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Arizona Immigration Law Oral Arguments at Supreme Court

By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. on April 24, 2012 7:03 AM

Arizona's immigration law, S.B. 1070, will head to the Supreme Court on Wednesday, when the justices are scheduled to entertain oral arguments in Arizona v. United States.

The Court will focus on the four sections of the law enjoined by the Ninth Circuit in April of last year. Those provisions:

(1) require police to verify the immigration status of anyone they stop if they suspect he or she is undocumented;

(2) make it a state crime for a non-citizen to be without registration papers;

(3) make it illegal for an undocumented immigrant to apply for a job; and

(4) authorize police to arrest anyone they believe has committed a deportable offense.

The federal government has challenged these provisions on the grounds of preemption. Though the statute doesn't explicitly conflict with federal law, the Justice Department contends that it conflicts with, and creates an obstacle to, Congress' intent and policy objectives. The Department also points to prior Supreme Court jurisprudence that places the "authority to control immigration ... solely in the Federal Government."

The state argues that S.B. 1070 is not an immigration control policy, but is instead an attempt to cooperate with and supplement federal enforcement of immigration law. It is only trying to reduce crime, preserve state resources, and ensure that job opportunities go to Arizona residents.

The Supreme Court will ultimately need to decide whether Congress intended to leave room for the states to legislate the lives of illegal immigrants, or if Arizona has gone too far. It will consider the language of the federal Immigration & Nationality Act, Congress' intent and the foreign policy implications of Arizona's immigration law.

Though some suspect the case will nonetheless be decided on ideological grounds, it's necessary to note that Justice Elena Kagan has recused herself. A 4-4 decision will let the Ninth Circuit injunction stand, barring the enforcement of the law.

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