Immigration: Big Win for Obama

The Supreme Court ruling on immigration looks like a big political victory for the White House. 

Helping drive the Supreme Court toward what amounted to a victory for the Obama administration in the Arizona immigration case was a man often seen as one of Obama's chief antagonists at the court – Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr.

Governor Jan Brewer was quick to claim victory, but it's hard to see where there's much of a win for those who want federal law upheld.

The Kennedy opinion did uphold one provision of the Arizona law, one particularly disliked by immigration activists, allowing police to check the immigration status of people they have lawfully detained for other reasons. But Kennedy described their powers in such a limited way that the law seemed relatively meaningless.

All eight justices who ruled on the case voted to allow the mandatory immigration-check requirement to go into effect. They split on three other disputed provisions of the law, with a majority of the justices ruling that each of those parts of the law could not be enforced because they intruded improperly into a policy sphere reserved to the federal government. Justice Elena Kagan did not participate in the ruling.

The justices said further legal challenges to the mandatory immigration check provision can go forward after that part of the law takes effect. 

Obama wins the ruling, but the court leaves in tact the one piece that can be used to motivate the president's base.