In 2010, Arizona enacted a new immigration law, S.B. 1070 that would require officials and agencies of the state to fully comply with and assist in the enforcement of federal immigration laws. Today, the Supreme Court struck down parts of the Arizona law and upheld part of the law in a 5-3 ruling. The majority overturned provisions of the Arizona law that would allow state law enforcement officials to address illegal immigration in the absence of federal action. The majority concluded that the federal government has the ultimate authority to decide who will be held on immigration charges and who will be deported.
However, the court upheld a provision that would require Arizona police to check a person’s immigration status while enforcing other laws if “reasonable suspicion” exists that the person is in the United States illegally.
Noting that he would have upheld the state law in its entirety, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia wrote, "Arizona has moved to protect its sovereignty—not in contradiction of federal law, but in complete compliance with it.”
QUESTION AND ANSWER
What other states are attempting to address concerns with illegal immigration through state laws?
Several other states have followed Arizona's lead by passing laws meant to deter illegal immigrants. Similar laws are under challenge in lower courts in Georgia, Alabama, Utah, Indiana and South Carolina. Arizona's appeal is the first to reach the Supreme Court.
Is it illegal to request an individual’s U.S. identification when stopped by a police officer?
The Immigration and Nationality Act says federal authorities have the final word on who is deported, but it also says that states may “cooperate” in the “identification, apprehension and detention” of illegal immigrants. The most disputed provision in the Arizona law would tell police that when they make a lawful stop, they must check the immigration status of any person they suspect is “unlawfully present in the United States.”
Today, the court upheld the provision in S.B. 1070 that would allow the police to detain a suspected illegal immigrant, and then contact federal officials. According to Chief Justice Roberts, it would still be the administration’s decision on whether to hold or release the individual.
Why did Arizona pass such a law in the first place?
Arizona stepped in and approved S.B. 1070 because many believed that the federal government was not doing enough to enforce federal immigration law. Today’s ruling would essentially limit what any state can do to enforce federal immigration laws. In the absence of robust immigration law enforcement from the Obama administration, this ruling means that states cannot step in and do what they believe is best for their citizens and communities. Many Members are disappointed in today’s ruling—especially those who represent border states—because of the implications that this will have on those states’ efforts to address illegal immigration and border related crime and violence.
For questions contact Sarah Makin at 6-2302.