Supreme Court Hears Oral Arguments in Arizona Immigration Case

The United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments this week in a case challenging the constitutional validity of Arizona’s infamous immigration law, commonly known as SB-1070, a state law that purported to give greater control over immigration enforcement to state and local police in Arizona. As you may recall, the measure was signed into law in April 2010, but several of its major provisions never took effect, due to an injunction that was eventually upheld by a federal appeals court in April 2011. (See Supreme Court to Weigh in on Arizona Immigration Law, MurthyBlog, 15.Dec.2011.) That injunction blocked implementation of language that would have:

  • required police in Arizona to question people met through traffic stops and other routine encounters if there was “reasonable suspicion” that an individual was in the United States illegally
  • allowed police to make warrantless arrests of such persons
  • made it illegal to work or seek work in Arizona without proper work authorization from federal authorities
  • made it a criminal offense under Arizona law to be unlawfully present in the state

According to the Washington Post, the justices expressed concerns about some parts of S.B. 1070, but “seemed skeptical of the Obama administration’s claim that a requirement that police check the immigration status of those arrested or detained was an impermissible intrusion on Congress’s power to set immigration policy and the executive branch’s ability to implement it.” (See Arizona Immigration Law: Supreme Court Seems Receptive to Parts of Crackdown, by Robert Barnes, Washington Post, 25.Apr.2012.)

It remains to be seen precisely how the court will pick its way through the controversial statute, and the competing claims of states’ rights and federal preemption. However the court rules, we should expect the immigration issue to come roaring back to prime time – especially in the presidential campaign – as Democrats and Republicans compete for the hearts, minds, and support of Latino voters, a group that helped to put President Obama over the top in 2008. Both sides will be choosing their words carefully.

Disclaimer: The information provided here is of a general nature and may not apply to any specific or particular circumstance. It is not to be construed as legal advice nor presumed indefinitely up to date.