By Justin Sink
Mitt Romney used the Supreme Court's split verdict Monday on Arizona's controversial immigration law to blast President Obama for not seeking more comprehensive immigration reform as president.
“Today's decision underscores the need for a president who will lead on this critical issue and work in a bipartisan fashion to pursue a national immigration strategy," Romney said in a statement. "President Obama has failed to provide any leadership on immigration. This represents yet another broken promise by this president."
A majority of the justices sided with the Obama administration Monday on three of four challenges to Arizona's immigration law. But they ruled that the part allowing police to check the immigration status of anyone they suspect to be in the country illegally could stand. However, the court added that the constitutionality of that provision could be challenged again once the program is actually implemented.
"Arizona may have understandable frustrations with the problems caused by illegal immigration ... but the State may not pursue policies that undermine federal law," the majority opinion states.
Romney said he believed "each state has the duty — and the right — to secure our borders and preserve the rule of law, particularly when the federal government has failed to meet its responsibilities."
Immigration is a difficult issue for the presumptive GOP presidential nominee, who risks irritating Hispanic voters by embracing Arizona's law. But by criticizing it, he could be punished by conservative voters.
When Romney was asked about the Arizona law during a GOP debate in February, he focused his answer primarily on a law that would require employers to verify legal status of potential hires and not on the "show me your papers" legislation.
"I think you see a model here in Arizona," Romney said. "They passed a law here that says that people who come here and try to find work, that the employer is required to look them up on E-Verify. This E-Verify system allows employers in Arizona to know who's here legally and who's not here legally. And as a result of E-Verify being put in place, the number of people in Arizona that are here illegally has dropped by some 14 percent."
Obama has sought to bolster his reelection effort with a bid to win over Hispanic voters. He has criticized Romney for the remarks on the campaign trail, saying Romney's remarks indicate support for the controversial provision requiring police to inquire about immigration status during traffic stops. The Romney campaign has insisted the candidate believes that aspect of the law is a state issue.
"We now have a Republican nominee who said that the Arizona laws are a model for the country ... and these are laws that potentially would allow someone to be stopped and picked up and asked where their citizenship papers are based on an assumption," Obama told Univision in May.
Both candidates have been emphasizing their immigration policies in recent weeks after Obama issued an executive order to halt deportations on certain young illegal immigrants who grew up in the United States. Romney and Obama last week both spoke to Hispanic government officials.