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U.S. Supreme Court Invalidates Most of the Key Provisions of Arizona’s Harsh Immigration Law

| June 25, 2012

The Nine, from right to far right.

Last Updated: 11:10 a.m.

The United States Supreme Court has reversed key provisions of the controversial Arizona immigrant law, invalidating Arizona’s–or any state’s–law that would have given state or local police the power to make warrantless arrests of individuals suspected of being undocumented, or “illegal.” (The ruling in full is below.)

The court will not decide the health care law today. That will take place Thursday at 10 a.m.

Section 6 of the Arizona law “attempts to provide state officers with even greater arrest authority, which they could exercise with no instruction from the Federal Government,” the court writes in is summary to the decision. “This is not the system Congress created. Federal law specifies limited circumstances in which state officers may perform an immigration officer’s functions. This includes instances where the Attorney General has granted that authority in a formal agreement with a state or local government.”

In other words, warrantless arrests of undocumented immigrants (or immigrants suspected to be undocumented) by local police are not permissible.

The Arizona law made it a crime for undocumented immigrants to hold a job or apply for work. The court invalidated that portion of the law. The Arizona law also made it a crime for immigrants to not have their federal identification papers on their person. That provision, too, was struck down.

That doesn’t mean that the show-your-papers provision of the law is declared unconstitutional. That’s the provision that allows local police to ask for identification to ascertain whether an individual is legally in the United States. But the justices are making it very difficult for the provision to stick, because conditions within which police may ask for an immigrant’s papers have been severely narrowed. Police may check an immigrant’s status once that immigrant has been legally detained. And the court is leaving a door wide open for subsequent challenges to that provision, which immigration advocates consider racist, because it encourages profiling.

The decision is a victory for the Obama administration and Eric Holder, the Attorney General, who challenged the Arizona law, though the administration had sought repeal of the entire law.

Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the opinion for the court in the 5-3 ruling, with Chief Justice Roberts, Justices Ginsburg, Sotomayor and Breyer joining. Justices Scalia, Thomas and Alito concurred in part, but dissented in more significant regards. Justice Elena Kagan did not take part in the decision.

In a separate opinion, the court ruled, 5-4, that life sentences for juveniles, without parole, are unconstitutional. The court, also by a 5-4 vote, blocked a challenge to its Citizens United case on campaign finance.

In a key part of Kennedy’s opinion, the court rejects Arizona’s claim that its immigration law fulfills the same aims as those of the federal government. (Arizona and other border states have been claiming that the federal government is not enforcing its immigration laws, thus giving states the right to enforce those laws at the state level.) “This argument not only ignores the basic premise of field preemption—that States may not enter, in any respect, an area the Federal Government has reserved for itself—but also is unpersuasive on its own terms,” Kennedy writes. “Permitting the State to impose its ownpenalties for the federal offenses here would conflict withthe careful framework Congress adopted.”

“Discretion in the enforcement of immigration law,” Kennedy wrote more generally, “embraces immediate human concerns. Unauthorized workers trying to support their families, for example, likelypose less danger than alien smugglers or aliens who commit a serious crime. The equities of an individual casemay turn on many factors, including whether the alienhas children born in the United States, long ties to the community, or a record of distinguished military service.Some discretionary decisions involve policy choices thatbear on this Nation’s international relations. Returningan alien to his own country may be deemed inappropriateeven where he has committed a removable offense or fails to meet the criteria for admission. The foreign state maybe mired in civil war, complicit in political persecution, or enduring conditions that create a real risk that the alienor his family will be harmed upon return. The dynamicnature of relations with other countries requires the Executive Branch to ensure that enforcement policies are consistent with this Nation’s foreign policy with respect tothese and other realities.”

“The court correctly held that federal immigration law trumps most of Arizona’s controversial immigration law. But by upholding Arizona’s ‘check your papers’ provision, at least for now, the court has given other states a green light to try to enact similar immigration laws,” Stephen W. Yale-Loehr, who teaches immigration law at Cornell University and is co-author of a treatise on the subject, told the New York Times. “Some will be anti-immigrant, like Arizona’s. But other new state laws may be pro-immigrant, as states realize the importance of immigrants in their communities. The decision increases pressure on Congress to enact comprehensive immigration law to prevent a crazy patchwork ofconflicting immigration laws around the country.”

