U.S. Supreme Court strikes down key portions of Arizona immigration lawby Dara Kam | June 25th, 2012
The Supreme Court struck down key portions of Arizona’s controversial illegal immigration law, handing a partial victory to President Obama’s administration.
The majority ruled that that giving state or local law enforcement the power to detain and question people could result in “unnecessary harassment.”
The Arizona law (SB 1070) would have given law enforcement the power to detain and question the immigration status of someone they believed was in the country illegally. The court ruled that immigration matters are strictly a federal function. The Arizona law would have required police to check the immigration status of anyone who is arrested.
“Under state law, officers who believe an alien is removable by reason of some ‘public offense’ would have the power to conduct an arrest on that basis regardless of whether a federal warrant has issued or the alien is likely to escape,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the 5-3 opinion.
“This would allow the State to achieve its own immigration policy. The result could be unnecessary harassment of some aliens (for instance, a veteran, college student, or someone assisting with a criminal investigation) whom federal officials determine should not be removed,” the ruling reads. “This is not the system Congress created.”
The court did uphold one of the most controversial portions of the law, that requires local law enforcement officers to check a person’s immigration status while enforcing other laws if there is “reasonable suspicion” that they are in the country illegally.
The justices also said that provision, however, could be subject to additional legal challenges. Civil liberties groups are challenging that portion of the law in Arizona courts, arguing that it could lead to racial profiling.
Chief Justice John Roberts joined Kennedy and Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor in the majority. Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito concurred in part and dissented in part. Justice Elena Kagan, who served as Obama’s solicitor general, had recused herself from the Arizona case.