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Supreme Court Decides on More than Health Care
Supreme Court Decides on More than Health Care

The U.S. Supreme Court decision on the 2010 health care law may be the most consequential decision of the year, but it was just one in a flurry of decisions announced at the end of the session.

Arizona Immigration Law

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Arizona overstepped its bounds with its immigration law. But the court said that the most controversial part of the bill—a requirement that police verify the immigration status of those they suspect of being in the country illegally—could stand, at least for now.

S.B. 1070 included many changes and reforms to Arizona's immigration law. Most of these have already gone into effect, but the Supreme Court ruled on the four sections of the law that were blocked by a lower court:

Arizona's S.B. 1070 previously:

1. Required police to verify the citizenship or immigration status of those they arrest for other crimes and allowed police to arrest those they suspect to be undocumented immigrants;

2. Made it an Arizona crime for someone to be in the state without immigration papers;

3. Made it a crime to apply for a job or work in the state without valid papers; and

4. Gave police the power to arrest someone if they believed the person could be deported for a crime.

The Supreme Court ruled that only Section 2(B), the first of these four provisions, may stand, allowing Arizona to require state and local police to verify the immigration status of those they suspect are in the country illegally. The Supreme Court ruled that the three other provisions infringe on the federal government's power to set immigration law.

"By striking down the major provisions of S.B. 1070, the Supreme Court of the United States affirmed the values that make this nation great, and in essence initiated the process of establishing a legal firewall against draconian measures as it pertains to immigration," Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, said in a press release.

Jay Sekulow, chief counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice, disagreed with the court in a brief that said all four provisions should be upheld. Section 2(B) allows Arizona to enforce federal law when the federal government is not fully enforcing its immigration laws, Sekulow argued.

"Scholars, pundits, and politicians from all corners are sure to spin the Court's decision in various ways, but the importance of the Court's holding concerning Section 2(B) cannot be denied," Sekulow said. "It not only affirms a level of State sovereignty to enact provisions like Section 2(B), but it also [at least indirectly] reestablishes that Congress, not the Executive Branch, is the ultimate source of federal immigration policy."

The "show me your papers" provision goes into effect for now. The court decided that, on its face, the law was not problematic because state and local police already have the power under federal law to verify the immigration status of those they have stopped or arrested. The Arizona law simply requires police to do this. If this law is not implemented properly, however, the court said the law may not stand.

"It is not clear at this stage and on this record that Section 2(B), in practice, will require state officers to delay the release of detainees for no reason other than to verify their immigration status," the court's ruling states. "This would raise constitutional concerns. And it would disrupt the federal framework to put state officers in the position of holding aliens in custody for possible unlawful presence without federal direction and supervision."

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Supreme Court Decides on More than Health Care