Supreme Court Will Consider Controversial Immigration Law

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The U.S. Supreme Court, at the request of Arizona governor Jan Brewer, has granted certiorari to an appeal in a lawsuit by the federal government challenging Arizona’s controversial 2010 immigration statute. By agreeing to hear the case, the Court is putting the issue center stage in its docket for a presidential election year. It will likely hear oral argument in the case in April 2012, and should issue a decision next summer.

Governor Brewer signed the Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act into law on April 23, 2010. The law requires law enforcement to check a person’s immigration status in certain situations, and it empowers police to detain and arrest a person without a warrant if they have probable cause to believe the person is undocumented and has committed an offense that would make them removable from the U.S. It places a considerable amount of responsibility on state and local law enforcement for enforcing immigration laws, which are set exclusively at the federal level. Supporters of the law say it is necessary to combat crime and other problems resulting from increased levels of illegal immigration into the state, and to make up for the federal government’s purported inaction in enforcing its own laws. Critics point out the lack of guidelines as to how law enforcement makes determinations as to who might be undocumented. Racial profiling and harassment of Hispanics and other minority groups, they argue, are the inevitable results of the law.

The Obama administration, for its part, has announced a policy of focusing immigration enforcement efforts on people with serious criminal histories and people who pose a clear threat to national security. People who have lived in the United States for a long period of time and have generally followed the law are deemed low-priority under this policy. Arizona’s approach of potentially treating everyone as a possible undocumented immigrant is at odds with the White House’s policy. The U.S. Constitution specifically gives Congress power over setting immigration policy, and the federal government has long had primary control over immigration law.

The U.S. Department of Justice filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona on July 6, 2010 challenging the constitutionality of the Arizona law, seeking an injunction preventing its enforcement, and requesting an order holding that federal immigration law preempts the Arizona statute. The U.S. requested a preliminary injunction, which a federal judge granted on July 28. Arizona requested and obtained an expedited appeal to the Ninth Circuit. The appellate court issued its ruling on April 11, 2011, in which it upheld the trial court’s injunction. An appeal of the Ninth Circuit’s ruling will now go to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The case presents important issues of federal versus statue authority, and the ability of federal law to preempt conflicting state laws. It will also impact other controversial state immigration laws and affect how states considering their own immigration laws will proceed. Several states filed amicus briefs in support of Arizona, and several Latin American countries field amicus briefs supporting the Justice Department.

Ohio immigration visa lawyer Gus Shihab helps people seeking to visit or immigrate to the United States in understanding the often complex processes involved. For a free and confidential consultation, contact him through his website or at (800) 625-3404.

More Blog Posts

Alabama Immigration Law Shows More Unintended Consequences After Arrest of German Businessman, Immigration Visa Lawyer Blog, December 7, 2011

Obama Administration’s New Policy on “Low Priority” Immigration Offenders Draws Criticism, Immigration Visa Lawyer Blog, November 17, 2011

> Controversy Over State Immigration Laws Comes to Ohio, Immigration Visa Lawyer Blog, November 15, 2011

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