by Lisa Soronen
Yesterday the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Arizona v. United States. The Court will be deciding whether federal law preempts four provisions of Arizona’s immigration law. As NCSL’s Ann Morse pointed out to CNN, “[e]very state is dealing with immigration,” making this case relevant to state legislatures nationally. See if your state’s immigration law is similar to Arizona’s here.
Supreme Court reporters and observers seem to agree the Court will uphold the portion of Arizona’s law requiring police to check the immigration status of anyone stopped or arrested when there is “reasonable suspicion” the person is here unlawfully. If the federal government does not want to pursue deporting someone, Justice Roberts pointed out, it doesn’t have to. But several justices seemed concerned about the amount of time it would take to confirm someone’s immigration status.
Tom Goldstein predicts, in a SCOTUS blog posting, a possible unanimous ruling in favor of Arizona’s law, on the above issue as well as on whether immigrants can be arrested without a warrant if there is probable cause to believe they have committed a removable offense.
Because the Court focused so much time on the issue of police checking immigration status, reporters and court watchers seem less certain about the fate of the law’s provisions making it a crime for non-citizens to not carry documents proving they are here lawfully to seek work or hold a job. Both liberal and conservative justices appeared skeptical of these provisions.
Everyone agrees Justice Scalia is Arizona’s most staunch supporter. The Wall Street Journal blog described Kennedy as “not the easiest to read on the bench today.” Justice Kagan recused herself from the case. If the Court votes 4-4 on any issue, the Ninth Circuit’s ruling (against Arizona on all provisions) will stand.
According to NPR, George Washington Law Professor Jonathan Turley calls this Supreme Court term “the most significant term in the history of the court in defining federalism.” Stay tuned ... the Court will rule these cases by the last week of June.
Lisa Soronen is the executive director of the State & Local Legal Center in Washington, D.C.