Supreme Court strikes down key provisions on Arizona’s SB 1070, but uphelds policy to check papers

The United States Supreme Court determined that three sections of the controversial anti-immigrant law in Arizona, SB 1070, are preempted by federal law and therefore were stroke down. However, the court left standing only the “check your papers” part of the law that requires state and local police to check immigration status of people they’ve stopped or detained if a “reasonable suspicion” exists they are in the country illegally. The Court ruled that immigration status checks do not interfere with the federal immigration scheme since it considers consultation between federal and state officials.

When the hearings on that key provision occurred back in April, federal judges Sonia Sotomayor, Anthony Kennedy, and Samuel Alito appeared troubled by the SB 1070’s provision to allow local law enforcement to detain someone until their immigration status was confirmed.

Arizona’s lawyer, Paul Clement, responded that a person could be held for “reasonable time” and that immigration check takes an average of 11 minutes. A lower court blocked key parts of the law immigration policy because the Justice Department made the argument that it interfered with the federal government’s authority to set immigration policy. The federal government never presented the argument of racial profiling as immigration activists have denounced, reported the website Politico.

Arizona’s Governor Jan Brewer considered the Supreme Court ruling “a victory for the rule of law” on a written statement. In her opinion, SB 1070 supports the rule of law, including other laws against illegal immigration and racial profiling. Brewer noted that “law enforcement will  be held accountable should this statute be misused in a fashion that violates an individual’s civil rights.”

Other three sections of Arizona´s SB 1070 were stroke down on the argument of federal preemption. Section 3, which required immigrants to register in a state list, was struck down because t is responsibility of the federal government to create a single integrated and all-embracing registration system. In the same way, section 5 imposes criminal and civil penalties on employers who knowingly hire, recruit, refer, or continue to employ unauthorized workers. The Supreme Court ruled that it is inappropriate to impose criminal penalties on employers or unauthorized employees and that a state law on this matter would be an obstacle to the regulatory system that Congress chose.

The Supreme Court also ruled that it is not “a crime for a removable alien to remain in the United States.” Therefore, SB 1070 which considered “warrantless arrests of immigrants” suspected of being removable represents “an obstacle to federal law.”

The Supreme Court cited that according to federal law, the Attorney General can issue a warrant for trained federal immigration officers to execute but those officers can only arrest an alien only when the immigrant is “likely to escape before a warrant can be obtained.”


About tanialara

Tania Lara has a vast experience working as a journalist in Mexico and the U.S. reporting in-depth about the economic contributions and realities of Mexican immigrants. This summer, she will be covering border issues and elections for the 21st Century Border Initiative blog. Her stories about complex cross border matters have been published in Spanish-language media outlets including CNN México, Expansión, and ¡Ahora Sí!, as well as the English-language newspaper The Austin American-Statesman.
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