Tuesday, June 26, 2012


Resounding Defeat for Arizona and Brewer Still Leaves Dangerous Possibility of Racial Profiling
Yesterday,  the Supreme Court affirmed an injunction against three of the four core SB 1070 provisions (Sections 3, 5(C), and 6) before the Court, and narrowly limited the possible implementation of the notorious reasonable suspicion/racial profiling provision (Section 2(B)). While holding that it was premature to block Section 2(B), the Court's ruling provides ample opportunity to seek to block the law once ambiguities in the law are resolved. 
The Court's decision reaffirms longstanding law on exclusive federal authority in the area of immigration regulation. The Supreme Court unequivocally states that "The Government of the United States has broad, undoubted power over the subject of immigration and the status of aliens." The Court concluded that while Arizona may be frustrated by problems in its state, it cannot pursue policies that undermine federal law.

Overview of Key SB 1070 Provisionsin Supreme Court's AZ v. US ruling
Section 3 (state crime for failure to carry federal immigration registration documents)
  • The Supreme Court struck down §3, which sought to create a state crime for not carrying immigration papers. The Court invalidated Sec. 3 on the grounds that it adds a state-law penalty for conduct already regulated by federal law. The Court explained that the federal government is responsible for maintaining a system to keep track of non-citizens within the U.S. If §3 were valid, every State could give itself independent authority to prosecute federal registration violations and that would diminish the federal government's control over enforcement. Slip Op. at 10.

Section 5(C) (state crime for unauthorized work by immigrants)
  • The Supreme Court also struck down Sec. 5, which sought to make it a state crime for a non-citizen to work without authorization. Again, the Court pointed to the fact that the federal government already regulates employment by non-citizens and decided not to impose criminal penalties for unauthorized work. The Court ruled that "Under §5(C) of S. B. 1070, Arizona law would interfere with the careful balance struck by Congress with respect to unauthorized employment of aliens." Slip Op. at 15
Section 6 (authorization for local law enforcement to arrest individuals without a warrant for a removable offense)
  • The Supreme Court also struck down Sec. 6, which sought to give state and local police officers greater power than federal officers to arrest immigrants they believe are removable from the U.S. The Supreme Court ruled that such a law would allow Arizona to achieve its own immigration policy and that "this is not the system Congress created." Slip Op. at 17. The Court concluded that "§6 violates the principle that the removal process is entrusted to the discretion of the Federal Government." Slip Op. at 18.
Section 2(B) (mandate for local law enforcement to determine immigration status of any detained person reasonably suspected of being undocumented)
  • The Supreme Court decided that it was too early to block Section 2B, which requires state and local officers to make a reasonable attempt to determine the immigration status of any person they stop, detain, or arrest if reasonable suspicion exists that the person is an alien unlawfully present in the United States.
  • However, the Supreme Court warned that "Detaining individuals solely to verify their immigration status would raise constitutional concerns." Slip Op. at 22.
  • The Court stated that "if §2(B) only requires state officers to conduct a status check during the course of an authorized, lawful detention or after a detainee has been released, the provision likely would survive . . ." Slip Op. at 23.
  • The Court made clear that "This opinion does not foreclose other preemption and constitutional challenges to the law as interpreted and applied after it goes into effect." Slip Op. at 24.

This decision of the  U.S. Supreme Court  to uphold one but strike down three key elements of Arizona's tough immigration law prompted an outpouring of reaction from both sides of the issue.

Statement by the President on the Supreme Court’s Ruling on Arizona v. the United States

