Supreme Court Renders Split Decision on Arizona Immigration Law

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On June 25th 2012, the Supreme Court handed down a split decision on Arizona’s 2010 immigration law. The court unanimously sustained the best-known part of the law, which requires state law enforcement officials to determine the immigration status of anyone they stop or arrest if there is reason to suspect that the individual might be an illegal immigrant. But it blocked the implementation of other provisions.

The provision giving police officers the authority to check the immigration status of people they stop which never went into effect due to court challenges may now be enforced in Arizona. However, the justices stressed that local police have limited authority under the law; they must check with federal immigration agents before deciding to hold the suspects.

The three provisions struck down by the court:

•Made it a state crime for illegal immigrants not to possess their federal registration cards.

•Made it a crime for illegal immigrants to work, apply for work or solicit work.

•Allowed state and local police to arrest illegal immigrants without a warrant when probable cause exists that they committed “any public offense that makes the person removable from the United States.”

Among the reactions to the court’s ruling was that of Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, a proponent of SB 1070, who claimed that the decision represented “a victory for the rule of law.” Meanwhile Dulce Matuz, president of the Arizona DREAM Act Coalition, said “We feel relieved that at least the Supreme Court ruling will have less of an impact on immigrant youth than a week ago.

However, the President has issued a statement saying he was “pleased that the Supreme Court has struck down key provisions of Arizona’s immigration law.” But he said the decision makes it clear that Congress needs to act on a broad immigration reform measure. “A patchwork of state laws is not a solution to our broken immigration system — it’s part of the problem,” Obama said. He further warned that federal officials would be monitoring Arizona law enforcement to ensure it does not use the ID provision that the court upheld to racially profile Hispanics. The court’s decision has limited the role of states such as Arizona in enforcing the laws against illegal immigrants.

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