Scalia and Immigration: Justice Archie Bunker’s Factually Undocumented Diatribe

Without reading every word of Antonin Scalia’s bench statement on the Arizona immigration law ruling I can’t confirm or deny that he used the word “meathead” during the course of his public fuming. He did not expressly mention “old pinko Cronkite” though he implied he regards the current president as “old pinko Obama,” or in fairness perhaps, “socialist, Kenyan anti-colonialist Obama.”

Scalia long ago revealed himself to be less recognizable as an august Justice of the Supreme Court than a Limbaugh doppelganger spewing ultra-right talking points at every conceivable public venue.  What his rant Monday exposed, and the reason it provoked alarm, given his obviously unique power is that in his old age he is prone to angrily sputtering ignorant Bunkerisms, which means he is not simply an opinionated partisan but a poorly educated one.

Based upon Scalia’s hyperventilation, he appears not to have been exposed to any serious information or respected research on the subject of immigration, relying solely on reactionary talk radio and Fox punditry for what he knows. When the great jurist says of Arizona, “Its citizens feel themselves under siege by large numbers of illegal immigrants…”  he is at least correct about how Arizona’s viciously anti-immigrant and bigoted Republican elected officials feel, surely feeling “under siege” when anyone with skin darker than Shakira  shows up. Otherwise, Scalia’s observation is statistically refutable, laughably so: Arizona’s undocumented population is estimated at 360,000, which is 5% percent of the total population, hardly a number that qualifies as being described a “siege,”  and more embarrassing for Scalia’s uninformed braying, less than the average population of undocumented for the United States.

The shamefully misinformed Justice, referring again to how Arizonans feel, describes them as feeling, “under siege by illegal immigrants who invade their property, strain their social services, and even place their lives in jeopardy.” Perhaps it’s unreasonable to expect Scalia, as a representative of the federal government to know much about the federal government, but should he inquire he will learn that undocumented immigrants do not qualify for social services provided by the federal government.  Furthermore, locally provided social services are financed through state and local sales taxes which undocumented immigrants pay just like everybody else. So in fact, whatever social services the undocumented use they are also paying for, meaning “strain” is not among the possibilities.

The uglier portion of his statement, claiming about the undocumented that they “even place their lives (Arizonans) in jeopardy,” aside from being materially false, stupidly parrots a vicious nativist false stereotype about the undocumented. Again, should Scalia rouse himself from his favorite Archie Bunker armchair in search of credible research about the undocumented and crime he will learn that the undocumented are in fact less likely than American citizens to be engaged in crime. Part of this is common sense: you don’t want to be mixed up in any way with law enforcement when you are subject to deportation.  Still, the research demonstrating that the undocumented do not exacerbate crime is voluminous, and as a friend of the court as it were, I personally can point Scalia to, “The Immigration Debate: Studies on the Economic, Demographic, and Fiscal Effects of Immigration”; and the LA Times’ “Immigrants boost pay, not prison populations, new studies show,” or the New York Times’ “Open Doors Don’t Invite Criminals,”  or this study from Florida International University, “Do Immigrants Make Us Safer?” or this one from the University of California at Irvine, “The Myth of Immigrant Criminality,” or this study from the Immigration Policy Center. I will cheerfully provide much more to Justice Scalia if I can be of service.

And almost as though Justice Scalia wished to impress us with how truly indifferent he is, and insulated from current events regarding immigration he comes out with these variations on the same whopper, “Federal officials have been unable to remedy the problem, and indeed have recently shown that they are simply unwilling to do so,” and “Are the sovereign states at the mercy of the federal executive’s refusal to enforce the nation’s immigration laws?” as well as “But to say, as the Court does, that Arizona contradicts federal law by enforcing applications of the Immigration Act that the President declines to enforce boggles the mind.” I don’t know how to feel about a Supreme Court Justice who doesn’t even bother to read a daily newspaper, but had he picked one up in the last three years he would have learned, say  from the LA Times, that, “Obama administration reports record number of deportations.” I’m no legal genius, but this documented statistic seems to contradict Scalia’s claim that the administration, “declines to enforce,” is guilty of a refusal to enforce or is unwilling to enforce immigration laws. When describing this siege of immigration being endured, our astute Justice also seemed to miss this fairly relevant big news: “Net Migration from Mexico Falls to Zero—and Perhaps Less”.

Many of us long ago accepted that Justice Scalia, like Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito is no more than a Republican Party functionary. And of course, though proper behavior for a Supreme Court Justice is debatable I suppose, as far as I am concerned Justice Scalia can howl at the moon same as any other civilian right-wing kook. But it should not be too much to expect him to be more than an uneducated, uninformed buffoon.

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