Supreme Court strikes bulk of Arizona Immigration law (SB 1070)

The Supreme Court recently affirmed in part and reversed in part, in a 5-3 decision, the ruling of the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in the constitutional challenge to Arizona’s immigration law (SB 1070).  The Court ruled that the powers granted to the federal government by the Constitution of the United States preempt the attempted efforts of Arizona to regulate immigration within its borders.

The history of the United States is in part made of the stories, talents, and lasting contributions of those who crossed oceans and deserts to come here.  – Opinion of the Court (No. 11-182)

The decision halted enforcement of sections 3, 5(C) and 6 of SB 1070 that had been challenged in the case.  The decision was based on the clear “broad, undoubted power over the subject of immigration and the status of aliens” held by the federal government.  Despite the well settled preemption of immigration regulation by the federal government, states such as Arizona have attempted to pass legislation that attempts to usurp such power and authorize its own regulation of immigration.  The Supreme Court has sent a clear message to Arizona and other states that such legislation must not violate the constitution no matter how frustrated the state is with the federal government’s abject failure to come up with a fair, reasonable and workable solution to the immigration problem in the United States.

The Court did allow Section 2(b) of SB 1070 to stand for the present time without fully addressing the constitutionality of such provision.  The section states: “For any lawful contact made by a law enforcement official or agency of this State or a county, city, town or other political subdivision of this State where reasonable suspicion exists that the person is an alien who is unlawfully present in the United States, a reasonable attempt shall be made, when practicable, to determine the immigration status of the person.”  The Supreme Court’s opinion, delivered by Justice Kennedy, does not state outright that such provision is constitutional but rather that the “nature and timing of this case counsel caution in evaluating the validity of Section 2(B).”  The Supreme Court is always very careful to address only those issues that are properly before it, from both a substantive and procedural basis.  The Court found, for example, that if the provisions of Section 2(B) could be interpreted or enforced in an unconstitutional way (such as “[d]etaining individuals solely to verify their immigration status”), and thus be subject to legal challenge.

 

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