Arizona v. United States
(Oral Argument Expected in April/May 2012)
As expected, the Supreme Court has accepted for review Arizona v. United States, a potentially landmark case asking the Supreme Court to determine how far a state can go to enforce federal immigration laws. Supporters on both sides of this case have made national headlines arguing their opinions as to the constitutionality and the necessity of Arizona's Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act (SB 1070). Supporters argue that the federal government's failure to sufficiently enforce immigration laws forces border-states to bear an unreasonable and unbearable financial burden thereby necessitating state-level action to enforce federal laws. Opponents argue that immigration is exclusively a federal issue and that states should not interfere. The Supreme Court will now have its opportunity to opine on the issue (minus Justice Elena Kagan who will not participate in the case due to her work on the case while United States Solicitor General).
Basic Facts: SB 1070 was enacted by the Arizona legislature in April 2010. Among its most controversial provisions are those requiring police officers to check a person's immigration status while enforcing other laws (i.e. traffic stops, etc.) and making it a crime for an immigrant to intentionally fail to obtain and carry legal immigrant papers with him while in Arizona.
Previous Litigation: In July of 2010, United States District Court Judge Susan Bolton enjoined four provisions of the law on the eve of their effective date finding that the provisions were preempted by federal law. The provisions blocked by Judge Bolton:
- Require local police officers to check a person's immigration status while enforcing other laws;
- Make it a crime for an immigrant to intentionally fail to obtain and carry legal immigrant papers with him while in Arizona;
- Make it a misdemeanor for an undocumented immigrant to apply for a job, publicly solicit a job, or work in Arizona; and
- Allow police to arrest without a warrant any person the officer has "probable cause to believe" has committed a crime, anywhere, that would make the person subject to deportation.
Judge Bolton did not block certain other provisions of the law including provisions banning sanctuary cities and making it illegal to hire day laborers if doing so impedes traffic. Judge Bolton's order also allowed parts of the law mandating sanctions for employers who hire illegal immigrants.
A divided panel of the Ninth Court of Appeals upheld the District Court ruling in April, and similar laws are currently being challenged in Georgia, Alabama, Utah, and South Carolina.
Question for the Court: To what extent are states preempted by federal law from enacting measures relating to immigration? Do Arizona's laws go further than necessary to cooperate with federal government in enforcing immigration laws and instead create a separate immigration policy?