Supreme Court strikes down 3 key elements of SB 1070, upholds 4thPosted: Updated:
WASHINGTON -- The Supreme Court on Monday released its decision on Arizona's controversial immigration law known as SB 1070. The decision was split with the court upholding some parts of the law while rejecting others.
At the heart of Arizona v. U.S., 11-182 is the issue of whether an individual state can deal with illegal immigration as it sees fit or if immigration falls squarely -- and solely -- in federal jurisdiction.
Justice Anthony Kennedy delivered the opinion.
"Arizona may have understandable frustrations with the problems caused by illegal immigration while that process continues, but the state may not pursue policies that undermine federal law," he said.
The court struck down key parts of SB 1070, voting 5-3 that the federal government has the power to block the state's measure. The ruling is a significant win for the Obama administration.
Three of the four provisions that gave SB 1070 some serious teeth were deemed unconstitutional.
Based on the opinion, illegal immigrants will not have to register with the state and carry papers with them at all times, the state cannot prosecute the crime of illegal immigration, and it cannot be a state crime for undocumented immigrants to apply for jobs.
The one part of of the law the court deemed constitutional involved the provision requiring police to check the status of criminals or traffic violators they suspect are not in the United States legally. While that portion of the law can be implemented, the justices said the provision could be subject to additional legal challenges.
The decision upholds the "show me your papers" requirement for the moment. But it takes the teeth out of it by prohibiting police officers from arresting people on minor immigration charges.
"What the Supreme Court upheld today, that key provision was the worst provision. It was the poison pill in this legislation," said former state Rep. Ben Miranda, who has opposed SB 1070 since its inception. "It allows a police officer simply to apply his standard for suspicion in terms of who is here and who is not here with legal documentation. ... I'm opposed to giving law enforcement so much power."
Gov. Jan Brewer issued the following statement shortly after the court issued its opinion:
“Today’s decision by the U.S. Supreme Court is a victory for the rule of law. It is also a victory for the 10th Amendment and all Americans who believe in the inherent right and responsibility of states to defend their citizens. After more than two years of legal challenges, the heart of SB 1070 can now be implemented in accordance with the U.S. Constitution.
“While we are grateful for this legal victory, today is an opportunity to reflect on our journey and focus upon the true task ahead: the implementation and enforcement of this law in an even-handed manner that lives up to our highest ideals as American citizens. I know the State of Arizona and its law enforcement officers are up to the task. The case for SB 1070 has always been about our support for the rule of law. That means every law, including those against both illegal immigration and racial profiling. Law enforcement will be held accountable should this statute be misused in a fashion that violates an individual’s civil rights.
“The last two years have been spent in preparation for this ruling. Upon signing SB 1070 in 2010, I issued an Executive Order directing the Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training Board (AZ POST) to develop and provide training to ensure our officers are prepared to enforce this law efficiently, effectively and in a manner consistent with the Constitution. In recent days, in anticipation of this decision, I issued a new Executive Order asking that this training be made available once again to all of Arizona’s law enforcement officers. I am confident our officers are prepared to carry out this law responsibly and lawfully. Nothing less is acceptable.
“Of course, today’s ruling does not mark the end of our journey. It can be expected that legal challenges to SB 1070 and the State of Arizona will continue. Our critics are already preparing new litigation tactics in response to their loss at the Supreme Court, and undoubtedly will allege inequities in the implementation of the law. As I said two years ago on the day I signed SB 1070 into law, ‘We cannot give them that chance. We must use this new tool wisely, and fight for our safety with the honor Arizona deserves.’”
Five states - Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, South Carolina and Utah - have adopted variations on Arizona's law. Parts of those laws also are on hold pending the outcome of the Supreme Court case.
With the exception of allowing the provision allowing police to do immigration status checks, the opinion was not unanimous.
Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor joined all of Kennedy's opinion.
Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas would have allowed all the challenged provisions to take effect. Justice Samuel Alito would have allowed police to arrest undocumented immigrants who seek work, and also make arrests without warrants.
Justice Elena Kagan recused herself because of her previous work in Obama's administration.
The Phoenix City Council and Phoenix Police Chief Daniel Garcia will host an informational town hall meeting on the Supreme Court's SB 1070 ruling at 6 p.m. in the auditorium of Carl Hayden High School, 3333 W. Roosevelt St.
SB 1070 history
Gov. Jan Brewer signed SB 1070, authored by recalled state Sen. Russell Pearce, into law two years ago, touching off a series of protests and legal battles.
The strictest anti illegal-immigration law in the country, SB 1070 went into effect in late July 2010, but only partially. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals blocked several key components of the law.
On April 25, the court heard arguments on the sections of the controversial law that were put on hold by the lower courts. Those include:
- The section requiring non-citizens to carry "alien registration papers" at all times;
- The provision allowing the state of Arizona the authority to prosecute for the crime of illegal immigration, currently a federal crime;
- The section requiring police officers in Arizona to ask suspected criminals or traffic violators about their immigration status, when they have "reasonable suspicion" that the person is here illegally;
- The provision making it a crime for undocumented immigrants to seek work or apply for jobs.
Protesters gathered both in Washington and in Arizona as justices heard attorneys for both sides argue their points.
Arizona contends that with its 370-mile border with Mexico, it has paid a disproportionate price for illegal immigration. It says its 2010 law is consistent with federal immigration policy.
The administration says the law, and Arizona's approach of maximum enforcement, conflict with a more nuanced federal immigration policy that seeks to balance national security, law enforcement, foreign policy, human rights and the rights of law-abiding citizens and immigrants.
Now that the opinion has been released
Arizona's Hispanic community is naturally particularly interested in the Supreme Court's decision.
"They want to know how 1070 will be implemented and affect their rights," said Daniel Rodriguez of Somos America last week. "And we also have a lot of citizens who want to know if they'll have to carry papers now."
Expecting many questions as soon as the Supreme Court decision is announced, a group called Respect-Respeto will be staffing a phone bank. That phone number is 1-855-RESPETO (1-855-737-7386).
Associated Press writer Mark Sherman contributed to this report.