Supreme Court Splits its Decision on Arizona Immigration Law

The Supreme Court delivered a split decision in the Obama administration’s challenge to Arizona’s aggressive immigration law on Monday, striking multiple provisions but upholding the “papers please” provision.

The Supreme Court on Monday upheld the main provision of Arizona's crackdown on illegal immigrants but threw out three other parts, handing partial victories to President Barack Obama in his challenge to the law and to the measure's conservative supporters. Photo: Trevor Owens/Flickr

On Monday The Supreme Court upheld a key part of Arizona’s tough anti-illegal immigration law in a 5-3 decision that allows police officers to ask about immigration status during stops.

That part of the law, which never went into effect because of court challenges, will now immediately be enforced in Arizona, according to Yahoo.

Some other parts of the law, including a provision that made it a state crime for illegal immigrants to seek work, will remain blocked, as the justices affirmed the federal government’s supremacy over immigration policy.

The votes on those provisions were 5-3 or 6-2, with the more conservative justices in dissent.

The mixed decision vindicated the Obama administration’s aggressive challenge to laws passed by Arizona and the five states — Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, South Carolina and Utah — that followed its lead in attempting to deal with illegal immigration in the face of federal inaction on comprehensive reform.

“I am pleased that the Supreme Court has struck down key provisions of Arizona’s immigration law,” President Obama said in a statement.

“No American should ever live under a cloud of suspicion just because of what they look like,” the president said in a written statement.

“What this decision makes unmistakably clear is that Congress must act on comprehensive immigration reform,” Obama said.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, the court’s swing vote, wrote the opinion, and was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts, Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor.

“Arizona may have understandable frustrations with the problems caused by illegal immigration while that process continues, but the state may not pursue policies that undermine federal law,” Kennedy said.

Arizona Republican Governor Jan Brewer, who has championed the measure, called the decision “a victory for the rule of law” and said her state will implement it fairly and without resorting to racial profiling, reports Reuters.

Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas each wrote a separate statement to say they would have upheld all four of S.B. 1070’s challenged provisions. Justice Samuel Alito wrote that he would have upheld all but the provision that criminalized an immigrant’s failure to register with federal authorities, says The Huff Post.

The Obama administration sued to block Arizona’s law, called SB1070, after it passed two years ago, claiming that it interfered with federal authority over immigration.

The law made it a state crime for illegal immigrants to seek work or fail to carry proper immigration papers and required police officers to check immigration status and make warrantless arrests for immigration crimes in some cases.

Critics have said that the law could lead to illegal racial or ethnic profiling of Hispanics in Arizona, as Hispanics are the largest U.S. minority group, representing 16 percent of the population. Most U.S. illegal immigrants are Hispanics.

Barack Obama has vowed to push for comprehensive immigration legislation if re-elected.

Arizona became the first of half a dozen U.S. states to adopt laws to drive illegal immigrants out. About 360,000 of the country’s illegal immigrants, or 3 percent, reside in Arizona. Most of the state’s nearly 2 million Hispanics are in the country legally.

Opinion polls show Hispanic voters overwhelmingly support Obama.

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