US Supreme Court Rules on Arizona Immigration Law

On June 25, 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling in Arizona v. United States.  The Court was charged with deciding whether four provisions of Arizona’s omnibus immigration law – SB 1070 – are preempted by federal law.  Ultimately, the decision struck down portions of the law and upheld a controversial provision requiring police to investigate immigration status of individuals stopped or detained.

The Court upheld Section 2(B), requiring law enforcement officers to determine immigration status during a lawful stop.  This provision, known as the “show me your papers” provision of the law, requires police to demand immigration “papers” and investigate immigration status if the police suspect a person is undocumented.

The Court struck down the following three provisions of the law:

  • Section 3, creating a state crime for the failure to apply for or carry federally issued alien registration papers.
  • Section 5, making it unlawful for an unauthorized alien to solicit, apply for or perform work.
  • Section 6, authorizing the warrantless arrest of a person where there is probable cause to believe the person to have committed a public offense that makes the person removable from the United States.

These three provisions were ultimately struck down by the Court because they unlawfully interfered with the federal government’s exclusive power over federal immigration law. However, leaving the “show me your papers” provision of the law untouched may lead to unlawful racial profiling and civil rights violations by law enforcement officials.  Indeed, the Court acknowledged that this provision might be subject to other federal preemption and constitutional challenges as the law is interpreted and applied after it goes into effect.

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By Monica Guizar

Legal Developments