How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Which way Arizona? The prognosis on SB 1070

On Wednesday, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Arizona v. United States, Arizona’s challenge to the federal government’s assertion that the state anti-illegal immigration law SB 1070 conflicts with federal law. The justices are weighing four provisions of the law, blocked by a federal judge just before it took effect in July 2010.

These are Section 2(B), which requires police to try to determine the status of people they encounter if there is "reasonable suspicion" that they are in the country illegally and requires them to check the status of those they arrest; Section 3, which makes it a state crime to be without valid immigration papers; Section 5(C), which makes it a state crime to work or seek employment in Arizona without valid work authorization; and Section 6, which empowers local police to arrest someone without a warrant if there is "probable cause" that the person committed a deportable offense.

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What the judges said: A transcript of today's Supreme Court hearing on SB 1070

The U.S. Supreme Court's website has posted a preliminary transcript of the oral arguments today in Arizona v. United States, Arizona's challenge to the federal government's assertion that its 2010 anti-illegal immigration law SB 1070 conflicts with federal immigration law.

Four provisions of SB 1070, which were blocked in July 2010 by a federal judge before it took effect, are at the heart of the federal preemption argument and will be weighed by the justices.

A decision isn't expected until June. But from early reports from the courthouse, and from the questions asked by the justices, it appears that Arizona stands a chance of prevailing, at least on some provisions. This line of questioning between Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Antonin Scalia and U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, who is representing the federal government, sets the tone:

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Understanding the SB 1070 case: What the Supreme Court justices will decide on

Photo by Kitty Felde/KPCC

The crowd outside the U.S. Supreme Court building this morning in Washington, D.C., April 25, 2012

The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments this morning on Arizona's controversial and precedent-setting SB 1070. A decision isn't expected until June, but how the justices decide will ultimately determine how far states can go in enforcing their own immigration laws. The decision will have far-reaching implications in that since SB 1070 became law in 2010, five other states have enacted similarly stringent immigration laws, and dozens have considered them.

Just what will the justices be weighing? In a nutshell, they'll be deciding whether provisions of Arizona's state law are in conflict with federal immigration law, as the government asserted in its legal challenge filed in July 2010, shortly before SB 1070 partly took effect.

On the eve of the law's implementation that year, a federal judge in Phoenix issued a ruling based on that challenge, blocking four of the Arizona measure's most controversial provisions from taking effect. That decision was upheld later by a federal appeals court. Arizona countered by petitioning the Supreme Court, challenging the two lower courts' decisions; last December, the high court agreed to take the case.

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