Tales from the Trail

Washington Extra – The bench’s backstories

As the Supreme Court justices convene Wednesday to hear arguments in the case Arizona v United States, will their thoughts drift to Italy, Ireland, Poland and Puerto Rico? 

The challenge to Arizona’s tough immigration law may have the justices thinking about their own families’ origins and journeys to America. As Reuters reports today, nearly all of them, like their countrymen, descend from people who came looking for a better life (the notable exception is Justice Clarence Thomas whose great-grandmother was a slave).

The justices of the U.S. Supreme Court seen in a October 8, 2010 group portrait. Seated from left to right in front row are: Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Associate Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Standing from left to right in back row are: Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Associate Justice Stephen Breyer, Associate Justice Samuel Alito Jr., and Associate Justice Elena Kagan. REUTERS/Larry Downing

Their ancestral stories may not tell us how they feel about illegal immigration or whether they will rule in favor of Arizona. But they are clearly a point of pride in their biographies and were often cited in nomination hearings.

Take Justice Samuel Alito, who referred to the experience of his own father, brought to the United States from Italy as an infant. It “is typical of a lot of Americans both back in his day and today. And it is a story, as far as I can see it, about the opportunities that our country offers, and also about the need for fairness and about hard work and perseverance and the power of a small good deed.”

Washington Extra – Immigration and more

A victory for the administration, but another pyrrhic one?

USA-IMMIGRATION/ARIZONAA judge in Phoenix blocked key parts of Arizona’s immigration law just hours before it was to take effect today, supporting a legal challenge from the Justice Department. The decision is likely to boost Obama’s standing among Hispanics, who have been disenchanted by his failure to keep his promises on immigration reform. But just like the president’s victories on healthcare and financial reform, this looks like another triumph which may take some selling to the American public. Not only will Obama’s Republican and Tea Party foes be further energized, but opinion polls show Arizona’s law was supported by most Americans.

Elsewhere, New Jerseyites in the newsroom were disappointed today that Obama only ordered half a Super Sub at Tastee’s famous sandwich shop in Edison. “When I was 20, I could order a 12-inch,” the president said. “I’m turning 49 next week, which means just a half.”

But I am reassured by my colleagues this is not another arugula moment, when Obama was called elitist for complaining about the price of the salad green at upmarket store Whole Foods to an audience of Iowa farmers. Nor does this match John Kerry’s ridiculed attempt to order Swiss cheese with his Philly cheesesteak in 2003.