June 25, 2012
he Supreme Court on Monday rejected much of Arizona’s controversial immigration law, but upheld other provisions, giving a partial victory to the Obama administration.
The court ruled that Arizona cannot make it a misdemeanor for immigrants to fail to carry identification that says whether they are in the United States legally; cannot make it a crime for undocumented immigrations to apply for a job; and cannot arrest someone based solely on the suspicion that the person is in this country illegally.
However, the court upheld the part of the law that allows police to check the status of anyone they suspect entered the United States illegally. Even there, though, the justices said the provision could be subject to additional legal challenges.
The court’s 5-3 decision is likely only the first of many legal battles to come, as states increasingly are defining a new role for themselves in combatting illegal immigration. (Justice Elena Kagan abstained because of her work on the issue when she served in the Department of Justice.) Arizona’s law has spawned similar efforts in Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, South Carolina and Utah, all of which have been challenged in court.
At the April oral arguments over S.B. 1070, chanting protesters said the law had created a climate of fear among Arizona’s mostly Latino immigrant population and predicting that it will lead to racial and ethnic profiling.
But the court made it clear that it was not considering those issues at this time. Instead, the deliberations were a revival of the questions of federal power and states’ rights that marked the court’s deliberations about President Obama’s health-care law.
The federal government had contended that the Arizona law, with its aim of “attrition through enforcement,” undermined the federal goal of a cohesive immigration policy by attempting to shift the problem of illegal immigration to other states. “The Constitution vests exclusive authority over immigration matters with the national government,” Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr. said at oral argument.
Former Bush administration solicitor general Paul D. Clement said that Arizona was trying to cooperate with the federal government. “Arizona borrowed the federal standards as its own, and attempted to enlist state resources in the enforcement of the uniform federal immigration laws,” Clement said.
The Obama administration has taken a tough stance against the Arizona law and against most of the other states that have implemented their own laws. Its lawyers went to court early to block SB 1070, and won at both the district court level and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit.
As a result, the law’s most stringent provisions have never taken effect.
Earlier this month, Obama announced his administration would stop deporting illegal immigrants up to the age of 30 who were brought to this country as children, and who have lived law-abiding lives.
The case is Arizona v. U.S.
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