[This is a developing story, More soon.]

Background on the Immigration Case:

US Supreme Court Decision on Arizona Immigration Law

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7 Responses for “U.S. Supreme Court Invalidates Most of the Key Provisions of Arizona’s Harsh Immigration Law”

  1. question says:

    One ray of sanity lighting a candle for the second – that might move the USA into parity with the rest of the civilized nations…a healthcare system that does not leave 50 million of its citizens under and un-insured, insures those with pre-existing conditions, baseline wellness services and bending the cost curve.

  2. Johnny Taxpayer says:

    “That’s the provision that allows local police to stop anyone and ask for identification to ascertain whether an individual is legally in the United States.” This goes beyond a misinterpretation of the law, it is flat out a false statement. The provision allows state LEO’s in Arizona to “request papers” only after a “lawful contact”. Feel free to read the actual statute in the link below.

    Lawful contact means the law specifically does not allow local police to stop anyone and ask for ID. It means the police must already have a reason to be in contact with said individual, such as a traffic stop, an arrest, but not simply stopping anyone and everyone they fell like it to demand papers!

  3. palmcoaster says:

    At least some rewarding news, within nowadays reality:
    Considering that until 1848 almost 1/3 of our USA of today was Mexico’s Territory and just taken by force:
    We denied visas to our next door neighbors south of the border, but bring in hordes of others with all expenses paid! Just plain unfair!
    Maybe now Conservatives will stop lashing at Latinos and concentrate more in the other immigrants that actually “do not come here to just do the jobs that one one else wants to do”! Where do you see these new entering immigrants picking tomatoes, ferns or digging holes or landscaping in the heat of the southern summers?

  4. "My Daily Rant" says:

    Palmcoaster;you and other Liberals that believe Hispanics are just picking fruit need to get out more often, drive by a construction site, whats left of our factories that where they work driving the wages down.See us Conservatives believe in Legal Immergration wheres its controlled,when we know whos comming in.When you take in 11Million Illegals unskilled that is a big strain on a already weak health care system and school system.We also have no control whos comming meaning a terrorist can crawl across the border the same as a hispanic.Also keep in mind if this is so important to Obama the Liberal savior why did he not act on it his first 2 years when he had control in DC, Back then he could have passed anything.

  5. Dorothea says:

    @My Daily Rant;

    Senate Republicans can and have obstructed more bills with their filibuster power during President Obama’s tenure than ever before in the history of the Senate. Therefore, Obama could not get anything he wanted passed during the first two years of his tenure as you contend. You are watching way to much Fox and/or believing the Republican BS.

    Those 11 million illegal immigrants that you refer to did not suddenly arrive during the Obama administration; most of them came prior to his taking office. In fact, since there is so little work in this country the number of illegal immigrants coming into this country has declined. If the Republican’s take over, there will be even less work for illegal immigrants, as the Republicans and their newly annointed leader, Romney, will continue their destruction of the middle class and have us all out in the fields picking fruits and vegetables except, of course, the millionaires and billionaires .

  6. Dorothea says:

    Unnoticed in the noise of the Arizona Immigration decision were two items:

    The first is the reaffirmation of the Citizens United decision by the conservative members of the Supreme Court. Apparently, not comprehending or caring about the worst and most destructive decision I have seen in my lifetime, the decision annoints corporations the same legal rights as citizens and pours millions of dollars into our political campaigns. In this case the supremes overturned a Montana law that prohibits corporations from making obscenely large and anonymous political corporations. So much for the hypocrisy of conservatives supporting states’ rights.

    The second item is the separate dissenting opinion handed down by Justice Scalia. It was a rambling dissertation that spoke of issues having little to do with law or the Constitution. Even his conservative brethren Supremes wouldn’t sign on to it. It’s time for this guy to retire. He is a political animal, not an impartial judge of the law. Either that or he is in the middle stages of dementia.

  7. palmcoaster says:

    Never mind the illegal’s allegedly taking all the jobs that no one wants to do in our USA. Look how the Illustrious Insider running for Commander in Chief now, made his billions by robbing us of our millions of jobs and took them overseas:

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