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The Great Showdown: The Supreme Court, Arizona, and Immigration

On June 25th, the Supreme Court issued its decision in what will prove to be one of the most important cases in our country’s immigration history. Arizona v. United States considered the Constitutionality of SB1070, an Arizona state law granting state police unprecedented authority to identify and arrest illegal immigrants within its borders.

The law was championed by (now former) Arizona State Senator Russell Pearce, who is known as one of the nation’s most vocal adversaries of illegal immigration. Pearce and his followers cite to two primary concerns about illegal immigration: (1) they believe that illegal Mexican immigrants are stealing jobs from U.S. citizens living in Arizona, and (2) that the Mexican drug war, which by all accounts is violently out of control, is spilling into the United States and, specifically, across Arizona’s borders.
On April 23, 2010, SB1070 was passed into law. However, after a contentious battle, challengers of the novel new law convinced the Supreme Court to get involved. On Monday, the Court struck down several provisions of SB1070 law. Now, with the recently failed election bid of the law’s creator, former Senator Pearce, the political crusade against Arizona’s illegal immigration has been tempered.
What the High Court Struck Down
Three extremely contentious provisions of SB1070 were struck down by the high court. Section 6 allowed police, in certain cases, to make warrantless arrest of individuals suspected of being illegal immigrants. Section 3 made it a crime for legal immigrants to be present in the state of Arizona without valid immigration papers. Finally,  Section 5(c) imposed criminal penalties on illegal immigrants who seek or accept work in the United States without authorization. All three of these provisions of the law were preempted by federal immigration laws, and therefore struck down by the Court.
What the High Court Upheld
The Supreme Court did, however, maintain what Arizona Governor Jan Brewer called the “heart” of the law: Section 2(b) allows Arizona state police are permitted to investigate the legality of individuals if they do so while enforcing other laws.
State vs. Federal Sovereignty
In several cases throughout American history, civil rights law has boiled down to states’ policing power v. the powers that the Constitution expressly grants to the federal government. In Arizona v. United States, the U.S. Supreme Court has attempted to clarify the circumstances in which immigration enforcement – which has traditionally been a federal power – can justifiably be carried out by states as part of their policing powers. One way or another this decision will have far reaching implications in the world of civil rights law.
If you feel your civil rights as an immigrant have been violated, call the Law Offices of Valli, Kane & Vagnini for a free consultation.

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