Arizona Immigration Law at SCOTUS
Arizona v. United States takes the spotlight at the Supreme Court on Wednesday, April 25. This highly anticipated argument will clarify issues spanning from civil rights to federalism. The main thrust of the Court’s review is centered on the issue of preemption; the constitutional fact that federal law takes precedence over state law. Part of the Court’s task will be to determine when federal law can justifiably preempt state law.
The Court will determine the constitutionality of four provisions of Arizona’s SB 1070 immigration law: 1) Law enforcement officers are required to try to determine the immigration status of any individual they arrest or routinely stop if they have reason to believe that person is undocumented; 2) The act of failing to register as undocumented under federal law is criminalized; 3) Undocumented immigrants are prohibited by law from obtaining or trying to obtain work; and 4) Arizona police officers have the power to make unwarranted arrests if they have probable cause to determine that an individual has engaged in deportable activity under federal law.
The United States argues that it has complete power over immigration policy in all of the states by the power invested in it by the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution. Moreover, immigration is considered a component of foreign policy, which is indisputably under the jurisdiction of the federal government.
Arizona on the other hand, argues that the broken immigration system gives it the legal space to rectify the problem for itself, but also that SB 1070 is meant to cooperate with federal law enforcement.
Leading up to this historic case, a federal district judge issued a preliminary injunction against the above provisions, maintaining that federal law preempted Arizona’s law. The Department of Justice (DOJ) sued to block the state’s law, and last year the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upheld the preliminary injunction. Arizona responded with a writ of certiorari in which it claimed there was urgent need for the implementation of its immigration law. Unsurprisingly, the DOJ opposed the Supreme Court’s decision to review the law.
How the Court will rule on this tug-of-war between states and the federal government is to be determined, but what should not be overlooked is the fact that the provisions in SB 1070 have the effect of threatening the civil rights of Americans by encouraging racial profiling and stripping individuals of equal protection under the law.