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Witness testimony from today's Senate hearing on SB 1070

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A protester holds a union anti-SB 1070 sign, May 1, 2010

A Senate Judiciary Committee hearing this morning on the constitutionality of Arizona's SB 1070 and state immigration laws in general brought some heated testimony, with witnesses that included former Arizona state Sen. Russell Pearce, the controversial anti-illegal immigration law's chief sponsor.

Oral arguments are set for tomorrow as the U.S. Supreme Court takes on Arizona v. United States, an appeal brought by Arizona that challenges the federal government's assertion that immigration enforcement is the province of federal officials, and that SB 1070 is therefore preempted by federal immigration law. The Senate hearing today was much less relevant in the larger sense than whatever the high court will decide, but the arguments were interesting. Here are some highlights from today's witness testimony.


The legacy of SB 1070: Three ways it changed the immigration landscape

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Anti-SB 1070 protesters in downtown Phoenix on the day the law took effect, July 29, 2010

Two years ago today, Arizona's Gov. Jan Brewer signed into law a bill known as SB 1070. Already, the strict anti-illegal immigration bill had caused heated debate in and out of Arizona, most notably because it would make it a misdemeanor to lack proper immigration documents in the state - and because it would empower local police to check for immigration status if they had “reasonable suspicion” that someone was in the country illegally.

Back then, I wrote about the broad implications that SB 1070 would likely have. Would there be a political ripple effect, with other states considering similar laws? Would some immigrants decide they'd had enough and leave the state? Would it change the political discourse on immigration, with politicians basing their platforms on strict policies? And if tested in court, would it hold up?


SB 1070 in the Supreme Court: Three views of what may happen and what it would mean

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Two years after it was signed into law and many imitations later, Arizona's precedent-setting SB 1070 anti-illegal immigration law is headed to the U.S. Supreme Court next week. The high court, with one justice recused, is set to hear oral arguments April 25.

The federal government filed suit against the state of Arizona not long after SB 1070 was signed into law April 23, 2010, challenging the measure on the grounds that its provisions were “preempted” by federal immigration law. That July, on the eve of its implementation, four controversial provisions of the law - including one that empowered local police to check for immigration status based on "reasonable suspicion" that a person may be undocumented - were blocked by a federal judge in Phoenix.

After a federal appeals court upheld the lower court judge's decision, Arizona filed a petition with the Supreme Court: "The question presented," the petition reads, "is whether the federal im-migration laws preclude Arizona’s efforts at cooperative law enforcement and impliedly preempt these four provisions of S.B. 1070 on their face."


Now that the Supreme Court has taken up SB 1070, what happens next?

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On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court announced that it would take up an appeal by the state of Arizona regarding SB 1070, the state's controversial and trend-setting 2010 anti-illegal immigration law that has since inspired similar laws in other states. Before it was implemented in July of last year, a federal judge in Arizona blocked some of SB 1070's main provisions, including one that would empower local police to check the immigration status of people they suspect of being in the country illegally.

The Supreme Court justices won’t be weighing the merits of SB 1070, but rather the merits of the lower federal court judge’s decision, made pending a constitutional challenge from the Obama administration filed shortly before the law took effect and since upheld in appeals court. That lawsuit asserts that immigration law is the domain of the federal government, pre-empting state attempts to set their own rules.


What the Supreme Court's review of the SB 1070 case means

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The U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C., July 2008

After a federal judge in Arizona blocked portions of the state's then-new SB 1070 anti-illegal immigration law last year, among other things putting on hold a provision that would empower police to check the immigration status of people suspected of being in the country illegally, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer vowed to fight the decision all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. And it's there that the case has now wound up.

The high court announced this morning that it would review the federal government's challenge to the law, which since its partial enactment in July of last year has led to a series of copycat laws in other states - and subsequent legal challenges to each.

The Supreme Court justices won't be weighing the merits of SB 1070, but rather the merits of the lower federal court judge's decision to block parts of it from being enforced pending a constitutional challenge from the Obama administration. The federal lawsuit, filed in early July of last year as SB 1070 was set to take effect, asserts that immigration law is the domain of the federal government and that it pre-empts attempts by states to set their own immigration rules.