Supreme Court invalidates bulk of Arizona’s immigration law

SOURCE: Maricopa County Sheriff's Department


In a 5-3 decision, the Supreme Court today struck down three of the four disputed provisions in Arizona’s immigration law.

S.B. 1070 “Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act” was passed by the Arizona state legislature and signed by Republican Gov. Jan Brewer two years ago.

Seeking to crack down on illegal immigration, S.B. 1070 would (1) make it a criminal offense to not carry proof of federal immigration registration at all times under Section 3; (2) criminalize the job search or employment of undocumented immigrants under Section 5C; (3) allow state and local police to arrest anyone they suspect of committing “any public offense that makes the person removable from the United States” without a warrant under Section 6; (4) and require all state and local law enforcement officials to verify the immigration status of anyone they have legally stopped or arrested under Section 2.

Read more: Analysis: Why the Supreme Court struck down 3 provisions of Arizona’s immigration law

In the highly-anticipated ruling, the Supreme Court held that Sections 3, 5(c), and 6 of S.B. 1070 are “preempted” by federal law, because they interfere and conflict with existing national immigration policies enacted by Congress.

“The federal power to determine immigration policy is well settled…It is fundamental that foreign countries concerned about the status, safety, and security of their nationals in the United States must be able to confer and communicate on this subject with one national sovereign, not the 50 separate States,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the court’s majority opinion. “State laws are preempted when they conflict with federal law, including when they stand ‘as an obstacle to the accomplishment and execution of the full purposes and objectives of Congress.'”

However, the high court did spare Section 2(b), the mandatory immigration status verification, because “it is not clear at this stage and on this record that Section 2(b), in practice, will require state officers to delay the release of detainees for no reason other than to verify their immigration status.”

Read more: Justice Department sues Maricopa County Sheriff for discriminating against Latinos  

But the court’s decision to uphold Section 2(b) is not definite, and the provision could be challenged if its implementation results in the unlawful detention of individuals “solely to verify their immigration status.”

Attorney General Eric Holder expressed concerns over the potential impact of Section 2(b), suggesting that it could be abused as a “license to engage in racial profiling.”

“We will closely monitor the impact of S.B. 1070 to ensure compliance with federal immigration law and with applicable civil rights laws, including ensuring that law enforcement agencies and others do not implement the law in a manner that has the purpose or effect of discriminating against the Latino or any other community,” said Holder. “We will also work to ensure that the verification provision does not divert police officers away from traditional law enforcement efforts in order to enforce federal immigration law, potentially impairing local policing efforts and discouraging crime victims, including children of non-citizens, victims of domestic violence, and asylum seekers, from reporting abuses and crimes out of fear of detention or deportation. We will continue to use every federal resource to protect the safety and civil rights of all Americans.”

The majority opinion in Arizona v. United States was supported by Justices John Roberts, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, and Sonia Sotomayor. Justices Antonin Scalia, Samuel Alito, and Clarence Thomas dissented. Justice Elena Kagan, who served as the Solicitor General from March 2009 to May 2010, did not participate in the court’s ruling.


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