Today, the Supreme Court announced that it will take up the federal challenge to Arizona’s controversial anti-illegal immigration law SB 1070.
The bill, which was passed by Arizona’s legislature and signed into law by Governor Jan Brewer, was partially blocked by a federal judge on the eve of its implementation. It has spawned similar laws in other states, requiring police to check the immigration status of anyone pulled over or stopped for an unrelated violation. If one couldn’t prove their legal residency, they would then be detained.
After SB 1070's passage, the Justice Department filed a lawsuit in Phoenix against it, citing the federal government’s role as the exclusive enforcer of national immigration laws.
Most of the law was prevented from taking effect by U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton, which was upheld by the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Gov. Brewer appealed to the high court, much to the chagrin of the Obama administration, which is not eager to have such a divisive issue potentially dominate the media during the upcoming election.
The effect such a topic could have politically is uncertain, however. For instance, Arizona State Senator Russell Pearce, the architect of SB 1070, lost his position after a recall election was petitioned against him. Still, other states besides Arizona enacted similar laws to handle illegal immigration on their own terms and have joined Arizona’s legal fight in the Supreme Court. Thus, whatever decision the Court comes to will have broad repercussions on immigration reform in the near future.
What is the legality of these immigration laws? Are they constitutional or not? Why did the Supreme Court decide to take up the case? Now that the economy has clearly become the number one issue in the upcoming election, how much impact will this have politically? What are your thoughts on how illegal immigration is being handled on the national and state levels?
Kris Kobach, Kansas Secretary of State; Constitutional law expert and Former Law Professor at University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC); Former Counsel to U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft (from 2001-2003, he was the Attorney General's Chief Adviser on immigration law)
Larry Rosenthal, Professor of Law, Chapman University School of Law