Posted by Phoenix Immigration Attorney Nick Alcock:
The U.S. Supreme Court struck down three key parts of an Arizona law that sought to deter illegal immigration, but it let stand a controversial provision that lets police check a person’s immigration status while enforcing other laws. In a decision sure to ripple across the political landscape in a presidential election year, the court’s 5-3 ruling upheld the authority of the federal government to set immigration policy and laws.
The ruling, which comes little more than a week after President Barack Obama’s administration modified its immigration-enforcement policy, is the culmination of a two year battle.
The justices ruled that Arizona overstepped its authority by creating state crimes targeting illegal immigrants. One provision made it a state crime for immigrants not to carry federal registration papers and another created a crime for soliciting work. The third portion of the law struck down allowed state and local police to arrest illegal immigrants without a warrant in some cases.
The court did allow the main component of the law to stand. That section requires state and local police to check the immigration status of people they’ve stopped or detained if a “reasonable suspicion” exists that the person is in the country illegally. But the court indicated that measure could face further legal challenges. The court said it’s hard to gauge the impact of that section before it goes into law, and specifically stated that its order does not prevent further lawsuits once the law goes into effect.
As they reacted to the divided opinion, those on both sides of the SB-1070 issue claimed victory. Sponsors said the law was necessary because the federal government has failed to control the influx of illegal immigrants into the country, forcing states like Arizona to grapple with the security concerns and high costs of educating and caring for illegal immigrants. They said the law simply empowers police and state officials to help enforce federal immigration laws. Opponents said it unfairly criminalizes otherwise law-abiding people, opens the door for racial profiling of Hispanics legally in the country and forces state law enforcement to interfere with the intricacies of federal immigration policy.
Despite the Supreme Court’s ruling, the injunction blocking the provision from taking effect is still in place. The case now goes back to the lower courts. Authorities cannot begin enforcing the provision upheld by the Supreme Court until U.S. District Court Judge Susan Bolton lifts the injunction she issued in 2010.
It is unclear how long that process could take.
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