The Spectacle Blog

Supreme Court Strikes Down, Upholds Parts of Arizona Immigration Law

By on 6.25.12 | 10:39AM

In Arizona v. the United States, the Supreme Court has ruled that Arizona police can check the immigration status of suspected illegal immigrants -- the part of SB 1070 some have feared would lead to racial profiling of Hispanics -- but cannot make federal immigration violations crimes under state law. So while the heart of SB 1070 stands, the Obama administration has scored two big victories: 1.) a state law can be preempted even when it has the "same aim as federal law and adopts its substantive standards" and 2.) the federal government has wide discretion in how to enforce immigration law.

This second point is pretty important in light of the Obama administration's recent decision to stop deporting a subset of illegal immigrants, asserting the power to set enforcement priorities and exercise discretion. On paper, this makes a legal challenge to the Obama amnesty edict look daunting. This will also impact Arizona-like laws, as the court has ruled, "Permitting the State to impose its own penalties for the federal offenses here would conflict with the careful framewrk Congress adopted."

The immigration decision was written by Justice Anthony Kennedy and joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Sonia Sotomayor with Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, and Samuel Alito dissenting in part and concurring in part.

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