On Tuesday, June 25, 2012, the Supreme Court of the United States delivered the much awaited decision regarding the constitutional validity of 4 of the most contentious portions of SB1070, the Arizona immigration laws. The Supreme Court has struck down 3 out of the 4 provisions.
Background of the case:
The disputed Arizona immigration law, Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act (SB 1070), was enacted in 2010. The federal government almost immediately filed a suit against Arizona, seeking an order to block SB 1070 on the premise that Arizona’s law was preempted by federal law- in other words, that the state laws were trying to exert powers that were assigned to the federal government. The four main provisions in contention were:
- Section 2(B): provided that officers who conduct a stop, detention, or arrest must, in some circumstances, make efforts to verify the person’s immigration status with the Federal Government;
- Section 3: made failure to comply with federal alien registration requirements a state crime;
- Section 5(C): made it a crime for an unauthorized alien to seek or engage in work in the State;
- Section 6: authorized officers to arrest a person, even without a warrant, if “the officer has probable cause to believe . . . has committed any public offense that makes the person removable from the United States”.
The District Court for the District of Arizona first issued a preliminary injunction preventing the four provisions from taking effect. The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit then affirmed the District Court’s verdict. The Supreme Court then agreed to hear the case to resolve the questions concerning the interaction of state and federal power with respect to the law of immigration and alien status.
“Papers Please” still stands:
While the Supreme Court, by a majority, (5-3, 1 abstention) ruled that sections 3, 5(C), and 6 of SB 1070 are preempted by federal law, thereby striking down the 3 provision, it ruled that Section 2(B) could stand. Delivering the majority opinion, Justice Kennedy observed that it was improper to enjoin section 2(B) before the state courts had an opportunity to construe it. Furthermore, the Court held that while the provision may be suspect, it was not clear that federal law in fact preempted it and its objectives. However, it was clear that even though the Court did allow it to stand for now, the application of the law in Arizona could definitely land the provision back in the Court’s chambers. While the opponents of the infamous law are unhappy that the “papers please” was upheld, they continue to watch closely and continue to encourage all individuals in Arizona who feel they may be racially profiled by Arizona law enforcement officials to contact the Department of Justice (1-855-353-1010).