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Immigration Law Gets Its Day in Court

US Supreme Court to weigh Arizona immigration law

The US Supreme Court Building  31 March 2012 Washington, DC Four provisions of the larger Arizona law will be discussed at the Supreme Court
The US Supreme Court is preparing to consider yet another highly politically charged case – this time over a controversial immigration law.

A month after hearing a case on the Obama administration’s healthcare reform, the top court will weigh the legality of Arizona’s SB1070.
It requires officials to check the immigration status of those they believe to be in the country illegally.
Five other states have adopted variations of Arizona’s law.
Parts of those laws in Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, South Carolina and Utah are on hold pending the outcome of the Supreme Court case.
‘Political theatre’ The immigration case is expected to be decided at the end of June, when a ruling is also expected from the justices over a multi-state challenge to the healthcare act.
Critics of SB1070 say it undercuts federal immigration rules and increases racial profiling.
But the law’s proponents say it was enacted because of a lack of US immigration reform. Arizona declared a state of emergency because of illegal immigration in 2005.
A report this week by the Pew Hispanic Center suggested the rate of Mexican immigration to the US had stalled or possibly even gone into reverse, based on a combination of factors including stricter border enforcement.
Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan has recused herself from the Arizona case because she was tasked with arguing in support of federal immigration policy in her previous position as US solicitor general.
The law was sent to the Supreme Court to review its constitutionality after a lower appeals court blocked four of its provisions:

  • requiring officials to check the immigration status of anyone arrested and allowing police to stop anyone suspected of being an undocumented immigrant
  • making it a state crime to reside in Arizona without legal documentation
  • banning all undocumented immigrants from working in the state or applying for a job
  • allowing police to arrest a person believed to have committed a crime that could lead to deportation, even if the crime occurred in another state

The Obama administration has argued those four provisions show Arizona exceeded its powers.
Several supporting briefs mention increased racial profiling but it is not a main contention of the federal argument.
On Tuesday, a Senate committee held a hearing on the Arizona law.
The session was decried as “political theatre” by Republican Arizona Senator Jon Kyl, who did not attend.
Jan Brewer, Arizona’s governor, was invited to testify at the hearing but declined to do so.
New York Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer says he will introduce legislation to end Arizona’s law and similar bills.

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