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Supreme Court Sides With Obama Administration on Arizona Immigration Law

By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

The United States Supreme Court struck down three of the four provisions of Arizona’s anti-illegal immigration law, the Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act (SB 1070).  The Supreme Court ruled that state and local law enforcement can ask to see someone’s documents, however the Court rejected three provisions of the law that 1) made it a crime under Arizona law for immigrants without work permits to seek employment 2) made it a crime for immigrants to fail to carry registration documents and 3) authorized the police to arrest any immigrant they believe has committed a deportable offense.

The Arizona never claimed that they had the authority to actually deport anyone.  Everyone acknowledged that that is solely the Constitutional purview of the Federal Government, however the court struck down the principle that states may make laws which mirror federal immigration law.

Reaction to the ruling has been understandably mixed.

Arizona’s two Senator’s John McCain (R) and Jon Kyl (R) released this statement following the Supreme Court’s decision:  “While we still want to fully review the Supreme Court’s decision, today’s ruling appears to validate a key component of Arizona’s immigration law, SB 1070. The Arizona law was born out of the state’s frustration with the burdens that illegal immigration and continued drug smuggling impose on its schools, hospitals, criminal justice system and fragile desert environment, and an Administration that chooses to set enforcement policies based on a political agenda, not the laws as written by Congress. We will continue our efforts on behalf of the citizens of Arizona to secure our southern border. We believe Arizonans are better served when state and federal officials work as partners to protect our citizens rather than as litigants in a courtroom.”

The Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the often criticized “show me your papers” provision of the statute is indeed constitutional.  Local police and sheriff’s departments can indeed actually perform the controversial paper checks; but without an enforcement mechanism it is unclear what that can actually accomplish.

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer called the decision a “victory for all Americans” and said that the heart of the bill can go forward.

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Mary Bauer, legal director for the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), called the decision a blow for all of the state immigration laws.  The SPLC is suing the state of Alabama to overturn Alabama’s own anti-illegal immigration law, HB 56.

Alabama, Georgia, Utah, Indiana, and South Carolina have all passed similar laws to the Arizona Law.  Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange said in a written statement, “The Court, in this landmark decision, provides guidance on the validity of Arizona’s immigration law which will impact Alabama’s immigration law along with those of several other states.”

AG. Strange continued, “Illegal immigration is a serious issue facing states across our nation, and it has been addressed by state legislatures in various ways. Hopefully today’s decision will spur the federal government to enforce the rule of law in the immigration arena. My office will be reviewing today’s decision to determine the full extent of its impact on Alabama’s law and the pending litigation.”

The decision was 5-3 with the decision being written by Justice Kennedy.

Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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