger immigrants who came illegally to the United States as children. Obama on Monday used the court's decision to push for congressional action on a broader overhaul of immigration laws and to reaffirm his move to target deportations to criminals.
"I will work with anyone in Congress who's willing to make progress on comprehensive immigration reform that addresses our economic needs and security needs, and upholds our tradition as a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants," he said in a statement before leaving on a two-day campaign and fundraising trip.
The decision keeps the issue of immigration as a high profile issue and gives Obama yet another opening to boost his standing with Hispanic voters for whom immigration is an important issue. Obama won two-thirds of the Latino vote in 2008 and has a large lead over rival Mitt Romney among that voting bloc in recent polls.
Obama pledged in 2008 to push for passage of comprehensive changes in immigration laws, but the effort stalled in Congress and Obama turned his attention to addressing the economy and pressed ahead with passing an overhaul of health care laws, which consumed much of 2010.
Romney on Monday blamed Obama for lack of action on immigration. He also said states have the right to secure their borders, "particularly when the federal government has failed to meet its responsibilities."
White House spokesman Jay Carney said Monday that efforts to deal with immigration have been hindered by "a retreat" among Republicans who had once advocated changes. He noted that Romney had embraced the Arizona law as a model for the country during the Republican primaries — a position, Carney said, "that hardly suggests a desire for comprehensive bipartisan immigration reform."
The Supreme Court on Monday struck down other provisions of Arizona's crackdown on illegal immigrants, including requiring all immigrants to carry registration papers with them.
"A patchwork of state laws is not a solution to our broken immigration system — it's part of the problem," Obama said.
That echoed what Obama said in April 2010 when Arizona passed its law. "If we continue to fail to act at a federal level, we will continue to see misguided efforts opening up around the country," Obama warned at the time.