I am pleased that the Supreme Court has struck down key provisions of Arizona's immigration law.  What this decision makes unmistakably clear is that Congress must act on comprehensive immigration reform.  A patchwork  of state laws is not a solution to our broken immigration system – it’s part of the problem.
At the same time, I remain concerned about the practical impact of the remaining provision of the Arizona law that requires local law enforcement officials to check the immigration status of anyone they even suspect to be here illegally.  I agree with the Court that individuals cannot be detained solely to verify their immigration status.  No American should ever live under a cloud of suspicion just because of what they look like.  Going forward, we must ensure that Arizona law enforcement officials do not enforce this law in a manner that undermines the civil rights of Americans, as the Court’s decision recognizes.  Furthermore, we will continue to enforce our immigration laws by focusing on our most important priorities like border security and criminals who endanger our communities, and not, for example, students who earn their education – which is why the Department of Homeland Security announced earlier this month that it will lift the shadow of deportation from young people who were brought to the United States as children through no fault of their own.
I will work with anyone in Congress who’s willing to make progress on comprehensive immigration reform that addresses our economic needs and security needs, and upholds our tradition as a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants.  And in the meantime, we will continue to use every federal resource to protect the safety and civil rights of all Americans, and treat all our people with dignity and respect. We can solve these challenges not in spite of our most cherished values – but because of them.  What makes us American is not a question of what we look like or what our names are.  What makes us American is our shared belief in the enduring promise of this country – and our shared responsibility to leave it more generous and more hopeful than we found it.


The Obama administration announced Monday, hours after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Arizona's Immigration Enforcement Law, it is suspending existing agreements with Arizona police over enforcement of federal immigration laws.
The administration said it has issued a directive telling federal authorities to decline many of the calls reporting illegal immigrants that the Homeland Security Department may get from Arizona police.

According to the Department of Homeland Security, DHS officials in Arizona have been directed not to respond to the scene of a state or local traffic stop or a similar law enforcement encounter upon the requests from state and local police officers for assistance in enforcing immigration laws unless the individual meets DHS enforcement priorities - is a convicted criminal, has been removed from the US previously and reentered unlawfully or is a recent border crosser. DHS will continue to telephonically comply with its legal requirement to verify an individual's immigration status upon request.
DHS said in a statement Monday that ICE has determined that 287-G agreements are not useful in states that have adopted immigration enforcement laws like SB 1070. Consequently, ICE rescinded its 287-G agreements with Arizona state and local law enforcement agencies. The 287-G status gave officials the ability to check whether or not any inmate in the jail was here legally or not.
"Today's Supreme Court decision that much of SB 1070 is unconstitutional is a stark reminder of the need for Congress to act immediately on comprehensive immigration reform. It also reminds us that our State Legislature should stop focusing on divisive issues and instead spend their time on job creation and smart economic development for the State of Arizona."


The Phoenix Police Department is fully prepared to protect all individuals who exercise their First Amendment rights to demonstrate in a law-abiding manner, and will treat all people with dignity and respect while protecting the community from harm. Demonstrations held within the scope of the laws are constitutionally protected and will be protected by the Phoenix Police Department. Activities in violation of state law or city ordinances will not be tolerated.
The Police Department and the City Attorney are thoroughly studying the Supreme Court ruling that was issued this morning to ensure that our officers are complying fully with their decision."

MALDEF Responds to Supreme Court Decision in Arizona Case
Below, find a statement from Thomas A. Saenz, President and General Counsel of MALDEF on the Supreme Court's decision in Arizona v. United States, June 25, 2012

"The Supreme Court decision in Arizona v. United States today strikes down three sections of SB 1070 and opens the fourth section before the Court – section 2(B) -- to further constitutional challenges and to further limiting interpretation. This outcome is a resounding victory for the Constitution as the Court majority affirms longstanding law on the breadth of exclusive federal authority in the area of immigration regulation. While the Court failed to appreciate the serious harms that come from allowing any implementation of section 2(B), which will necessarily lead to unconstitutional racial profiling, it has laid out a very difficult path for Arizona in trying to implement this provision."
"By striking down three of the four provisions before the Court, the decision sends a strong warning to any states or localities that have enacted or that may be considering enacting their own immigration regulation schemes. In short, the Court's decision should bring to a grinding halt the machinery of intolerance and racism that has promoted these laws. Arizona, in particular, has paid a very high price for what amounts to a very limited, even Pyrrhic, victory today."
"At the moment and in the immediate future, there should be no implementation of section 2(B) in Arizona or of any similar provision elsewhere. The trial court will have to consider other constitutional claims in the civil rights groups' separate case and may consider how to obtain an authoritative interpretation about the hopelessly ambiguous section 2(B). We must take all steps to prevent any racial profiling and unconstitutional arrests from this terrible Arizona state intrusion on federal immigration policy."
MALDEF will continue to fight to erase the vestiges of anti-immigrant law SB 1070 and its progeny from the laws of Arizona and beyond.

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