by Kristin Kelley, Immigration Specialist
Did you hear about the landmark Supreme Court ruling the other day? No, not the health care reform decision. On June 25, 2012, the Supreme Court struck down several key provisions of Arizona’s immigration law.
Arizona’s immigration law was one of the strictest in the nation, designed to prevent illegal immigration in a state that has become a battleground in the immigration debate. The law contained three key provisions. First, the law made it a state crime for an illegal immigrant to seek work. Secondly, the law made it a state crime for an illegal immigrant to fail to register with the federal government. And third, and perhaps most controversial, the law allowed Arizona law enforcement to arrest anyone solely on the suspicion that the individual was in the country illegally.
The Supreme Court’s decision was based on the principle that immigration is a federal law issue. When federal law and state law conflict over the same issue, federal law trumps. Since the federal government already has laws relating to the above issues, Arizona’s conflicting laws must be struck down. Specifically, since Congress has already legislated on work authorization, government registration, and arrest procedures, Arizona was not free to enact conflicting laws, as these areas are the federal government’s domain. The first two provisions were struck down.
However, the Supreme Court had a much more nuanced view of the third provision “ nicknamed the “Show Me Your Papers provision. The Court held that as long as an individual is stopped for any other valid crime, the law enforcement office could inquire about the individual’s immigration status. However, the Court warned against racial profiling or ethnic profiling.
Only time will tell how this will play out in the real world, but Arizona Governor Jan Brewer has already stated that law enforcement officers will begin to enforce the third provision of the law. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has warned that the U.S. Justice Department would be watching Arizona to ensure no constitutional violations occur.