Supreme Court Divided On Arizona Immigration Law Ruling
A divided Supreme Court threw out major parts of Arizona's tough crackdown on illegal immigrants Monday in a ruling sure to reverberate through the November elections. According to Associated Press reporting, the justices unanimously approved the law's most-discussed provision — requiring police to check the immigration status of those they stop for other reasons — but limited the consequences.
Although upholding the "show me your papers" requirement, which some critics say could lead to ethnic profiling, the justices struck down provisions that created state crimes allowing local police to arrest people for federal immigration violations. And they warned against detaining people for any prolonged period merely for not having proper immigration papers.
A divided court struck down these three major provisions:
• Requiring all immigrants to obtain or carry immigration registration papers.
• Making it a state criminal offense for an illegal immigrant to seek work or hold a job.
• Allowing police to arrest suspected illegal immigrants without warrants.
The vote was 6-2 against making it a state crime not to carry immigration papers and 5-3 against the other two provisions.
The mixed outcome vindicated the Obama administration's aggressive challenge to laws passed by Arizona and the five states — Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, South Carolina and Utah — that followed its lead in attempting to deal with illegal immigration in the face of federal inaction on comprehensive reform.
The administration had assailed the Arizona law as an unconstitutional intrusion into an area under federal control.
The Arizona decision landed in the middle of a presidential campaign in which President Barack Obama has been heavily courting Latino voters and Republican challenger Mitt Romney has been struggling to win Latino support. During a drawn-out primary campaign, Romney and the other GOP candidates mostly embraced a hard line on the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants, though Romney has lately taken a softer tone.
President Barack Obama said he was pleased that the court struck down key parts of Arizona's law but was concerned about what the high court left intact.
"No American should ever live under a cloud of suspicion just because of what they look like," the president said in a written statement. He said police in Arizona should not enforce the provision in a way that undermines civil rights.
"What this decision makes unmistakably clear is that Congress must act on comprehensive immigration reform," Obama said.
In Scottsdale, Ariz., later Monday, Romney said he would have preferred that the court "give more latitude to the states" in immigration enforcement.
Romney told campaign donors that the law has "become a muddle" and that the states have more options to enforce their own immigration laws.
Earlier, he said in a statement, "I believe that each state has the duty — and the right — to secure our borders and preserve the rule of law, particularly when the federal government has failed to meet its responsibilities."
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Click here for additional information on state immigration laws.
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