On June 25, 2012, the Supreme Court sided with the federal government in the ongoing battle between state law and federal law, brought on by Arizona’s immigration law (S.B. 1070).
Click here to read the full Supreme Court decision in Arizona v. US (11-182).
The majority included Justice Kennedy, Chief Justice John Roberts, Justice Steven Breyer, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Justice Sonia Sotomayor. The minority included Justices Scalia, Alito, and Thomas. Justice Kagan did not participate in the decision.
In a 5-3 decision, the majority concluded that the federal government had the power to block S.B. 1070, though the court upheld one of the most controversial parts of the bill — a provision that lets police check a person’s immigration status while enforcing other laws if “reasonable suspicion” exists that the person is in the United States illegally.
Provisions struck down included:
— Authorizing police to arrest immigrants without warrant where “probable cause” exists that they committed any public offense making them removable from the country.
— Making it a state crime for “unauthorized immigrants” to fail to carry registration papers and other government identification.
— Forbidding those not authorized for employment in the United States to apply, solicit or perform work. That would include immigrants standing in a parking lot who “gesture or nod” their willingness to be employed.
The Obama administration had argued immigration matters were strictly a federal function.
Citing the federal government’s inability to stop illegal immigrant from crossing into its borders, Arizona passed a tough immigration law. The Obama administration sued, saying Arizona went too far in enacting immigration law, which is reserved for the federal government.
At issue was whether states have any authority to step in to regulate immigration matters or whether that is the exclusive role of the federal government.
Several other states followed Arizona’s lead by passing laws meant to deter illegal immigrants. Similar laws are under challenge in lower courts in Georgia, Alabama, Utah, Indiana and South Carolina. Arizona’s appeal is the first to reach the Supreme Court.
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