Supreme Court Strikes Down Most of Arizona Anti-immigration Law

Posted By Levi

June 25th, 2012 8:32pm

Category: Immigration

Today, the United States Supreme Court struck down most of the draconian Arizona anti-immigration law that was passed two years ago.  The law, one of the harshest in the nation, requires the police to check the immigration status of anyone it suspects of being an illegal immigrant. It also made it a crime for anyone to live and work in Arizona without legal papers. Anyone not having the proper papers could be arrested, detained and deported.

The law was aimed primarily at Latinos who made up the largest proportion of illegal immigrants in the state. Critics of the law argue that it would result in racial profiling. How can a police officer standing on the corner tell the difference between a legal and an illegal immigrant?

The Arizona law inspired several other states to enact similar laws. Opponents of the law, backed by the Obama administration, took the case all the way to the Supreme Court.

The Court struck down three of the four provisions ruling that they were unconstitutional. The federal government argued that immigration is a federal responsibility and, by attempting to implement its own immigration law, Arizona violated the Constitution. The Court ruled that Arizona could not make it a crime for an undocumented person to live or work in Arizona and that police could not conduct a warrantless arrest of anyone whom they believe may have broken immigration laws.  In other words, if someone violates immigration law, it is the federal government, not Arizona, has the right to punish such individual. Can you imagine what would happen if every state has the right to make its own immigration law?

However, it left standing the “show me your papers please” provision that allows police to stop and demand to see the papers of anyone they believe to be an illegal immigrant. Even though this provision could lead to racial profiling, the Court said that because the law was not yet in force, it could not determine whether or not it would be discriminatory.

The Court left open the possibility that it could reopen the case if it can be proven that the remaining part of the law is being used in a discriminatory manner.

The history of the United States is in part made of the stories, talents and lasting contributions of those who crossed oceans and deserts to come here,” Justice Kennedy wrote. “The National Government has significant power to regulate immigration. With power comes responsibility, and the sound exercise of national power over immigration depends on the Nation’s meeting its responsibility to base its laws on a political will informed by searching, thoughtful, rational civic discourse. 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.”

Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas each wrote separately to say they would have upheld all four parts of the law.

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