US Supreme Rules on AZ Immigration Law

US Supreme Rules on AZ Immigration Law

The Supreme Court just decided to uphold the most controversial element of Arizona's immigration law, allowing the state to require police officers to enforce immigration laws. Three other provisions of the law have been struck down.

The court, in a 5-3 ruling, left standing only the "check your papers" part of the law that requires state and local police to perform roadside immigration checks of people they've stopped or detained if a "reasonable suspicion" exists that they are in the country illegally.

The court indicated, however, that even that section could face further legal challenges.

Three other provisions of the law have been struck down. The court rejected the parts of the law that:

  • Make it a state crime for illegal immigrants not to possess their federal registration cards;
  • Make it a crime for illegal immigrants to work, apply for work or solicit work;
  • Allow state and local police to arrest illegal immigrants without a warrant when probable cause exists that they committed "any public offense that makes the person removable from the United States."

Arizona's law S. B. 1070, passed in 2010, makes it a crime to be in the state as an undocumented immigrant and compels local law officials to enforce the law. The law inspired conservatives across the country to adopt more aggressive measures against undocumented immigrants. At the same time, it spurred huge rallies across the country in 2010, with its opponents charging the measure smacks of racism and is a disgrace to Arizona.

Only eight of the court's justices ruled on the case because Associate Justice Elena Kagan recused herself. She served as President Obama's solicitor general when the administration decided to challenge the law.

Rather than focusing on the law's potential to create racial discrimination, the U.S. government challenged the law in court based on the concept of federal supremacy. Immigration regulation, the federal government argued, should be in the hands of the federal government, not the states.